Genealogical Collections Aggregator

Genealogical Collections Aggregator

I built it. The first layer of the Family Place Tracer (C) is done as far as working method. There are other layers that make a difference to the overall scope and vision of the project, but this is done. I have to finish the theoretical NEH grant request, but much of it is already written. Will investigate how to build more layers into this map, but this is the first look for now. We’ll see how far it goes.


More on GIS Genealogical Apps and Reviewing and Using the FamilySearch 21 Jun 2012 Webinar

21 June FamilySearch Webinar

I am one of many devotees of the Ancestry Insider, the guru who writes unvarnished industry semi-insider information and who makes my life easier as I am the only person who I know that does genealogical tech research in the Windy City. Reading an update, I got the link upon which this blog has basis. I was at one of the first meetings where a major developer or director told us all about how FamilySearch was changing. It is where New FamilySearch came from, and it was part of the BYU Tech Conference back in 2006. Wow, it blew my mind back then. And changed how I do family history and upped my participation. I majored in the topic, but I liked the research. I did not especially find use for it afterwards due to cumbersome processes necessary to use said information in manners consistent with my beliefs and practices. was genealogical crack. It was addictive beyond measure, and I noticed that the first two months that I was on it, I had a hard time getting homework done. I ate, slept, did enough to get through assignments, and otherwise was up until 2 every night working on what was there. The live-time aspect floored me and instantly changed my perspective from “this will never happen and this is taking forever and no one knows how to do this” to WOW. This is LIVE-TIME? The change in my view was that of realizing instantly the applicability that the software had to what the Church had and did.

After six years, the toddler (NFS/FamilySearch) took its first steps and now it is time to go to school, so to speak. The webinar describes something called SourceBox. Any genealogist with even minimal training learns quickly that without a source (ANY source, but the more credible, the more accurate, the better), everything is only leads. Leads are good, but they’re only air or legends and those are fairy tales. That will likely insult people who think that absolutely everything has to be taken only on faith, but the thing is that unless the faith has basis on or placed in something or someone TRUE, then it’s meaningless. Devoid of consistency as in devoid of material or spiritual matter. So, there has to be SOMETHING (tangible in this case) that gives the information needed to put a name, date, place, time… something to do with a material object to say that an ancestor lived, breathed, died, whatever the event was. The things that are tangible or intangible evidence (if talking in spiritual terms) are sources. The closer to the event, usually the better.

FamilySearch the Internet site, has not had this capacity in any meaningful format since its inception. As grew from the first 700 beta testers (me included) to a world-wide effort, this is an imperative to establish within its framework. I keep seeing familysearch like DNA. There are bits of the human family here and there, sources documenting things, and if there was a visual to it, perhaps all of that information eventually could look like a human body. So many documents, so many pieces of knowledge trained and traced together, and establishing the history of the world according to the people who lived it. THAT is where history comes from. The rest of us are all annotators.

In addition, I see the next steps when watching said webinar. Why only use tools that other people give you? Make your own. The original DIY was the wheel. Making something to fix a problem. Now, it’s using what is there, and (in my head) turning the useful reference books into programs or into a conglomerate site. That is what reference always was and people never truly connected it together. These massive tomes of information: reference books in the genealogical sphere, such as the Handybook for Genealogists, Ancestry’s Redbook (which is kind of almost the same thing, but not quite), the Genealogist’s Address Book– all of these need to be GIS-mapped places that give the basic information for any particular place in live time. Again, in the Zee-maps tradition, mark repositories by places by then make them historically useful.

That means, your ancestor lived in Scotland or Wales, or New Brunswick in 1837. Okay. Most of those places were well-established by 1837. There may have been a few boundary changes, but in general it’s a case of getting to the right land place and then finding out who has those records. I don’t have to know what is actually IN your ancestor’s records, but I do want you to be able to find them without having a direct knowledge of what the place was back in the day. This makes a little more sense for the United States or for parts of Europe that were conquered or re-district-ed, or parts of Russia with name changes or Asia or basically anywhere but the conquering territories and governments.

The United States developed as it went along, similar to a programming project before there were software architects. Dealing with the development of all of those counties, townships, villages, cities, and where their records went as places split, divided, etc. is why the Handybook is my go-to source for anything in the US. But, if I could just stick in a place and a time, and be given all of the libraries, archives, and whatever other repositories were there at that time in addition to what existed to the present and where things ended up! That would be sheer genius. And that is what the historical app ultimately tries to do once I get it to any version of a development stage. It has a lot of layers, and that is the whiz-bang dynamo version of it. It looks so simple in my mind, and this is the first time that I have ever been able to express that level of the app with clarity.

