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Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog

Why Completing the Programming of Something New Always Takes Longer than Planned - Sat, 7 Mar 2015

It’s that unexpected exceptional case that you (of course) never expected, but then happens.

I’ve been working hard the last couple of months to finish Version 1.1 of Behold. I’m so excited about it and I’ve effectively finished putting in everything I want to put in. I’ve been running through my test cases to ensure it all works it should.

My counter on my phone says that today is the 19th consecutive day in a row that I’ve worked on Behold since back from holidays. For 3 weekends now, including one before I left on holidays, I was expecting to announce that this version was ready. That’s 3 weekends now that one or more of these unexpected exceptions has occurred that has prevented the release. This latest one, which took me 5 days to resolve, is an excellent example. With it you’ll see some of the great information that Behold’s Everything Report will give you in Version 1.1.

While testing my own GEDCOM file, I came across this:


This is my father’s stepfather (who I’m named after) who’s first wife died and, as was traditional in those days in the farming communities, widowers needed a wife, and he was quickly matched up to my father’s mother Goldie whose husband passed away 4 years earlier. They married less than 5 months after Louis’ wife passed away.

So what’s wrong here. The first thing I saw above that was wrong was that at Louis’ death, it is saying that he was widowed 11 years. That is not correct. He had married his 2nd wife and was married 11 years, not widowed, when he died.

The second thing I see wrong here is that Sarah is marked as Wife 2 and Goldie as Wife 1. They are shown in the correct order but are numbered wrong.

The third thing wrong was that Sarah’s death was not shown.

It took 3 days inspecting and debugging my code before I thought of looking in the GEDCOM file that contained the data. Sure enough, Louis’ two FAMS records that represent his marriages are listed in the incorrect order of Goldie first and Sarah second. I already had included a check in Behold to ensure that marriages in the GEDCOM file are in correct marriage date order. Most genealogy programs do output these records correctly, but Behold will issue a warning if they don’t. And then Behold will fix the order.

I had a puzzle.

Why didn’t the order get fixed? Well, the marriage date with Sarah was unknown. So Behold couldn’t fix the order.

Why then was this still a problem? It was because the spouse of the last marriage had died, so it displayed Louis as a widower.

Why was wife 2 listed first? Because there was no marriage date and I had a slight bug that didn’t order the marriages correctly in that case.

Why didn’t Sarah’s death show up. That’s because if Sarah was married second, then it was after Goldie’s marriage. This means that Sarah’s death was before Goldie’s marriage which was before Sarah’s marriage and I put smarts into Behold so it wouldn’t display your spouse’s events prior to your marriage with your spouse – since he/she wasn’t in your life yet.

And the fact that Louis was widowed for 3 months and that Goldie was widowed for 4 years when they married is important. This needed to be added.

Once I understood the problems (that was the hard part) the rest was easy to fix (if you think that 8 hours of programming work is easy). While sorting each person’s marriages, if a marriage date was not given, then I had to check the spouse’s death date and ensure that it wasn’t before the date of any of the previous marriages. If so, then this marriage must have happened before the previous marriage and the order will need to be switched.

I’m not sure anyone will have been able to follow all this, because my head’s spinning just from writing it.

With the work done, final results were pleasing. I got this:


Now this is no longer just your standard birth/marriage/death information. It tells a real story and puts everything in context:  Louis was born in 1878 in Russia. He first married Sarah (date of marriage unknown or it would be shown). Sarah died when Louis was 50 to 51 and when Sarah was 51. Louis then married when he was still 50 to 51 after being widowed for 3 months. His 2nd wife was Goldie who was 36 and was herself widowed 4 years. Louis died at the age of 61 to 62 after being married to Goldie for 11 years.

I have designed this information to be extremely useful for anyone trying to do family research and understand the lives of their family members. Context is everything, and I’m working to produce an Everything Report that will supply you all the context you will want and need.

What’s happening with FHISO? - Wed, 25 Feb 2015

To the FHISO Board, TSC Coordinators and Membership,

Richard Smith said on Feb 21: "Earlier this year, the FHISO Board, TSC and other stakeholders decided that designing a new conclusion-transfer format /ab initio/ was not currently a priority … and unless and until we have the resources to develop a new technology we’d like to focus on incremental changes …"

As a paying individual member of FHISO, I am interested in seeing FHISO moving forward and not having to sluff anything off, especially due to lack of resources, which in this case I think means people and expertise. Richard mentions the FHISO Board. Have they been meeting 4 times a year as required in the Bylaws? Do we have minutes of the Board being recorded to document the decisions the Board is making and the actions it is taking? Is the general membership allowed access to the minutes to see what is being decided?

