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Genealogy Technology – Random Thoughts - Wed, 13 Aug 2014

Lots going on in the technical genealogy world, and so much incorrect thinking in my opinion.

The major online services are quietly going about their business: Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage (which now includes Geni) are the big three, but there are scores of others such as GeneaNet and WikiTree. They’ve had years to do so, but no one service has shown dominance. It may still be years before this all gets sorted out.

Single World Tree or Individual Trees? Now that is the question, and everyone has an opinion and argues, but both ways have their faults. The two will have to coexist for a while because no consensus is in sight.

It is being said that handheld pads and mobile devices are the future. Therefore everything will be in the cloud and accessed with apps from these devices. And desktop genealogy software will not be needed. Well that’s all bullfeathers. More than anything, people want control of their data. They’ll want their own database in their own possession and not on some alien planet somewhere. And if it is on some alien planet, they want control of it, and don’t want the aliens to have the ability to destroy it.

Family Tree Maker is a good program!? Ouch. Have you seen its reviews lately on GenSoftReviews? I don’t understand how Ancestry has dropped the ball so badly with it. The rewrite in 2008 was necessary because the earlier technology needed upgrading. But how did they take a reasonably good program and destroy it so badly? How, after six years of upgrades, can their software still crash and cause so many problems? Why can’t they get it to sync data properly with their own online database? Why don’t they fix it?

Customer service will win the day. People don’t mind encountering problems or learning a different system if they are dealing with a company that will do everything to help them. In contrast to Family Tree Maker, check out the GenSoftReviews of Family Tree Builder and MyHeritage and note how many of the comments talk about their great support.

The Master Genealogist says farewell. I’ve met Bob Velke and he’s a really smart guy and a fine person. He was one of the early innovators of genealogy software and developed one of the most capable genealogy programs of the day. Everyone else had to catch up to him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the leap that was necessary and switch TMG’s deprecated FoxPro database to a modern database that could continue.

Legacy 8 still uses FoxPro the Microsoft Jet Engine which is also deprecated. It doesn’t support Unicode 64-bit. The limitations are starting to mount, despite the new releases. Why have few noticed this? Why are they not demanding Legacy to address this? Will the Legacy folk switch in time before they hit the same brick wall that Bob did?

Genealogy Proof. Citation Templates. Evidence Tracking. Everyone’s so concerned about all these. But I’m not ready to spend 4 hours documenting each event I add to my database. What’s wrong with just recording exactly where we got the data from and our reasoning? That should take 30 seconds. We can then spend the other 3:59:30 more usefully.

Data doesn’t transfer. It’s GEDCOM’s fault. We need a new standard. => Ugh! Give me a break! Developers are the one’s that make GEDCOM fail. They fail to adhere to the standard whenever they feel like it and add their own extensions. They then ignore other program’s extensions. GEDCOM has most of what’s needed. With a few (what I call) tweaks, it can be updated and serve the genealogy community for another 25 years.

The whole push to replace GEDCOM with a new standard, that I was happily contributing to in BetterGEDCOM, which evolved into FHISO that was doing great and … Thud! After Drew Smith was appointed chair of FHISO there was nothing. That was over a year ago. I questioned Drew about this at RootsTech in February, and he told me FHISO was still looking for a coordinator. All the founding members would support FHISO if it could get going, and it’s quite a group: Ancestry, RootsMagic, WikiTree, OurFamily*ology, Calico Pie, Coret Genealogie, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS), BrightSolid and Mocavo. But it looks like FHISO is stalled and dead in the water unless someone steps forward with the energy and initiative to reboot it.

Oh where oh where did AncestorSync go? They had the right idea. Sync data directly between many desktop programs and online family trees. That’s exactly what every genealogist really wants and even needs. But doing it did not turn out to be as simple as they thought. Someone should … hmmmm.

Thanks for letting me rant. I feel better now.

August 15 update re Legacy:

I received an email from Geoff Rasmussen from Millennia (Legacy Family Tree) who informed me that Legacy does not use FoxPro but is built on top of a Microsoft Access database. Indeed I was wrong, and inspecting a Legacy .FDB file, one can see it is using the Microsoft Jet Database Engine.

However, this unfortunately does not change Millennia’s situation with Legacy. The Microsoft Jet Database Engine, like FoxPro, has also been deprecated by Microsoft. The Jet driver will not be updated and there is no 64-bit version of the driver available, nor will there ever be. So Millennia will need to switch before they hit the brick wall.

In July 2011, Microsoft acknowledged an issue that “severely affects query performance” with Access and Jet since the introduction of Windows 7 due to the nature of resource management being vastly different in newer operating systems. “Microsoft issued hotfixes for Microsoft Access, but will not fix the issue with Jet 4.0 as it is out of mainstream support.” (from Microsoft Access on Wikipedia) – So already, Legacy is starting to feel the effects of staying with Jet.

This, unfortunately, is the nature of programming. Choosing a technology is sometimes a crapshoot, and you may be lucky, or you may not. But you’ve got to see the writing on the wall when it’s there and change before it’s too late.

August 16 update re FHISO:

Interestingly, as I wrote this blog post, FHISO had completed a year of getting organized and announced that they are now ready to begin technical work. This is good.

See Richard Smith’s comment below.

4 Comments           comments Leave a Comment

1. rjseaver (rjseaver)
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Joined: Wed, 5 Jan 2011
6 blog comments, 0 forum posts
Posted: Thu, 14 Aug 2014  Permalink

Only a rant with regard to FHISO…and I’ve had the same feelings, but not brave enough to write them publicly.

Thanks for all of the thoughts, good ones.

Cheers — Randy

2. rsmith (rsmith)
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Joined: Fri, 15 Aug 2014
1 blog comment, 0 forum posts
Posted: Fri, 15 Aug 2014  Permalink

The timing of the comments about FHISO was unfortunate. We were in the final stages of preparing to announce the start of technical work, and you can now see that announcement on the FHISO website, http://fhiso.org/. It’s regrettable that it took so long to reach this stage, but there were mitigating circumstances. We invite interested parties to participate in the technical work of FHISO in any of the ways listed on our website. Thank you for your patience.

— Richard Smith, Technical Standing Committee Co-Coordinator, FHISO Inc.

3. mjashby (mjashby)
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Joined: Fri, 23 May 2014
2 blog comments, 2 forum posts
Posted: Tue, 19 Aug 2014  Permalink


One must always be careful when having a ‘rant’, or criticising what may outwardly appear to be lengthy periods of inactivity:

1. FHISO - Length of time with no outward appearance of activity (from the lack of website updates) = 14 months
2. Behold - Length of time since last software update = 15 months; and counting.

But I am patiently waiting (not ranting).

Mervyn Ashby

4. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
Canada flag
Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
232 blog comments, 226 forum posts
Posted: Tue, 19 Aug 2014  Permalink


Point well taken.

But my rant worked. And it only took a day! :-)

These distractions (BetterGEDCOM, FHISO, Gaenovium, etc) are causing delays in the short run for Behold. But this work will allow me to have a positive effect on the future of genealogy for all genealogists, even more-so than Behold itself could do. In turn, these solidify my ideas for the future direction of Behold. Research and discussion are part of software development. They unfortunately slow it down, but make it better in the end.

I hope you’ll find when the next few versions of Behold come out, that it will have been quite worth your patient wait.



The Following 5 Sites Have Linked Here

  1. Best of the Genea-Blogs - 10 to 16 August 2014 - Genea-Musings (Randy Seaver) : Sun, 17 Aug 2014
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