Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do we need a genealogy sieve?

Kudos to James Tanner, for again weighing in on the topic of data sharing among researchers using different genealogy software programs. See: Understanding the controversy surrounding GEDCOM posted on his Genealogy's Star blog, where James states:

"Almost every popularly sold genealogy program on the market will adequately take all of the information from a PAF file and import it into its own data structure. But if you want to move from one of the more commercial programs to another today, you either have to rely on the programs' own initiative or suffer the loss of some data when you transfer a GEDCOM file."

From reading his previous blog posts, I don't believe James is recommending we take a giant step back in time and use PAF [Personal Ancestral File] for genealogy data management. Rather, I'd like to think his term "more commercial programs" has less to do with money but is akin to the phrase "more robust genealogy programs". This would indicate the newer genealogy software choices have more features than offered in good ol' PAF. (Pardon the accent on old.)

Indeed the developers of the non-PAF genealogy software have crafted worthwhile products that reflect changes in technology and take into account source citations and research methodologies developed during the last decade and a half.

A sieve is better suited to cooking than genealogy.

James' blog entry clearly describes how end-users wishing to share data must sift their genealogy database through an almost non-porous sieve. Unfortunately, some data associated with each ancestor doesn't make it through the genealogy sieve transfer process, to the other side. Fortunately, there is work afoot that would remove the current genealogy sieve, and open up data for full exchange between researchers, their favorite software programs and genealogy websites. See: Build A BetterGEDCOM wiki.

For 21st century genealogists, "Just the facts, 'ma'am" isn't good enough. Every bit of information we collect is essential for evaluating the completeness of research on each ancestor and his family. Choosing to computerize only a portion of the compiled information keeps that additional information hidden from view by other researchers. It is precisely that additional information that helps me evaluate the reliability of another genealogist's work in the context of a reasonably exhaustive search.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)

Your friend in genealogy.

1 comment:

  1. A sieve is a tool used to separate things from one another. In this case, the "things" in question are our genealogy data and the software that we use to organize and work with our data.

    It's astonishing to realize that today, genealogists have less ability to faithfully separate their genealogy data from the software housing it than they had 10 or even 15 years ago. The old GEDCOM standard did not advance with the times, and so now genealogists using more advanced tools have their data trapped inside those tools, forcing them to re-enter significant parts of their data should they want to use other software tools or services.

    at BetterGEDCOM ( ), we are now working towards solving this problem. In a week since our beginning, we have had 20 THOUSAND page views of our efforts to solve this problem. This too is amazing! We must first take a step back in time, effectively, to return to a point at which we genealogists have a faithful way to get our information in and out of different software applications. This is our first effort. What we're shooting for, however, is a standard upon which we can build the foundation to give genealogists tools for sharing and collaborating with others. So this effort isn't just aimed at simple data transfer, but at giving genealogists the tools for working together and sharing via the internet that are taken for granted in nearly every other endeavor embarked upon in the mobile, modern world.

    Is a well-functioning "genealogy sieve" necessary? Of course. It's the foundation upon which the collaboration tools that genealogists crave will be built. I hope genealogists of all stripes come and help us get this problem solved over at .