Monday, 15 December 2014

Where to?

Okay, so I've decided to (slightly) change focus and become more diligent with my sources. Source, or evidence, based genealogy is the way to go and I need to be more mindful of my sources and source citations. The genealogy software I have been using to date is not really suited to this changed focus - it is more suited to person-based genealogy and just doesn't have the tools required for deep source analysis, plus the citation ability is severely limited. Most traditional "family tree" software exhibits similar flaws, so I'm going to have to re-double my efforts with my custom tools.

What does this mean for me? Well, I have a custom tool I have been developing, but my investigations over the past few weeks have revealed flaws in my thinking. I need more of a focus on source citations and I need to revisit my data model. I find it amazing that GEDCOM a is still the go-to standard for genealogical data, despite its age and weaknesses. Other data models have been proposed, but none of them seem to have got off the drawing board and most have been stalled, in some cases for up to 15 years or more! No credible alternative has appeared on the scene. Which is disheartening. I am definitely not going to be basing my tool(s) on GEDCOM. I will use GEDCOM for data transfer, but that's it - I have seen too many genealogical tools that have obviously been written with GEDCOM a at their core, and all are too tied to GEDCOM and all its flaws.

So what does my tool look like and how will it work? The tool is a source analysis tool that allows the user to extract all pertinent facts (or allegations) from a source and then guide the user to collate facts from many sources into a coherent person. It does a bit more than that, with tools to help interpret disparate facts by using date ranges and locality where appropriate. Once facts have been collated and persons identified, the tool can export data (yes, in GEDCOM format - I will use GEDCOM, but it won't drive the design of the tools) where it can be imported into "traditional" genealogical packages.

The more I think about it, the more I am leaning towards not one, but a series of interconnected tools, each managing a different aspect of the process. I have been studying the Genealogical Proof Standard and several of the proposed genealogical data models and these have given me a lot of food for thought as to how I might make my tools better. But the first priority is to properly document my sources and citations - something I have been lax in doing up until now...

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