Sure, professional genealogists are still necessary. Being able to read, interpret documents, and everything else necessary for this? It’s kind of feels like breaking the sound barrier, but it’s in genealogical terms, United States research-based. I can mentally hear something akin to a sonic boom-gong going off in my head when speaking about this. I care about the old countries. But if you can’t get back there, that research does me little to no good.

The layers and levels of research necessary to get this app done are a little staggering, but it needs to be done. There have been 30+ years to get to this stage, and the levels and stages ratchet up. It only took six years to get to where FamilySearch is now, and while I wish they installed it six years ago. Now, we get to go back and tell everyone where we got everything. It may be a mish-mash for a few years, but then we get to SOAR as there are documents backing up the information and apps that give clarity to where in the world to find these documents in a quick and efficient method. Boy, we’re going to be tired by the end of this, but wow, what a ride!

I’m not sure what I need to learn to help accomplish this, but it is going to be incredible. That, and I think that I need some help… a LOT of help to make this work properly. Any takers?

Mapping Revolution

I am sure that I am maybe a decade or more behind in GIS mapping and similar developments, but you have to start somewhere to catch up. Never before did I take mapping as seriously as I do now. Perhaps this is just me, but I see mapping initiatives as the biggest, hottest thing since PAF’s endorsement by the LDS Church back in the 80s. But this has a much prettier interface. I received a newsletter article today that made me stop and re-evaluate my actions from the past week in changing majors. Enough to jump into the new program with both feet.


BillionGraves is an app that just blew open the door on Internet genealogy. A year old, this company’s development took part of what I want to do and already made it happen. I need to ask them about their API and see what they use. What I want to develop is similar, but this was the first step in its evolution. I am unsure that I can develop the rest of it quickly enough to finish it for my Masters project before I end up having to do something else because it is already done.

Although much tech development has happened in the last 15 years, this is the next level. Bringing the technology to the people for use in practical, every day approaches. Simple user ability, wiki possibilities. I don’t know how to develop this, but this is literally the thing next door. After that, I have no idea what to do for that project. And people say that family history, AKA genealogy is dull. They have never tried it or else they would NEVER say that. The technology alone being developed to make things work faster and better is moving so fast that it is almost impossible to keep up. And I’m writing the book on this process, literally.

I am in-process of switching one of my Masters programs and refining the other to reflect the need that I have for learning to program web apps. Without them, all of the current infrastructure becomes meaningless. Obvious to most of the world by now, web apps are the way that everything moves and getting into development is the obvious solution for anyone who wants a job over the next ten years.

Historians typically have not been programmers. That has to change. Everyone needs programming skills. It is not an option unless you want to farm away creative control and/or design elements and the guts of the thing to a developer who often does not have the background. Why historians do not normally learn programming is the sheer math involved. I had enough with being scared. I have apps to make and Masters degrees to hope is not out of date by the time I graduate from the program.

Time to play,

The GenealogyDr

Mockup of Genealogical Repository GIS App Using Photoshop

Note: All ideas on this page (with the exception of the pictures and references to other software: Padmapper and WikiMapia) are subject to intellectual copyright protections

Assignment for this week is to make a mash-up picture of some sort that works with what we’re learning in class. My Photoshop skills need improvement as it’s been nearly a decade or longer since I last used the software even part-time. That said, it’s time to play. I would love to create something that would help in visually conceptualizing how I want the App to work. To make a prototype of sorts that aids in the structural building blocks later.

Basic details of multiple plans fusing together:

Ethnographic Layer Potential

Layer One (meaning individual layers in the app, not necessarily on Photoshop) and pictorially represented: crisscrossing of the ethnographic layers, possibly in a form akin to the crime detector on Padmapper:

padmapper crime rate view

Padmapper crime rate view, with mass transit overlay of Chicago, no addresses highlighted

I would prefer a view that was more cross-hatched, especially since ethnic groups are not the same as crime rates. Unfortunate thought process for comparative analysis, honestly. But the basic modeling for choosing whatever cross-section is still part of the idea. No idea if I could do this in Photoshop, but I think that I will work on some other layers there.

Naming Scenarios

I think of this application as WikiMap, but that is so generic a name that it needs help. And, it’s also close to WikiMapia which is already being used elsewhere for similar although not the same purposes.

GIS v. GPS?: Crab Cakes Fishing with Chicken Legs

As I search for a name, I also search for elements in the functional processes. The whole application (thus far) is a compendium of different open source formats munching together to make for a new, dynamic medium. Adding the GIS coding (is that inherent in GPS? I have no idea and need to learn.)

The idea is making a crab cake, so to speak. The initial data, censuses and other government documents already encoded and threaded for massive number crunching quality time is the zooplankton that feed off the plant matter (data made from 1850 and onward marching). 

