WeRelate:Watercooler/Archive 2006



Surname Profiler

This website produces a nice map showing the distribution of a surname. I wanted to share this and see if there might be a more general use for it. I do not know what kind of licensing would be involved with using it.

That's a nice interface. Ancestry has a similar interface, which is available on the free portion of their website. One of the back-burner projects I'd like to do sometime is mine a large lineage-linked database (e.g., WorldConnect or Ancestral File) for migration patterns. That is, compute distributions of where people who lived in a particular county in a particular time period move there from. I think this information might be interesting if you're stuck trying to figure out where your ancestors moved into town from. If anyone knows of a large lineage-linked database I could get access to - not to display individual-level information but to mine and display aggregate-level information - please let me know.--Dallan 22:54, 18 November 2006 (MST)

"Recent changes" link

I and others will be able to revert spam occasionally faster if the "Recent changes" link is easier to find. Robin Patterson 14:54, 13 December 2006 (MST)

I agree it needs to be easier to find. Any thoughts on where we should put it? Two ideas we had were:
  • in the "toolbox" area at the bottom of each page (before Related Changes),
  • enlarge the font for the recent changes links located on the Main Page and the WeRelate:Wiki page.
I'm open to any other suggestions as well. By the way, the reason for omitting the left-hand navigation menu that we used to have is to take better advantage of screen real-estate for people with small monitors. I'm also having a second skin developed that lists the main menu, page-actions menu, and toolbox menu in a column on the left-hand side of the page. So in that skin we could put the links currently located under the "Wiki Navigation" header on the WeRelate:Wiki page in that column. Having said that, I'd still like to figure out how to make the recent changes link more prominent on this skin.--Dallan 20:51, 13 December 2006 (MST)

Bugs and Problems

Self-linking pages

"User page" and "Discussion" should not both appear in a menu line at the top of those pages; each should have just a link to the other. Robin Patterson 14:54, 13 December 2006 (MST)

I disagree. I think both should always be present for consistency, but the currently active one should be highlighted in some way. --Joeljkp 15:11, 13 December 2006 (MST)
Robin, I'm not sure what you mean. The "User page" and "Discussion" links on user pages are similar to the primary-page and discussion-page links that we have on other wiki pages, and that appear on Wikipedia and http//genealogy.wikia.com as well. One thing that isn't done well in the current skin is that the first two links of the page-actions menu (the primary page and the discussion page) aren't well distinguished from the rest of the links (edit, history, watch, etc.), even though they're conceptually different. Wikipedia and http://genealogy.wikia.com put extra space between the first two links and the rest of the links for example. We're working on a way to visually distinguish these first two links from the rest of the links. Would this help?--Dallan 20:51, 13 December 2006 (MST)

Surname in Place vs. Family and Person pages

Now that I've started adding more Family and Person pages, I'm debating what to keep on the Surname in Place pages, what to move to Family and Person pages, and how much linking to do between the two. Any thoughts? --Lauren 11:51, 8 December 2006 (MST)

I think about Surname in Place pages as a type of message board, where people can let others know that they're researching in this area, enter what they've found that they can't yet tie into a person or family on their own lines, and ask others for help. I haven't tried to enforce this idea, because I wanted people to use them for what they found most helpful. You don't have to add links between surname in place pages and people and family pages unless you have a special need to, because the surname in place Category link at the bottom of each page automatically includes the surname in place page and all people and family pages for the surname in place.--Dallan 11:29, 10 December 2006 (MST)
I'm brand new here, still just looking around, but I definitely like the concept of a "surname in place" page. I've got lots of notes pages on my own computer that serve that purpose. Often in research, I collect a bunch of pieces of info (e.g., comb baptisms to find everyone with surname Cattanach baptised in Aberdeenshire between 1700-1850), not knowing yet how they all relate, and then do the virtual equivalent of spreading the puzzle pieces out on the table and trying to piece them together. Some will quickly connect, while others will remain unconnected, but I find it's important to keep track of all of the pieces, because you never know when one will suddenly provide the missing link when a new bit of info comes to light. This "surname in place" page seems to me the perfect place to do that sort of thing. TomChatt 20:52, 14 December 2006 (MST)
I'm glad to hear that. Welcome to the website, and please let us know how we can make it better!--Dallan 21:32, 14 December 2006 (MST)

