APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2002-11 > 1036546210
From: "e-shown" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Genealogy programs
Date: Tue, 5 Nov 2002 19:30:10 -0600
References: <LOBBIKIGAKJFAKPNLMCBIELLGLAA.firstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com>
> Could you tell me which genealogy programs . . . meet source citation
> standards? Which ones meet reporting format standards?
Patricia, most of the major programs now are doing a fairly good job of
enabling users to *record* the essential data for a good citation. Some, of
course, give the users more help than others.
However, all of the well-known programs apparently still fall short in one
significant regard: the ability to document our pedigree sheets or ancestor
charts. Ultimate Family Tree moved into this direction, after the
publication of *Evidence* but, of course, UFT was bought out and killed off.
On a brighter note, a correspondent recently sent me samples from a program
she was beta testing, Genbox 3 (developer William T. Flight, website
www.thoughtfulcreations.com), which offers documentation capability for
charts as well as family group sheet. However, I have not used the program
myself and can speak to none of its other qualities. I have only seen a
sample of its documented charts.
On the "reporting," issue Mary Ann wrote:
> FTM is fine for source work as you can enter whatever you want to within
> their template. It also has NGSQ or Register reporting format.
The editor in me can't resist clarifying this point <g>. FTM and various
other programs offer users the ability to print out genealogical summaries
that follow (more or less) the Register *Numbering System* and the NGSQ
*Numbering System.* However, and unfortunately -- as others pointed out
earlier in the week -- the products vary significantly from the compiled
genealogies in the Register and NGSQ.
On this same subject of "reporting," Mary Ann added
> For all work except maybe a formal certification application
> which I am told is more particular than most , it is fine.
Here, I agree on some parts and disagree vehemently on others!
The issue seems to revolve around the word "report." Data-management
software in our field unfortunately uses this word for the "genealogical
summary" created when it takes data and adds pronouns, verbs, and
prepositions to create text. The result is a set of begats, but not a real
report. For those who wish to produce a set of begats -- a genealogical
summary -- the software is a wonderful tool.
However, professionals researchers and family historians have needs that are
*not* met by computer-generated text.
At its core, genealogical research requires two types of "reporting."
Meeting professional standards or scholarly standards (or creating a family
history that is interesting to read) requires thoughtful, analytical
*writing* by a human brain, not a silicon chip.
For every research assignment that we perform (for ourselves or for others)
we need to create a report that details the work done in that assignment.
Our report should
- describe the research problem we have investigated.
- summarize the known detail upon which we based the search
(crucial names, dates, and relationships--and spelling variants).
- identify fully all records and repositories we covered that day/week
- identify limitations on the search (inaccessible records, insufficient
time to cover all holdings, etc.)
- present both positive and negative findings--in full detail!
- discuss problems with the records, explain complex items, etc.
- conclude with a work plan for pursuing the problem, based on
what has/has not been found in this segment of research.
Whether we are applying for certification or accreditation or whether we are
"just" committed to doing the best possible job for a client, our research
report should lay out these essentials.
When we perform a piece of research, if we pick out certain details to enter
into a database with its limited fields, and then tell the software to write
a canned "genealogical summary," we do not meet these needs. Our clients
have no way of knowing exactly what we did and why. Because they were not
there with us, they need a report through which they can follow our steps
and our reasoning. In the future, both they and we need to know exactly what
was searched and exactly the details upon which our judgments were made.
None of us have such a good memory that we have total recall of every
research segment we do. Without that real research report to provide these
details for future reference, no matter how good the database we use, we
will find ourselves repeating many searches unnecessarily. And once we
isolate the bits and pieces of our findings, distributing them among the
blanks in the database, the destruction of context will handicap us in the
future analyses that we attempt to make.
Ultimately, most researchers hope to produce a genealogy or a family
history. (I won't attempt to define differences here. We debate them
frequently enough on APG-L <g>). If we had truly rather be burned at the
stake than have to *write* something, then when we reach the point of
compilation, then the automated "begats" produced by databases are better
than nothing (provided that they let us document each individual statement
However, if our goal is to produce a quality work, then the "genealogical
summary" produced by pushing the "print a report" button on XYZ Software
falls drastically short of standards. The lives of our ancestors had many
nuances that cannot be expressed by the "canned" statements programmed into
software. The records that we use and the decisions that we make from them
require discussions that cannot be pre-programmed. Yes, we can add all those
discussions into freeform notes, but that leads to another aspect of
If our goal is to produce a family account that our family (or our client's
family) will actually *read* and *enjoy,* we do not meet that by printing
out a plethora of disjointed notes attached to boring begats. The only way
to produce an *enjoyable* family history is for us to take each individual
and thoughtfully, lovingly, consider everything we know about her or him; to
add appropriate historical, social, and religious context to put that life
into perspective; and then to *tell that person's unique story.* Person by
person, all the way through to the end.
All of this is why so many genealogists on this list state that, when they
use genealogical software, they transport the so-called "report" into a
word-processing program and then write the "compiled genealogy" as it cries
to be written.
No, I am not anti-software. We all find one program or another useful for
creating basic begats that can be (a) searched and sorted; (b) summarized on
family group sheets and ancestor charts; and (c) transferred into
word-processing programs, thereby eliminating the need to reenter all the
begats for the skeletal "genealogical summary" that accompanies each
biography in our compiled genealogies.
Mary Ann is right that a "report" automatically "written" by XYZ Software
does not meet the requirements for a certification application. Whenever
genealogists apply for certification (or accreditation), they are judged
upon their ability to conduct research, analyze the evidence, and compile
their findings. Hence, the portfolio evaluators must see samples of actual
research reports. Genealogists who apply for Certified Lineage Specialist or
Certified Genealogist are also judged upon their ability to compile
well-researched and well-analyzed accounts of human lives, put into proper
context (social, religious, economic, political, etc).
We love the programmers for the tools they provide and the shortcuts they
facilitate. But *their* programming abilities are tested and certified or
accredited within the software industry, not by genealogical boards. And,
within genealogy, there is no Certified Data-Entry category.
This being the forum for professional genealogists, the key issue--it seems
to me--is how to best meet the needs of the client at the same time that we
fulfill the standards of the field. Among us we take many different types of
clients. The client who triggered this discussion with a request to have
his/her own research notes entered into a program as an organizational tool
has a legitimate need. But most clients need help with *research* --
including the analysis and interpretation of findings. Occasionally, yes,
there is a client who employs us for research and also asks "Can you
maintain an XYZ database as we go?" In the case of long-running projects,
even if the client does not request it, maintaining the database can help
*us* keep our findings summarized in an orderly fashion. But even so, the
database is no substitute for a thorough, descriptive, analytical report of
our research, each time we conduct research.
IMHO, of course <g>.
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
Author, *Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian*
Editor/Author, *Professional Genealogy: A Manual for
Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians*
Legal Notice: CG and CGL are service marks of the Board
for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by those
who have passed BCG's rigorous examination process.
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