All of the recent discussion of genealogy software has caused me to think about the weaknesses of modern genealogy software, my genealogy workflow, and what features a software program would have to meet my needs.
The funny thing is that many of the features are available in one software program or another–some genealogy, some not. However, putting them all together in one package, even if it were a monster package, would meet my needs.
So here is my vision of the perfect genealogy program:
The software would have two separate, but interconnected, modes: Evidence and Conclusion. Switching between the modes for data entry would have to be seamless, and there would have to be the ability to view both modes simultaneously.
The Evidence mode would have the following features:
- This mode would focus on individual records. A full citation would be entered, free-form, prior to any other information. Citation templates are not used, but example citations for various record types can be referenced. (In an ideal world, there would be a “citation help” menu linking directly to an embedded or online version of Evidence Explained.)
- Digital images of records can be imported. Names in the records can be directly linked to individuals in the Conclusion mode. (This technology can already be used in The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding.)
- Use of split-screen for transcription of record, similar to Transcribe. The transcription would be linked directly to the image or the citation of the record.
- Extraction templates, such as those used by Clooz, could be utilized, and linked directly to images or citations of records. Free-form word processor could also be used for extraction. Each extract also has fields for recording the Informant (which would be linked to the individual in Conclusion mode) and their knowledge of the event (primary or secondary).
- “Creation” field for each record would allow for the recording of citations to and/or transcriptions of relevant laws.
- Related records could be directly linked to each other. For example, a military pension record could be linked to the compiled service record and the draft registration record.
- A land record tools would provide ability to plat land based on federal or “metes and bounds” land descriptions. (Such as what is done in Deedmapper and other surveying software.) Neighboring lands can be linked together through their shared borders. Lands would have independent timelines through which ownership history could be entered, with independent citations. Both Google maps and historic/USGS topographic maps can be imported. Federal land descriptions may have built-in geocodes, allowing plats to appear in correct location on Google maps. All lands can be manually placed on any imported maps. Geographic features could be linked to USGS Geographic Names Information System for assistance in locating land.
- All records or analysis entries can be “tagged” with relevant events and individuals, but would not be exclusive to single events or individuals.
What other features would be useful in the Evidence mode?
The Conclusion mode would have the following features:
- This mode would focus on individual people, using a “life timeline.”
- Individuals would have a “profile,” in addition to the timeline, allowing the recording of status tags: gender, race, occupation, free/slave status, etc. Changes in status would also appear in the timeline.
- Events or facts would be entered into an individual’s timeline. The events/facts entry would allow creation and use of common verbs in addition to the “genealogical” actions commonly contained in software.
- Only a single instance of each vital event can be entered. Rather than cluttering the timeline with multiple entries based on conflicting evidence (which would be able to be recorded in the Evidence mode), the individual timeline would contain only the conclusions.
- Events would be able to be recorded as specific (or approximate) dates, or ranges of dates.
- Events or facts would cite either individual records or proof arguments. Citations link directly to records contained in the Evidence mode. Proof arguments would be composed with a full-featured word processor (not some plain-text “Notes” field) that would allow formatting, table-creation, and internal reference notes (which could also be linked directly to records in Evidence mode).
- One would have the ability to view timelines for separate individuals side-by-side.
- Timeline events could be linked between multiple individuals. For example, a land transaction would appear as a linked event in both the grantor’s and grantee’s timelines.
- In addition to Individual Timeline, Family Group Sheet, and Pedigree Chart Views, one could also access information through Kinship Network and Associate Network Views. These two “network” views would have a graphic interface similar to that used by GenoPro. They would allow connections to be made directly between people regardless of biological relationship.
- Associate Network View would automatically import connections based on shared events. Manual connections could also be made. Descriptions would be entered for different kinds of connections. Connections would be cited and linked to records in Evidence mode. Association connections can be tied to timelines, to represent the development or destruction of specific connections. Connections could also be weighted by strength (for differentiation between “strong ties” and “weak ties”).
What other features could be useful in the Conclusion mode?