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gencea
06 May 2006, 08:33 PM
I read this interesting article on open source & genealogy:
http://asay.blogspot.com/2006/02/open-source-and-roots.html

"But the real opportunity is in providing a platform upon which average people can share their family information, with mash-ups that allow us to drill down onto historical and geographical information surrounding that data. So, I know my family tree back to the 1700s in England and Belgium, but I know very little about the kinds of lives they must have had.

In the comments section, someone mentions WeRelate.org. A kind of wiki for genealogy. You could create a wiki for your ancestors, their homelands, etc...

Amelia
11 May 2006, 04:01 PM
WeRelate.org. A kind of wiki for genealogy.

I followed this link and have been having great fun. I had been thinking that applying the Wiki approach to genealogy would be interesting - imagine an editable Ancestral File - but there are inherent problems in combining the active management of good Wiki articles with the thousands of people most of us have in our files, not to mention the upload/merge problem in getting started.

But, this site sidesteps that. Although you can create a page for an individual ancestor, it seems to be intended more broadly. There are pages for surnames (intended I think for historical origins) and places (a great place for the "life in the past" stories"). The most interesting thing I think are the "surname in place" pages. Are you researching, say, Morrows in Tennessee? You can create (or edit, if it exists already) a page for "Morrow in Tennessee." Anyone stopping by can add their information - then change it later as new information comes in. It's like a constantly updated, narrowly focused message board. Unless the site takes off and there are a critical mass of users, the public message board aspect will be slow going, but I already think this will be useful for the discussions I have with six or seven other researchers about specific families in specific areas. Instead of rehashing what we know and what sources have been/need to be checked all the time, we can just update the page - anyone "watching" it gets an email with the news.

The other interesting thing they're doing is creating a genealogy search engine. It searches the web, the werelate pages, and things it has tagged as "sources", which may be websites, or books (they downloaded the entire FHL catalog), or anything else. The source page can also be edited. Right now just the URL might be in the database, but you can add research tips and further information (i.e. "this site covers Davenport, IA after 1860") that then is added to the search engine. Your site's not in the search engine? Add it as a source.

The site clearly needs users to make it function at its best, and so since I've been a bit inspired over the last few days, I wanted to encourage others (particularly the knowledgeable and helpful people on this forum) to give it a try.

Amelia

Tim Powys-Lybbe
11 May 2006, 07:57 PM
<a couple of paragraphs snipped>

The other interesting thing they're doing is creating a genealogy search engine. It searches the web, the werelate pages, and things it has tagged as "sources", which may be websites, or books (they downloaded the entire FHL catalog), or anything else. The source page can also be edited. Right now just the URL might be in the database, but you can add research tips and further information (i.e. "this site covers Davenport, IA after 1860") that then is added to the search engine. Your site's not in the search engine? Add it as a source.


I am deeply concerned at this genealogy search engine. One of the greatest problems in genealogy is finding reliable information. The most reliable information is documents about the people where the documents have survived from their lifetimes. So the first search is a careful appraisal of any source to see where they got their information and to work out how valid it might be. A good genealogist builds up a fair knownledge of what source docuemnts are usable and what should be ignored.

The problem with a search engine trundling around various internet sites is that the majority of sites that I have looked at give no source information at all. If you just accept their data as valid you will gather some erroneous genealogy.

A further problem is that as time goes by more information about people of old may be discovered. This can supplement and even contradict some of the older sources. How is a search engine to know which is the better research?

I would not counsel use of such an engine.

Tim Powys-Lybbe

Andrew-Bede Allsop
12 May 2006, 01:44 AM
I followed this link and have been having great fun. I had been thinking that applying the Wiki approach to genealogy would be interesting - imagine an editable Ancestral File -

Amelia

It is already done:
http://wikitree.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

Amelia
12 May 2006, 07:30 PM
I am deeply concerned at this genealogy search engine. ... How is a search engine to know which is the better research?...
I would not counsel use of such an engine.


Perhaps the description was not clear -- this search engine is like a focused version of Google that attempts to limit itself to genealogy-related pages (broadly defined to include library sites, county sites, cemetery transcriptions, etc.), and allows the addition of helpful keywords. I use Google daily; this appears useful to me in my attempt to find pages with my (dead) ancestors rather than pages discussing essentially current events.