Initial impressions

Okay, so I've spent this evening pounding on this site in earnest. I've entered a couple dozen person and family pages, and so far I am extremely pleased. I really love the combination of structured data with free-form wiki content. I've found it quite easy and handy to quickly enter information about a number of persons. The underlying schema seems pretty intuitive to me, and nicely thought out. The little hover hints on the forms are all useful, and the dynamic page stuff (Ajax?) works very well. All in all, I'm really happy with it, and will be doing more. The following are some relatively minor comments and suggestions collected from this first intensive experience:

  • dates - the "hint" says to use the form "1 Jan 1900", but do you have any recommendation about partial or uncertain dates? I've started to put just plain years, or "abt 1830", "aft 1818", and such in the date box. will that muck anything up? perhaps something in the tutorial or help on this.
The dates are free-form so you can enter abt, aft, bef, etc. I'll make a note to add something to the tutorial/help pages.--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)
  • photos - I uploaded photo quite easily. one suggestion: it would be very cool if the structured data tracked linkage between a photo and the "person" entities that appear in it. (if you're familiar with tribalpages.com, they do a good job of this. a photo is associated with the people in it, so they can auto-generate some caption information, including the ages of people in the photo, if the photo date is known)
How about when you're editing the photo page, we replace the "Surnames" field with a list of people and/or families in the photo? If you enter the title of a person page, the system
  • automatically adds the photo as an image on the person page, and
  • copies the person's birth and death information onto the photo page so that when the photo page is displayed, underneath the photo could be listed the people in the photo along with their birth and death information and their age at the time of the photo.
Is this was you had in mind?--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)
Yes, that's perfect. --TomChatt 03:25, 17 December 2006 (MST)
I'll add this also before the end of the year.--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
I'm sorry - I'm coming up on a deadline where I need to have the family tree explorer ready to show off by the 13th. I need to wait to do this until after that is done. I should be able to do it the week of the 15th though.--Dallan 12:34, 2 January 2007 (MST)

I agree that many of the source titles could be better. In creating the sources I used the titles from the web pages the sources appeared on. And sometimes multiple items from the Source:Family History Library Catalog would have the same title, so in those cases I appended the ID (from the Source:Family History Library Catalog) in parentheses to make the title unique. Please feel free to move the source pages to more descriptive (pretty) names. I think that would be a great thing to do.

