Archives for Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Web-based family trees

dreamstimefree_383175_320x240I’ve recently been contacted by the people responsible for a new family tree website called It’s Our Tree. It’s free and just requires you to enter your name and email address. I’ve just registered and now it wants me to enter my parents and grandparent and so on, and to invite my relatives to join as well.

There are more and more of these sites around; some are free and some are not. Ancestry lets you create your family tree for free and let’s you know whether it has any “hints” for these people: either trees with the same people in them or databases which may have them. You can’t see the hints, though, unless you have a subscription.

GenesReunited is a similar kind of thing. I don’t know if you can start from scratch without paying the yearly subscription, but if you have created a tree in it and then stop paying the subscription your tree remains for others to find. I have found a few relatives with my subscription and so I keep it up but I haven’t put much detail on my tree and so it keeps sending me hints that are completely irrelevant.

Another one is FamilyTreeLink from the World Vital Records people. This one is free, and allows a gedcom to be uploaded. I can see who else is researching people from the same places as my people, and I can add photos, stories, documents and headstones (presumably photos). It has some different features such as the ability to request lookups from people. I haven’t been into this one for a while and when I just tried to see a tree diagram with more than the default number of 4 generations it seemed to kill my web browser (which is Firefox V3). No, it just gave it a scare, it’s working again now.

What I like about Ancestry is the ability to link records that you find with the relevant person in your tree. If you find your great-grandfather in the 1930 Census you can link the page to him. You can also upload pictures and multimedia, share it with others and even give them the ability to add to it. In theory members of different branches of your family could all be working on the same tree, but in practice I think I would want to check things for myself before allowing it on my tree.

You can also create a book that can be printed, which is a great idea. A family can collaborate and print a number of books to distribute amongst family members, or you can do it by yourself.

What worries me about these things is that there are so many of them. You need to be on as many of them as possible to have a chance of catching other relatives. I don’t know about you, but after I’ve gone to the trouble of entering the details of all of my ancestors individually and adding photos and stories and the like I’m not likely to do the same in another site. If any of my living relatives have started using another site then we won’t find each other.

The social networking sites such as FaceBook have family tree applications as well. You can upload gedcoms to these instead of entering them from scratch, which makes them more appealing to me, at least.

Is there any sense in using a new one that has just started? I certainly won’t be unless I can upload a gedcom; there aren’t enough hours in the day to enter the data into the ones I use now without starting again with another one. If I can’t upload a gedcom directly it isn’t worth the time for me. I’m afraid that It’s Our Tree may be too late.

My experience this afternoon with FamilyTreeLink leads me to another issue. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to build a web application that will work perfectly with all web browsers and all computer configurations, and each new application has to do it themselves. A bad experience with one of these new ones can turn you off it for good. And then the browser will come out with a new version, as Mozilla has with Firefox 3, and suddenly things that used to work don’t any more.

The answer to this one, I guess, is to stick with a site that has been around for a while and has a large development team behind it. I’m not advocating Ancestry specifically but I have to confess that it’s the one I am spending more time entering data and linking records.

Which one do you use? Do you use any of them? Have you found any relatives?

New world record!

This afternoon James Valentine on ABC Sydney Local Radio (702 AM) continued his phone-in collection of world record holders. Claimants this afternoon included a man who forgets that he’s wearing the wrong glasses up to three times per night and has to go back upstairs to retrieve them, and a high score on a game that I’ve already forgotten the name of.

Last week a lady rang in to say that her grandfather was born in 1833, thus claiming the record for the longest span between a living person and the birth of a grandparent. She won without any contest.

That record stood until this afternoon, when another lady, who turns 77 in December, claimed a grandfather born in 1803.

1803!!! It doesn’t seem possible, and yet there it is.

Her grandfather, born in 1803 somewhere in what is now Northern Ireland, fathered her father when he was 58 years old. This gives an approximate year of 1861.

Her father then fathered her when he was 73 years old, presumably in 1934. Work it out. Does it add up? No, it doesn’t exactly, because if she’s 77 she should have been born in 1931, not 1934, but it’s close enough.

So the record stands at 1803. Such a long span of history these three people have seen between them.

My four grandparents were born between 1897 and 1901 and had their children at a more usual age. My mother, who is still alive, has four grandparents who were born between 1867 and 1875, with the men older by just a few years than the women. So she wouldn’t have a hope of winning a medal in this event!

I guess it has to do with the age discrepancy between the parents because, let’s face it, 73-year-old women don’t have children, and very few 58-year-old women manage it. If men marry much younger women who then have children then this sort of range is possible. Pablo Picasso, born in 1881, famously fathered his youngest child, Paloma, when he was 67 or 68. (Source: Wikipedia).

What’s your record?

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