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Defining Life Events - Thu, 5 Jul 2012

I’ve pretty well got the mechanism working in Behold. Now it’s a matter of finalizing what life events I want it to handle.

Now what the heck are “Life Events”? My idea are that they are anything in a person’s life that is significant enough to change that person’s life in some real way, Often these events are formal happenings with many invited guests and would be important enough that the person likely would have attended – even if it was far away.

The significance in genealogy is that by identifying these events, you may get clues that can lead to more discoveries. If you find your grandfather’s sister got married in Oklahoma City, then there’s reason to believe that your grandfather may have travelled there for the wedding. You may find a relative (maybe of your grandfather’s sister) who went to the wedding, talked to your grandfather, and has pictures and stories for you.

Piecing these events together forms a timeline of a person’s life. You want to select just the right ones to include to make the timeline as useful as possible without it turning it into an overwhelming set of information that just becomes too much.

There are two things to consider: The events, and who the events happen to.

First the events.

This is the list I came up with, and is what I’m proposing be the default list of Life Events in Behold:

Birth, Adoption, Baptism, Blessing, Christening, Confirmation, Communion, Bar Mitzvah, Graduation, Endowment, Ordination, Marriage, Divorce, Annulment, Emigration, Immigration, Death

If you disagree with any of these, or think there are others (must be a GEDCOM tag) that should be included, please let me know.

I’ll probably allow you to customize which are included and which are not, but everyone will want a reasonably good default list to start with, and may never see the need to customize.

Next: Who the events happen to.

For anyone, their own events are obviously the most important.This includes their marriage and all the events they share with their partner. These have always been shown in Behold. What’s different is that these are now shown in date order and will be integrated with any Life Events of the close relatives that happen between the day they are born and the day they die.

So which close relatives? These are the ones I believe make significant events:

1. Husband, wife, spouse, partner – starting from the earliest date that you became a couple.

2 (a). Son, daughter, child (legal) – all events for them.

2 (b). Son, daughter, child (adopted); son daughter, child (fostered) – all events from the date of adoption or fostering.

2 (c). Son, daughter, child (biological) – if the biological child is not also the legal child, then usually only the birth will be significant, since the child was raised by someone else. Unfortunately, most genealogy programs don’t distinguish this properly.

2 (d). Stepson, stepdaughter, stepchild – these are your spouse’s children from a previous partner. You’ll want their events from the earliest date your spouse and you became a couple.

2 (e). Son-in-law, daughter-in-law, child-in-law – all events from the date your child became a couple. Technically the in-law’s are through marriage. Might have to call them: son’s partner, daughter’s partner, child’s partner if they were not married, but it would be nicer to have a proper term.

3 (a). Father, mother, parent (legal) – all events for them.

3 (b). Father, mother, parent (adoptive); father, mother, parent (foster) – all events from the date of adoption or fostering.

3 (c). Father, mother, parent (biological) – same idea as for biological children. Really only their names and ages at the time of birth. Of course, if they reunite later in life, there could be other events, but gosh, this could get complicated. Again, today’s genealogy software doesn’t do a good job with biological/legal differences. This is a future task for Behold.

3 (d). Stepfather, stepmother, stepparent – all events from the earliest date that they and your parent became a couple.

3 (e). Father-in-law, mother-in-law, parent-in-law – all events from the date you and your partner became a couple.

4 (a). Brother, sister, sibling – all events during your life, plus the ages of your older siblings when you were born.

4 (b). Halfbrother, halfsister, halfsibling – same as for sibling.

4 (c). Stepbrother, stepsister, stepsibling – all events from the earliest date that their parent and your parent became a couple.

4 (d). Adoptive brother, foster brother, etc. – this is starting to grow in complexity, isn’t it?

4 (e). Brother-in-law, sister-in-law, sibling-in-law (ugh!) – this will include both types of sibling in-laws. i.e. Your brother-in-law can be your wife’s brother or your brother’s wife. In the former case, it will include all events from the date you and your partner became a couple. In the latter case, it will include all events from the date your brother and his partner became a couple.

5. Grandson, granddaughter, grandchild – all events. Not sure if we should ignore or consider all the step/adoptive/foster designations here.

6. Grandfather, grandmother, grandparent – all events after your birth, as well as the ages of your grandparents when you were born.

Where to stop is the question?  I think this is about the place. You’ll have enough events in each person’s timeline to really get a feeling of what their life will be like.

You can make the case to add a few more relatives, for example:

7.(?) Great-grandparents, great-grandchildren – If they are living during your lifespan, then there will be a considerable age gap and they likely won’t be living with you or be in contact with you much. There are exceptions of course. But if you had 50 great-grandchildren, you probably won’t remember their names and you’d have to be very healthy and energetic to attend all of their events. The significance would be the fact of having 50 great-grandchildren, but their events would be noise.

8.(?) Uncles, aunts, first cousins – You’ll probably see them more often when you’re kids, but less frequently when you’re adults. You’ll likely get invited and go to their weddings, but is that enough to say that their Life Events are significant upon yours? Adding cousins adds a whole order of magnitude to the number of events you’ll bring it. It’s better to add a custom event to your own information to say that you attended your cousin’s wedding, than to try to include them all automatically.

In this delicate scheme of setting up Life Events, I think the right place to stop is back at: 6. the grandparents. In the future, I know I’ll want to add Place Events as well. Those will be events associated with a place (e.g. Earthquake, fire, general strike) and if you lived in the place at the time, it would automatically be included with your Life Events.

What do other programs do? Well, some have what they call a timeline report. They can produce a timeline of events for a specific person. It will include spouse, parent and children events. I don’t think any go as far as including siblings, step-family, in-laws, grandparents or grandchildren. And none of them do the events for everybody at once. So Behold will be quite unique in this regard.

By the way, if you won’t want to see the Life Events, you’ll be able to switch them off with a single button press. But I think you’ll leave them on. Smile

2 Comments           comments Leave a Comment

1. goulooze (goulooze)
Netherlands flag
Joined: Thu, 9 Feb 2012
6 blog comments, 0 forum posts
Posted: Thu, 5 Jul 2012  Permalink

Louis, check out the Dutch genealogy program Aldfaer. It’s main ppage shows a list of life events. Check out the screenshot on their Wiki: http://aldfaer.net/aldfaerwiki/index.php?title=AldfaerWiki:Aldfaer. It shows a person’s age, and the events that happened in their live at that time, like uncles and aunts dying, siblings getting married, etc. It’s not as flexible as what you are doing with Behold (in the way of configuring what is displayed), but the idea is similar. It is still one of my favorite gen programs, if it wasn’t for its poor handling of sources.

2. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
Canada flag
Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
237 blog comments, 226 forum posts
Posted: Fri, 6 Jul 2012  Permalink

Thanks Goulooze,

Aldfaer’s display is interesting. I somewhat like Aldfaer’s summary of a person, e.g.: “Fekje Damstra, 88, 1867-1955 (x1887, 7k)” which means: “lived to age 88, born 1867, died 1955, married 1887, had 7 children”.

But the Persoon tab is a bit minimalistic showing only: “6 zus Leentje geboren”, meaning: “Age 6, sister, first name, event”. I think that needs a little more information to really be useful. I like Family Tree Maker’s timeline better (see: http://www.beholdgenealogy.com/blog/?p=1093 ) for its information content, but I don’t like FTM’s two line per entry layout, which makes it hard to scan.

Uncles and aunts were borderline for me, so I think it is interesting that Aldfaer decided to include their events. But I think in-laws are more important in the lives of most people than uncles and aunts are. I can’t tell from that screen whether or not in-law events are included, but I’d be impressed if they are.


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