Friday, 28 December 2018

Digital family history

Over on my other blog I've been writing about what I've been doing over the holidays delving into my own family history.

Now, it's probably not terribly interesting to anyone other than myself and a few nephews and nieces. but one of the most important aspects of this work from a digital archiving point of view is that I've been able to do it using only online digital resources and do the work from my study on the other side of the world.

And this of course is because the National Record of Scotland (previously the National Archives) has done a tremendous amount of work in scanning and indexing the births deaths and marriage records, and in work done by both Historic Environment Scotland in digitising the online records of Scotland's archaeology and environment, and the National Library's digitising old maps, not to mention the work by regional archive services, and the sheer range of material available via Wikipedia - I'm saying via, because it's often the external links that add value, rather than the content itself.

I often used to dream of a world where resources were easily discoverable and linkable , and with the aid of tools such as Evernote and OneNote we seem to be getting close - at least as far as Scottish family history is concerned.

My only real frustration with the process is the Gramps genealogy tool - it's clearly very powerful but for whatever reason, I don't find it totally intuitive, but, for the moment it does the job.

Given the multithreaded nature of the material and connections probably starting a little private wiki with both context pages and links to the documents would be the next step - that way I would end up with shareable living revisable document ...

[update 29/12/2018]

Ever the experimenter, I took a look at one of these online ancestry sites, in this case MyHeritage, in comparison with Gramps, and certainly the interface was slicker, it had a nice consistency checker and it had a good set of prompts for building and populating the family tree details, plus rather a nice way of building a biography for each person in the tree.

Once you'd put in enough details it also scurried off and tried to find a match to the people you'd listed in other family trees - I know because it found a family tree that my brother had started and abandoned three or four years ago.

Nice features.

Also it would let you import data in GEDCOM format. but crucially not merge it into your existing tree, nor export your tree using GEDCOM.

Certainly, it was definitely slicker and easier to use, and the matching with data in other trees was quite good but I didn't like the way it locked you in, nor the way, despite being run on a freemium model, it continually touted signing up to a paid subscription, which admittedly it claimed gave you access to a whole range of online resources, which I'm sure it does - as I havn't signed up I can't comment on the breadth of resources signing up gives you access to.

I don't want to seem totally negative about them - they've done a lot of work on building histories of tribal peoples in PNG, and as an Israeli company, a lot of work constructing the family histories of holocaust survivors.

However, since I'm having fun learning how to do genealogical research from primary resources, I already  have access to most of the resources I need, and I prefer the pay for use model that Scotland's People have adopted, I've decided not to continue with them and will plough on working with Gramps.

What I will do, is that once I've done as much as I want with it is upload the material I've assembled to let other people reuse it as they wish

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