Dealing with materials of varying reliability is a problem endemic to research on the Internet, or using any non-primary materials for that matter. A tool that makes it easier to find good resources and new clues should not be rejected because it might not always point down the correct path. It is not the search engine's job to know the 'better' source, it's job is to point to available sources and let the human searcher evaluate them. There are certainly people who do not know how to do that, but that seems an entirely separate problem.

It is already done:
http://wikitree.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

In progress, yes, but not done... I didn't mean to imply it can't happen, just that I haven't been enamored with the current versions, which haven't figured out how to work on a mass scale yet. I did also just hear LDS is planning something like an editable AF, incorporating the Wiki idea into its new version of FamilySearch using the data they already have from IGI, AF, and Pedigree Resource File. That critical mass of data will certainly make for an interesting effort.

Amelia

Agnes E. Cloninger
12 May 2006, 11:40 PM
I am deeply concerned at this genealogy search engine. One of the greatest problems in genealogy is finding reliable information.

The problem with a search engine trundling around various internet sites is that the majority of sites that I have looked at give no source information at all.
A further problem is that as time goes by more information about people of old may be discovered. This can supplement and even contradict some of the older sources. How is a search engine to know which is the better research
I would not counsel use of such an engine.

Tim Powys-LybbeI do not disagree with your counsel but I hesitate to go so far as to say one should never use such an engine, but one must never leave any doubt as to the source of what one finds search engine or no search engine. We must always presume that there is a kernel of truth somewhere in what pops up through such a research route, and take the time to examine things carefully, logically [underline that word] and with a fine sense of its usefulness compared with what has been documented.
Throwing the "baby out with the bath-water" is not an option, at least not for me. I have found some fine information under some bizaar circumstances, some of it on the Internet, believe it or not. A Genealogical search engine is nothing more than another Internet tool, to use with sensibility and sensitivity.
Agnes Cloninger

STEVE
13 May 2006, 08:50 AM
I am deeply concerned at this genealogy search engine {werelate.org}. This one in particular --- or search engines in particular?

One of the greatest problems in genealogy is finding reliable information. The most reliable information is documents about the people where the documents have survived from their lifetimes. Not necessarily true. Original documents can, and often are, in error. Poor memory's, incomplete knowledge, out-and-out lies --- there are many reasons for any source to be less than 100%. Sometimes very much in error. It is the preponderance of evidence that makes any datum more or less reliable. What is good evidence? Sometimes it's a matter of guessing. Of deciding which source sounds the most plausible. A competent researcher will record ALL the data (it is fair to annotate. "Uncle Bill was known liar. He enjoyed telling stories and freely embellished them as he went along.") they find. Sometimes the only entry you can make is "SEE NOTES". Books such as "Rules of Evidence" can help any genealogist track and rate data much more efficiently. But it still comes down to judgement calls.

So the first search is a careful appraisal of any source to see where they got their information and to work out how valid it might be. A good genealogist builds up a fair knownledge of what source docuemnts are usable and what should be ignored.And that is the researchers duty/problem. There is nothing inherently wrong about search engins. Anything that adds data for me to work with is a good thing. It's up to us to validate the data.

The problem with a search engine trundling around various internet sites is that the majority of sites that I have looked at give no source information at all. If you just accept their data as valid you will gather some erroneous genealogy.And it's my responsibility to write to the appropriate party and request documentation, and then verify the data and make appropriate note and source entries.


A further problem is that as time goes by more information about people of old may be discovered. This can supplement and even contradict some of the older sources. Huh? I thought that was the reason for doing research... not a problem.

How is a search engine to know which is the better research?That's simple. It doesn't. A chicken is smarter than any computer or search engine. Those decisions are within the researchers perview, not the hardware/software.

I would not counsel use of such an engine.As long as we keep using appropriate evaluation and data entry rules there is no real reason to not use search engines. Better the stupid, by rote computer do the footwork than me. I've spent weeks traveling to find data --- when a simple web search could have answered my questions. Plus, the internet doesn't charge me fifty bucks a night for a motel room...

;-) STEVE