April 30, 2008

Using Facebook for genealogy


I've discovered that Facebook is a VERY useful application for genealogy, not perfect, but useful.

Indeed, most genealogy tools allow you to work with data from over a 100 years ago. That's good when you are researching with ancestors. However for working with contemporary kins, I had not found anything better than the phone book.
MyHeritage tried to bridge that gap, helping you get in touch with other people by comparing last names (rarely useful) and pictures with automated tools (not many people upload pictures, so not very useful).

I was lucky many years ago to meet a remote cousin of my grand mother who gave me lots of data on the family. I expanded his research into contemporary kins, and have updated it quite a bit. Nevertheless I was stuck with many loose ends, with people bearing names very different to my surnames.

That's where Facebook comes in handy :


1) I started searching every single remote cousin (in one instance, we are more than 450 direct descendants of Daniel ULRICHSEN for example) on Facebook. I only had last names. For some of them I only got 1 match (mind you, people from Chile, Argentina, Brasil, Canada, USA, Australia, Germany...). I send them a message asking them to confirm their ancestry. So far I haven't got ANY wrong answer back. Building on them, I've started correcting and expanding sections of the family tree (closed to 21,000 members now), with dates, places, more names, pictures. I couldn't have done that so simply without the Internet and a social network. The only other way would have been to go to the central phone authority office, and look at the phone booth of every country and contact every one...

2) we've created groups on Facebook (a bit tedious when a. some people belong to many same surnames, b. when you need to tell a new member to subscribe to a new name). On one group, we are already 41 people in 3 days. Most of us have never met in person, or hardly new each other before.
Of course these groups now allow us to exchange pictures, videos, news about the family, which is really nice.

What I lack now are
- a newsfeed per group only
- the ability to map geographic locations for each person on a map
- possibly a closer integration with a family tree (I've tried a few of those genealogy apps on facebook, nah...). Ideally whenever I update something on geneanet that is relavant to a group, it would get posted automatically ??? ? (day dreaming here...)
- an easier way to manage group subscriptions (integration between geneanet and ancestor last names  ???? - doing it again)

I had written about it a while ago, when commenting on Geni. This might work.

April 30, 2008 at 09:33 PM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 02, 2007

Looking for an online social family network

Geni - Everyone's Related

My online family tree has now more than 18,000 members in it. I'm also part of the Roglo database, soon approaching the with over 2m members. It's getting very difficult for me to keep track of all my family contacts (I use the NOTE field in every person's file, but it's not easily searchable and manageable), send them updates about the tree (I use the sepulveda.org blog), or enabling them to subscribe to a ping for an update on any particular branch of the family tree.

The Geneweb software I'm using is not allowing it, nor is the service hosting the tree for me.
I'm really in the need for a social family network hosted service.

Hence I looked again at Geni today.

Its interface is very slick and seems to have a lot of the bells & whistles I'm looking for : but after playing with it for a few minutes, there's no appeal. It's not for me. I'm a pro-am genealogist, with many thousand people in my database, meaning I need to manage many different communities (by ancestor mainly), that can interact or not between themselves.

I understand the simplicity of Geni for adding new family members (good for rookie genealogists), but in my case, there's no way I'm going to start retyping everything, and although I might look into importing my GEDCOM file to Geni (THIS FEATURE IS NOT AVAILABLE? crazy), I will always maintain it inside geneweb. Hence I need social features added on top on my existing tool.

I also need a way to easily manage pictures for a community (I currently use Flickr Albums for this), so that everyone interested in this community can browse through them. Pictures in my case include at least:
. pictures taken of original documents (such as birth, marriage, death certificates)
. pictures taken at cemeteries, places: documenting the life of the person
. pictures of individuals at family reunions.
Of course, my guess is that we should start to use video soon as well.

Additional uses are comments, events organization (family reunions, weddings, baptisms, etc.), bulletin board, etc. And not to be forgotten, heavy use of maps such as Google Earth for :
. different places where a person has lived
. where they are now
. where they are born, buried, etc.

Finally, the one feature I like about LinkedIn is the updated profile features that tells me what my friends are up to. I'd love the same thing on what my family members are up to.

There must be a way to create a mashup of all of this.

There's an interesting discussion about Geni and all its competitors on Techcrunch (mainly based on the valuation, which I don't care much for).

Geni’s family tree builder is really nice but MyFamily.com was the first to realize the market, Amigila.com was the first to build a Flash-based family tree tool. Famiva went limited beta with the viral family tree concept before Geni.

Famiva’s Java-applet based animated family network visualizer is also cool, plus it has many features designed to keep families stay current and keep coming back. MyHeritage and KinKafe are also worth a look. And then there’s the flashy Famundo. Geni is not alone in the Family 2.0 space.

I haven't tested all the services mentionned above yet (anyone that might help ?), but I was thinking more about maybe mixing NING or PeopleAggregator with Geneanet. Has anyone done it yet ?

If I were to start a new company today, this would probably be in the top of the list:

. something I care for

. something that can (OR NOT) be very scalable: at least for me, I see a heavy need, and I would be very much willing to pay for, in the hundreds of euros / year.

June 2, 2007 at 01:21 PM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Missed posting about Geneweb 5.0

Gwlogo_1 I posted this last february on my other blog:

Our good guru Daniel de Rauglaudre has released at last version 5.0 of his great genealogical software Geneweb. He's been running an experimental version on his site for at least a year now, and he has finally packaged it for many OSes. The previous stable version 4.10 was over 2 years old.
A 5.01 version is in the works. The change log is missing, but if you read the distribution list, you'll get a good grasp of what is involved.