Next, the different web programs that mesh them together is akin to a crab, eating the mussels or chicken legs (yes, crabs eat chicken legs) in the path, scurrying along under the auspices of life expectancy built upon previous good harvests. Finally, I am a fisher woman. I harvest crabs and clean them for my purposes. The cleaned crabs go to users who further mix them with their resources (say, documents and genealogical databases, for example) and then the final product is

Maryland Style Crab cake from Dining Out Chicago

Maryland Style Crab cake

Maryland-style crab cakes. Enough breading, egg, etc. just to barely keep the lump and claw meat together. The stuff that creates legends in the seafood world. I’m not looking for legendary status. I like to know how to fish and to see what other nice little morsels come up for me, too.

Using Padmapper as an example again, this time of how the Wikimap (current name) functions with using random addresses upon the present map, the idea would be a cross between Google Map’s inherent ability to find just about anywhere, and show it live-time with where the cemeteries, libraries, and other needed vital repositories are, akin to the options available for mapping on Padmapper.

Padmapper Example with Various Random Addresses Shown

Padmapper Example with Various Random Addresses Shown in Place of Genealogically Relevant Repositories, Cemeteries, etc.

The final touch, albeit in the future is adding the ability to add the GPS mechanism to the application. It would have the option of being turned on or off. That way, if a person is in any given town, they may instantly see all of the repositories and how far away they are from their present location. If not this tool on the walking or driving or mass-transit routing paths, then simply plugging in the address and performing the same operation is an incredibly useful application.

The final thing to show or prove is how this would work or what I envision it looking like. This does not do it justice whatsoever. I cannot get Photoshop to do the kinds of effects that I need it to do, but this is a beginning.

Ethno-cultural overlay in artistic expression a la Photoshop and Padmapper

Ethno-cultural overlay in artistic expression a la Photoshop and Padmapper

Best efforts from the drawing board of the GenealogyDr.

Note: All ideas on this page (with the exception of the pictures and explicit references to other software Padmapper and WikiMapia) are subject to intellectual copyright protections as published on 23 Feb 2012, and prior during December 2011 to the future.

GIS Coding Structures and WikiMap for Historians and Genealogists

I have to learn more about GIS. Sitting in an LIS 701 final last semester, suddenly connections between my different worlds (family history or genealogy, public history, library information systems, history of genealogical technology, cemetery obsessions, and now current technologies and their use in historical applications along with history of technology in general) coincided in a flash of insight. The idea came for WikiMap, or map for historical research repositories/locations (MHRL). Cute and clever name to be decided.


The idea is that present day apps have natural GPS features, and I use them non-stop to find my way around unfamiliar locations. Seeing mapping technologies and how they’ve changed since their primordial days in the late 90s, now there is continuous tagging and classifying of places and events. The idea behind this app is to either smush together the needed layers of maps akin to Adobe Photoshop layers.


  1. The layers would start with the basic Google Map. Although it may or may not be “fancy,” I do not know enough of the background coding or development as to its build to make sure that it is useful for this purpose.
  2. Add on top of that an “appative” (app plus additive or added layer) where a person could choose to look up an address and using the app immediately know all of the libraries, archives, historical societies, cemeteries and/or any other vital agency of pertinence (or that added themselves to this pertinence layer). That is the main “value-added” layer.
  3. Another layer would be subsections of mass census ethno-graphic data from the Minnesota Population Center, modern census information (optional layer).
  4. This would help with a cross-layer of historical (back to 1850’s) data. When crossing this data layer with that of layer three, suddenly patterns emerge concerning who used to live somewhere and who lives there now. When these patterns have the contextual usage of finding information from a death record, for instance, a simple address search suddenly becomes the beginning of immediate population with the closest archives, libraries, historical societies, cemeteries, churches, hospitals, funeral parlors, or other places where information of genealogical relevancy is kept.
  5. All of this turns into a self-guided walking tour if in the town in question, or a virtual physical space directory hosting Wikiguides to links to the places that pop up, preferably with user ratings.


Thought-process wise, this is taking yelp, specifying the searching mechanism, and turning it into a historical demography tool. These are the things that literally keep me awake at night, and on the computer past 2:30AM. That, and completing class reading assignments. There is one class (that I know of) at Loyola University Chicago that deals with GIS- UNIV 410, and I want in on it to make this happen.

I currently have a Digital Media class that may address this topic, but I need to crunch data with hard numbers that I probably cannot comprehend. I want to take massive data quantities that are all open source code variables and throw them into a matrix that makes them useful to the lay researcher who only needs a few sources here or there.


For once the source is going to the person and back to the map instead of the document being the end of a research question and the only payment for hard work is following the efforts with analysis and reporting back to the client. Although available before through more clicks than necessary, this tool would make it possible for anyone to walk a town and find the right sources in the right places immediately.

If there were agreements with the publishers of the Handybook for Genealogists to add their records data for the different repositories in their collection, that would be incredibly useful.