I am concerned because I did see (and retweeted) the really-nice-to-see picture of the meeting of the four FHISO Board members at RootsTech 2015 this month and that was great. But from what people tell me about RootsTech this year, FHISO was almost invisible and never mentioned there. There was no FHISO information available, there were no lectures centralizing on a new standard, and nobody organized any discussions or even informal meetings for interested people about it. This was, for goodness sake, Roots "Tech" and there were all sorts of developers there who could have an interest and maybe participate to help develop the new standard. If nothing else, Drew Smith should have been advertising himself as the Chair of FHISO and promoting FHISO, but he only seemed to be referred to as one of the two Genealogy Guys. Is FHISO not at all interested in looking for people with skills and interest in helping the effort?

What of our Founding Members? There are some great companies in FHISO’s Founding Member list. As an individual member, I’m disappointed to see that not more than 20 unaffiliated individuals have taken enough of an interest in the past year to participate in the TSC mailing list. And of us, very few were and are willing to volunteer for the Technical Standing Committees when so many are needed. There’s a lot to do and it will never happen at the current pace.

I’d like to know if the Board has considered asking their Founding Members to send some people to participate in the discussions and help FHISO create a momentum that will get this new standard creation going. If the Board has not, then it would be my suggestion that they do. If FHISO can get one or two people from each Founding Member to actively and interestedly help with FHISOs goals, then that could really get the ball rolling. Plus there would be the double advantage of giving those members a stake in this, to make it happen, and it will.

My biggest worry is that there’s nothing happening in the background. No Board Meetings. No decisions. No initiative. I as a member am completely in the dark as to what’s going on. Please reassure me.



This article has also been posted on the FHISO TSC-public mailing list.

About #RootsTech 2015 - Sun, 15 Feb 2015

This year I was #notatRootsTechbutWouldHaveLikedToBe.

RootsTech began in 2011 and became an annual event, held each year in February at the Salt Palace Convention Center in SaltLakeCity. It has been growing every year, starting with 3,000 attendees in 2011, 4,500 in 2012 and 6,700 in 2013. In 2014, they added Family Discovery Day bringing attendance up to 13,000. This year the conference was held alongside the conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies Meeting and a reported 20,000 attended.

I was at RootsTech in 2012 and 2014. In 2012, I entered Behold in the (what was then called) Developer’s Challenge. I was on a panel about “Sourcing, Citations, Meta Data”, I got to demo Behold in the demo hall, and give away 2 copies of Behold at Dick Eastman’s after conference dinner. In 2014, I met other developers at the Blue Lemon before the Innovator’s Summit and gave a talk on “Windows Phone for Genealogists”. Both years I went to many interesting keynotes and talks of use to me.

Both years, I enjoyed meeting all the people, asking questions and getting ideas. This is the perfect conference for me because the people cover all my venues. As a developer, I get to meet and spend time with other small developers like myself. The large companies: FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage and Findmypast are all represented, give talks, and have large booths in the exhibit hall. There were dozens of other genealogy software companies in the exhibit hall, and I talked to many of the developers who I’ve given GenSoftReviews User’s Choice awards to. I have contributed to the discussions on BetterGedcom, FHISO and GEDCOM X and I met many of the people involved in advancing genealogy standards. As a geneablogger, I got my blogger beads from Dear Myrtle and enjoyed talking to the bloggers I follow and met some new ones. Finally, I meet many Behold users, and learned more about you and what you want in your genealogy software.

A big thing I see that has been happening from these RootsTech Conferences is an increased interest in genealogy in North America. The keynotes include big names such as Laura Bush and Donny Osmond who are giving genealogy a higher profile. Watch Donny Osmond’s keynote and catch where he mentions PAF and GEDCOM.

But even more importantly, these RootsTech Conferences have been bringing out collaboration and sharing between the big genealogy companies. They are all here and talking to each other. I remember in 2012, Ancestry got a Keynote one day, and it felt like the “enemy” in hostile territory. But no more. Those first few RootsTech Conferences have been breaking down these barriers and there are now partnerships and data sharing going on that will get even better since everyone is talking. This will help genealogists everywhere and our pastime will evolve cooperatively.

I do highly recommend that everyone see the RootsTech Video Archive for 2015 as soon as you can, because it will not be up there permanently. They likely will put up all 15 live stream sessions, but as I write this, only half of the live stream sessions are there. I expect the others will be added soon. You will see the keynotes and a sampling of some of the talks. Especially don’t miss the Keynote of Tan Le.

I originally was not expecting to make it to next year’s RootsTech either. I’ll be speaking on the 11th Unlock the Past Cruise from Feb 14 to Mar 3, 2016. I was thinking the cruise was going to coincide with RootsTech 2016. But then, they announced that RootsTech next year would be a bit earlier than this year, from Feb 4 to 6, 2016 with the Innovator’s Summit on Feb 3. So now I’m going to try to arrange to go. Will I see you at RootsTech 2016?