Update: in the meantime, Geneanet.org has updated the version of its hosted geneweb infrastructure. That's where we run our family tree. Enjoy.

June 2, 2007 at 11:45 AM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Using Microsoft's Silverlight to create nice graphical trees


Found it here: http://www.vertigo.com/familyshow.aspx I couldn't make the program work yet on my PC. I'll keep trying.

June 2, 2007 at 11:39 AM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2006

Google Earth has updated maps of Chile


Great views of Contulmo in an updated version of Google Earth that I discovered yesterday. You can now clearly see the streets of the city, the agricultural lots, etc.

Other tows have also updated maps, such as Traiguen.


By the way, Google has released a beta of version 4 of the program with a number of improvements.

July 19, 2006 at 01:36 AM in _Software, Chile | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2006

geneanet.org gets a facelift

Header_logo Basically, this portal gets a huge design and ergonomy facelift:: the navigation is easier and more intuitive. I hope it will help you be more productive in your genealogical searches.

January 15, 2006 at 02:05 AM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2005

Recolored: Automatic colorizing for B&W photos


Impressive. Haven’t tried it yet, but will in a minute to colorize all the old black&white pictures I have from my family (remember I’m a genealogist ?).

“A while back some cool videos went around depicting an algorithm for colorizing black-and-white images and videos by scribbling on them, but the only way you could try it out yourself was if you owned a copy of Matlab, a $1,900 piece of software for mathematicians and grad students. Now Norwegian developer Haakon Bertheussen has implemented the algorithm in his own program called Recolored, and the Windows beta is available to play with for free. It's really a bit of a wonder and a hoot to play with. Here's hoping Bertheussen releases a Photoshop plugin version (and implements the video half of the algorithm, too).”

(via the Download Squad)

(crossposted from sepulveda.net)

December 25, 2005 at 04:12 PM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2005

Great software to locate cities and surroundings

Crossposted from sepulveda.net:

Contulmo1For many years, I used to rely on Mapquest to help me find places for my genealogical research. I would get a small square of a map that was good enough to find places.

Contulmo2Then came a fantastic software, Microsoft MapPoint, that allowed me to put a town in perspective with surrounding towns, and better understand interactions between villages. I even loved the tool that helped calculate distances between places.

I have been playing now for a few days with TWO pieces of software, and I have to confess that I'm completely blown away. I now can fly over the place, see in 3D mountains and cities:


I had never imagined that for instance that Contulmo - a town founded by my ancestors in the South of Chile (on the link, it's my grandmother sitting on the lap of her grandfather) - was in a small valley surrounded by mountains. Of course, I had heard that they arrived there by boat crossing the Lake Lanalhue: but indeed there is no other way there, excerpt crossing mountains!

Waow: these software allow you to navigate around the world in a few clicks: I have found my house in Paris, the place I grew up in in Thailand, etc. A fantastic treat.

It's now up to you: pay a 30$ yearly subscription to Google's Keyhole (faster search interface), or NASA's World Wind (great 3D rendering) for free. I'm going to be using both from now on.

Google's Keyhole:

NASA's World Wind:

May 22, 2005 at 03:17 PM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2005

Searching for documents at your relatives' house

Gotthold_wedding_dataYears ago as a young kid at my grandmother's house, I stumbled upon a book in the living room shelves: it was a bible, in german (and gothic print).

I remember it had some names on it. After investigating with my grandmother, I started scribbling an original family tree on that side. I must have been about 10 years old.
Actually the bible was a present to Immanuel Gotthold TZSCHABRAN on his wedding day to Clara WIESE. They married in the military barracks church in Frankfurt an der Oder (Gotthold was a officer in the Imperial army).

PreussenIt has additional information: Gotthold was born in Pitschen (see dot 1 in the map), and Clara was born in Wehlau, now Znamensk in Russia (dot 3). Their wedding was in Frankfurt/Oder (dot 2). (Microsoft MapPoint is a very useful piece of software for genealogy!)

Finally, the book has a picture of Martin Luther, another indication of were to do my research in Germany today, had I not known that part of that family was Lutheran.

Gotthold_bible_page_de_gardeI finally got my grandmother to give me that Bible: it is safe now in the hands of the family genealogist !

February 10, 2005 at 10:43 AM in _Software, Chile, Germany, Poland, Russia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 22, 2004

New version of one of the best genealogy softwares is released: Geneweb 4.10

From my professional blog:

GwlogoThis is news: Daniel de Rauglaudre, fantastic French researcher and programmer has just released (2 days ago) the latest version of his genealogy software, Geneweb 4.10. You can download it here.
Daniel is a fundamental computer science researcher, and really not a genealogist: he was trying to adapt one of his algorithms to a practical use a couple of years ago, and came up with a genealogy implementation; he started filling up his database with his family members, and soon enough, about one hundred "wizards" joined him in entering more data. The database is getting close to a million individuals now (I'm in there as well), but is still run as an experiment...

Then a couple of years ago, he made his software public, and many people started using it, including myself, to track information and publish their own trees online. Commercial companies have been created as well, that use the software as the foundation of their service. For example, you can publish your family tree for free on Geneanet. That's where I store my family tree at sepulveda.org, although I also keep a copy on my local computer.

Geneweb has some great advantages:
- it's web based, so very easy to use, and to update
- it has a fantastic navigation and display system that allows you to find very quickly genealogical links between individuals
- finally, its interface has been translated to many languages, making it very simple to work with family members from around the world.

In a nutshell:
* you can create your family tree locally on your computer with the Geneweb software
* you can upload that information onto a hosted service (or work directly online) on geneaweb.org.

Release notes for Geneweb 4.10 are here.

December 22, 2004 at 12:53 AM in _Software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack