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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog

Recording Your Reasoning (Proof Argument) - Thu, 28 May 2015

So I was about to to update the documentation section for Source Details, and I looked at how I had implemented this in version 1.0:


Version 1.1 was unchanged from this, so I thought the update of this section would be simple. But then it struck me. I was not displaying this information correctly.

In the couple of years since the last version of Behold, I had been increasing my knowledge about dealing with sources, and last August I wrote a paper on Standardizing Sources and Citation Templates, which I submitted to FHISO.

Point number 8 in that paper was something I realized was very important: to separate out the sources from the conclusions. What I said was:

All assumptions and conclusions and assessments of the source must be placed with the source reference, not with the source

Well, take a look at S5-3 in the screenshot above. Listed under the source record is some “data” that says:

The Enumerator for this census improperly listed John J. McCarthy as being born Sep 1800, he then changed the date to 1890, which is still incorrect. John is listed as being 8-months old on the date of the census, 9 Jun 1900, if you reverse the date for 8-months John would have been born in Sep 1899, which is the proper date.

Well this information is not part of the source. This is the researcher’s assessment of the source. It should not be displayed as part of the source, but should be displayed as the analysis of the source used to arrive at the the conclusion. In this case, the conclusion is the birth event of John J. McCarthy.

Similarly, there are those “Quality” values. Those also are not part of the source. They are the researcher’s assessment of the quality of the source with respect to arriving at the conclusion. One source can be assessed differently for different conclusions, e.g. a death record may be very good for the death date, but if it only includes an age at death, then it’s not as good for the birth date.

Let’s see where this information comes up in GEDCOM. There’s conclusion information:

2 DATE SEP 1899
2 PLAC Boston, Suffolk, MA

and under that will be the source reference:

2 SOUR @S90@
3 PAGE Genealogy.com, Series: T623, …
3 QUAY 3
3 DATA The Enumerator for this census …

The SOUR line is the pointer to the source. The PAGE line describes the specific record used within the source.

Now those two lines, the QUAY and DATA, well they are not part of the source record and shouldn’t be displayed as part of the source record. They are part of the reference to the source. They describe the linkage, i.e. the analysis and reasoning used to come up with the conclusion.

As a result, the QUAY and DATA and the other information allowed with it (e.g. Notes, Objects, Date recorded, Event cited from), are all part of the linkage between the source record and the conclusion. What this means is that this information needs to be displayed in two places.

One place is with the conclusion, to describe the reasoning the source record brought to the conclusion:


The other is with the source record, to show the reasoning was used with this source for each conclusion:


Note the difference in the S5-3 listing to the 1.0 version of it shown earlier. The Quality and Data are now shown attached to the conclusion event that is supported by the source record.

Previously they were included as part of the source record. When that was done, S5-4 did not have exactly the same quality and Data values. So S5-4 previously was shown as a different record.

Now the source record can be treated as identical, and the former S5-3 and S5-4 can be put together as the new S5-3 with a combined total of 3 supported events. The reasoning based on that source record can now be attached individually to each event.

This is really major. It has opened my eyes up to the fact that GEDCOM actually has a place for a researcher’s reasoning statements. The user’s analysis/reasoning can go into the NOTE statements that are placed in source references.

Doing this can allow a step-by-step proof argument to be documented and passed on through GEDCOM to another program. You would do it like this:

2 DATE dd MMM yyyy
2 PLAC xyz
2 SOUR @S1@
3 NOTE The date and place were from the birth certificate
2 SOUR @S2@
3 NOTE Immigration record contained her age and country o 4 CONC f origin, agreeing with what I had.

Once I add editing to Behold, I’ll also add the ability to record your step-by-step proof argument, and you’ll be able to document and display all your reasoning.

I needed three days to make these changes to Behold. Now back to finishing the documentation and getting Version 1.1 out.

Documenting New Features - Sat, 23 May 2015

This is fun. I’m well into updating the Tutorial. I like my documentation system Dr. Explain which makes it easy to provide screenshots using callouts and makes a extremely nice user manual.

I’m working hard to finish as soon as possible. I would really like to get Version 1.1 out before the end of the month. If not, I’ll be very angry.

Here’s an example of the page I just finished that introduces a few of the important features of the Everything Report to the reader, including the new Life Events and the “Survived by” section:


Everything Report: Information Area


This is where all the real information is displayed.


Descendant Title


Each Descendant section is listed in the Table of Contents. Each section begins with the two people (or one if only one is known) who are the ancestors of this line.


Horizontal Lines


The horizontal lines delineate the information about a person and their partner/spouse (if they have one). To the right of each line is the number assigned to that person and their partner/spouse.


The Individual


Each person has all their information shown below them. The person’s IDs from the GEDCOM file are given but are by default hidden.

Each person is followed by their partner/spouse and their children, children’s partner/spouse and all other descendants.


Hidden Tags


All information that has a grey color (rather than black), is information that is hidden. But you can see it! Maybe you can, maybe you cannot. That all depends on what the setting is for the "Selected/All Tags" option on the View menu, or the equivalent toolbar item that looks like a checkbox:

If that toolbar item is selected (pressed in), then all the hidden tags are displayed in grey. If it is deselected, then the hidden tags will truly get hidden.

However, you often don’t care about many of the tags. You probably don’t care about the duplicated name information or internal ID numbers. So Behold allows you to hide the data that is not relevant to you with the "Selected/All Tags" option.

Behold has by default set each tag as to whether it is selected or not. These settings are on the Organize Tags page. You can modify them as you desire and save the settings you want into a Behold Organize file for future use. Saving to Behold Organize files will be described later in this tutorial under "Organizing Your Data".

The reason why hidden tags are shown is so that Behold’s Everything Report can truly show everything. Nothing from your input data is omitted when hidden tags are shown. Also, when you print or export to a file, *ONLY* the information displayed is printed or exported. You must be able to see the tags, even if they are only in grey, for them to get printed or exported. That way you’ll always know what you’ll be getting.

When you are finished with this page of the Tutorial, click the "Selected/All Tags" checkbox icon to stop displaying the hidden text. The remainder of the tutorial will be displayed with the hidden tags hidden to show only the most relevant information.


Events and Facts


Each event and fact for the individual is shown, with the person’s name, sex and birth event first, and the person’s death and post-death events (burial, cremation) last. Other event are between, ordered by date whenever a date is given.

Events and facts about the individual and what is often called "family" information about the individual and their partner/spouse such as the marriage or the birth of the son, are all presented together under the individual, providing the person’s life story almost like a personalized timeline. For the family information, the first indented line will begin with the words: "With husband…", "With wife…" or "With partner…" and then gives the information about the partner at the time. The family information is also included also with the partner/spouse, but the emphasis is changed to that of the partner/spouse.

Behold gives you ways to customize how each item of information is displayed. In this example, a BIRT tag is displayed as "Birth:". A REFN tag is displayed as "Reference:". The way you can change these options is described later in the Tutorial in the section on Organizing Your Data.

Items in blue are all hyperlinks of individuals, places or sources. Clicking on them with the mouse will take you to their location in the Everything Report.


Life Events


Behold shows what we call "Life Events". These are significant events in the life of the individual that are important to them, since it would have involved a spouse, parent or child. Often the source information for those events may also have important information about the individual, and it is good to cross check that information - something often overlooked by many researchers because the information is not made easily available by their genealogy software.The events that are shown include birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, death, christening, graduation, immigration residence, census and a few others.

Life events are shown from the perspective of the individual. The first line of each life event lists the relationship of the person the event is about, e.g. the first son of the individual. It then lists the event that person was involved in, e.g. the son’s marriage. It then lists the date of the event, and the age (not of the son but) of the individual at the time of the event. If the individual was married and the date of marriage is known, then the length of marriage and spouse’s name at the time will also be shown. This will be followed by the place the event took place.

The next lines will be indented and will contain the information about the person/people involved in the event and their ages and marriage status at the time, and that will be followed by the rest of the information about the event, also indented.

Notes, sources and other information about each life event will be displayed. Much of this information will be relevent to the individual, and may give you clues to help understand your relative’s life.

The relationship and event type at the beginning of life events are in green text so you can easily identiy them. You can turn life events on and off easily by pressing the red heart on the toolbar.


Notes, Objects and Sources


Any notes, objects or sources for an event are shown together at the end of the information for the event, and notes objects or sources for an individual are shown together at the end of the information for the individual.

Inline notes are shown inline. Shared notes are also shown inline, but are also linked to their common note in the Note Details section.

Objects link to through a file path to the actual object on your computer. If the path is correct, then you can click on the link and the object, be it a picture or video or sound file,.will open.

Sources link to their source record information in the Source Details section, described later in this tutorial.

Survived by / Would have been


A very helpful section, known as "Survived by", is added after a person’s death event when the death date is known. This can be thought of as an "Obituary report". People who were known (due to death dates) or presumed (due to generation) to be alive at the time are listed. They are listed in the order that most obituaries would list them, with spouse followed by children and grandchildren. This is very useful if you have the obituary, you can match the people in the listing and see who is extra and who is missing and use it to correct your data about them..

If the person is still living, Behold will give the following line instead:


It will give the date of the run and the age and marriage status of the person at the time.

If the person’s death date is not given, and the would have shown the person to be, say 183 years old, which is really silly, then it shows the following instead:


The settings for what maximum age to use can be set in the Report Options page, described later in this Tutorial.


Last Update


If your genealogy software keeps track of the date it last updated this individual, then Behold will show it. This is valuable to show in reports and makes it quickly apparent why recent events are not included. Once editing is added to Behold, Behold will keep track of this for every individual whenever you edit them.

GEDCOM Death of Spouse - Wed, 20 May 2015

As I was writing up my documentation for the release of Behold 1.1, I discovered a weird GEDCOM construct used in one of the sample GEDCOM files, Steve McCarthy Legacy.ged, that I supply with Behold. The file was created by Legacy version 5.0, and the weird construct is this:

0 @F3@ FAM
2 DATE 4 Jan 1925
2 PLAC Boston, Suffolk, MA
2 TYPE Death of Spouse

Of marriage types, I’ve seen “Common Law”, “Civil” “Religious” and all sorts of others including superfluous text like “Marriage of Martin Smith and Elna Jefferson” right in the TYPE tag. But what kind of marriage is a “Death of Spouse”? Sounds pretty morbid to me.

The very same GEDCOM file further down shows this:

0 @F39@ FAM
2 DATE 16 Oct 1965
2 PLAC Providence, Providence, RI
2 TYPE Death of Spouse
3 DATE 14 Apr 1984

Okay! Now there’s a date attached to the “Death of Spouse”. Now it makes more sense. It is not referring to the TYPE of marriage, but to the end of the marriage due to one spouse dying. I agree that this is a valid thing to document, and GEDCOM only has capabilities to record divorces and annulments as an end of a marriage, so it is good to include this.

But how on earth did the Legacy developers ever come to feel that the right way to handle this is adding a TYPE tag under a MARR tag?

And horrors of horrors, that Legacy file has yet another awful construct for the same thing:

0 @F39@ FAM
1 HUSB @I122@
1 WIFE @I3@
1 _STAT Death of Spouse
2 DATE 14 Apr 1984
2 DATE 16 Oct 1965
2 PLAC Providence, Providence, RI
2 TYPE Death of Spouse
3 DATE 14 Apr 1984

They use a level 1 custom tag _STAT here for the Death of Spouse. Well, that’s closer to what is proper. But a status is the state that something is in. A death of a spouse is not a status. It is an event indicating the change of status of one spouse from married to widowed and of the other spouse from married to dead.

To top it off, the 2 TYPE and 3 DATE tags are included even though the _STAT tag says the same thing. Yuck!

The proper way to do this is to put it in the FAM record as a top level event, like this:

0 @F39@ FAM
2 DATE 16 Oct 1965
2 PLAC Providence, Providence, RI
1 EVEN Death of Spouse
2 DATE 14 Apr 1984

Searching Google for the phrase “Death of Spouse” in GEDCOM files currently finds 120 results. It seems that most programs, like PAF, GENE and RootsMagic do it correctly the way I suggest above with the EVEN tag.

If the people at FHISO are listening, and if they ever get to actually starting to write a standard, I’ve got some recommendations based on some of the work I did to develop Life Events in Behold 1.1.

  1. Whether or not the family unit is implemented, it is very important to know when partner relationships both start and end. The partner is only relevant to the rest of the family during the relationship.
  2. The MARR marriage tag is a good indicator of when the marriage begins. But what about partnerships such as Common Law? For that, GEDCOM currently has no standard way to indicate when the two people become a couple.
  3. The DIV divorce tag or ANUL annulment tag are good indications of the end of a marriage. But the death of a spouse (as described above) is also important. And DIV and ANUL don’t apply to Common Law relationships.
  4. I haven’t fully thought this through, but maybe a PART partnership tag might work.  This could be under the 0 INDI record and look something like this:
    0 @I12@ INDI
    1 PART @I13@
    2 TYPE Common Law
    2 DATE FROM 13 Nov 1843 TO 28 SEP 1865

When I first started this blog post, I was thinking this problem with this “Death of Spouse” construct might be quite widespread and I’d need to handle it with a special case in Behold. To my actual surprise, it appears that my sample file might contain a relatively rare and isolated case. I have found other Legacy files (version 6 and earlier) with the technically allowable _STAT Death of Spouse construct, but I haven’t found any others with the illogical FAM.MARR.TYPE Death of Spouse construct.

So at this point, I’m not going to write special code to handle this. Behold’s flexible reading of tags does a decent job and handles it okay.