Regarding specifying a URL and text in the source field, you have a couple of options:
  • you can put both the URL and any text you want in the text field of the source citation, or
  • you can create a new Source (or a personal MySource), where you have separate fields for URL and text.
Does that help, or have I misunderstood?--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)
The first option, if I understand correctly, is a workaround I could do now, by leaving the "source" field blank, and inserting a [[URL pretty-name]] construct into the beginning of the "text" field. I'm not sure I followed the second option. The ideal, I think, would be for the Source records to have a separate field for "name" (i.e., pretty name), which if non-blank would be used for display purposes instead of the tail component of the URI. That way, the pretty name gets identified exactly once on the Source record (rather than having to be repeated in "text" fields every place that refs it). --TomChatt 03:25, 17 December 2006 (MST)
For option one, you can enter the URL directly, without the brackets, into the text field. The goal for Source (and MySource) records is that the title of the Source (or MySource) page is the pretty name. It seems better to move (rename) the Source pages to "pretty-name" titles than to have a "pretty name" field.--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
In the last couple days, I have been sourcing some Scottish parish records. In the LDS catalog they're titled by the dates they cover. The locality is not mentioned. For example, I was using one for St. Martins parish that is titled Source:Old parish registers, 1686-1856. Would it be a good idea to retitle and move it to something more descriptive like Source:St. Martins, Scotland parish registers, 1686-1856, or is it preferable to leave the LDS title?
Please rename them to something more descriptive. I agree that the title should include the place covered. Thank you!--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
Also, in many instances I find it difficult to find the right source to cite, particularly when I'm looking for something like a census or civil registration for a large jurisdiction. These get buried amongst many smaller unique sources, and variations on titles and dates. I was wondering if it's possible to standardize the major BMD sources and somehow bring them to the front of the source lists.--Tim 09:19, 17 December 2006 (MST)
Just like we're standardizing place titles right now, at some point I'd like to standarize source titles, and somehow distinguish the major sources from the obscure ones. I don't know how best to do this. If you or anyone else has thoughts in this area, how about adding them to a new page WeRelate talk:Source page titles where we can discuss it?--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
  • places - I guess as an artifact of constructing a readymade gazetteer of many many places, you're bound to have some places missing, and some places not quite right. I'd been working in Aberdeenshire Scotland, and one thing I noticed is that the current set of places doesn't have a proper notion of parishes, which are an integral layer to the hierarchy of places in Scotland (esp for the genealogist). would it be appropriate for me to restructure the places I'm working with to properly reflect the parishes? (this would be a matter of changing some currently "unknown type" places to "parish", and changing other places to be "contained in" the parish instead of directly contained in the larger shire)
We're starting to work with people at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library to help fix up the place standard. If you're offering to help (which would be wonderful), could I put you in touch with the person at the library who will be working on Place:Scotland so that the two of you don't duplicate efforts? Any help in this area would be dearly appreciated.--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)
Yes, please do put me in touch with whoever is working on Scotland. --TomChatt 03:25, 17 December 2006 (MST)
Me too please. I've been doing a lot of work in Fife and thinking of updating some of the Fife place entries. --Lauren 08:07, 17 December 2006 (MST)
Thanks! I'll do that. I don't think they've started yet (and may not start until after the holidays), but I'll let them know of your willingness to help today.--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
  • nitty places - in one of the examples in the tutorial, I think I saw a specific cemetery entered in the Place namespace. is that expected, that specific named farms or estates, churches, and cemeteries would each have their own page in the "Place" namespace? what I was doing instead was putting that last level of detail in the "description" field. what are others doing?
We're currently thinking of loading U.S. cemeteries and some U.S. hospitals into the place wiki in a few weeks, since I'm told that some people want to specify cemeteries and hospitals in burial and birth places, respectively. I think what you're doing - putting the last level of detail in the description field, especially for farms, estates, etc., is fine. If anyone has opinions one way or the other about whether cemeteries, hospitals, estates, farms, etc., should be included in the place wiki, please le us know. It's pretty easy for us to include US cemeteries, since they're freely available from GNIS. Including other types of places or cemeteries outside the US is much more difficult.--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)
I was actually inclining toward entering some of the estates and farms myself, so that I could put the geocoding info in, and in some cases, photos. At least in Aberdeenshire where I've been researching lately, estate names and farm names are known places names, in that they're recognized by the Royal Mail, and you can look them up in a good UK online map such as streetmap.co.uk. --TomChatt 03:25, 17 December 2006 (MST)
The best part of having cemeteries entered is being able to select the associated category and see the people buried there. I don't know if hospitals would be as interesting. In Scotland, farms are often more like small villages, with a number of families living there. --Lauren 08:07, 17 December 2006 (MST)
I didn't know that about estates and farms. By all means, please add them. At some point (probably next year), I want to add functionality to display photos on maps. So it would be very nice to have some photos of estates and farms, and to have the estates and farms geocoded.--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
  • pedigree map - that looks like a very cool feature, but the one time I tried it, it was a bit wonky. I tried the pedigree for a Person who had a birthplace but no other info, and had a birth Family, but his parents did not yet have their own Person pages. So the pedigree really only had one event for one person to plot. Yet, two pushpins showed up on the map, neither of them at the birthplace though both within 100 or so miles of it. I tried unchecking the boxes to see if the pins would go away, and they didn't go away until I unchecked "father's mother" (which didn't even exist in this pedigree). as I said, awesome idea, but doesn't seem to be working right.
Could you give me the title of the person for whom the pedigree page didn't work? I'll check into it.--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)
Nearly all of the Persons and Families I have created produce pedigree maps with unexpected results on them. It will be more obvious to me, as I am very familiar with where the local geography and recognize instantly when pushpins are not located in the right spot. But for a simple example, try Person:George Spring (1). George has no children, his birth and christening are the only events in his record, and they both have the same place: Banchory-Ternan. George is the child of a Family record, but that record has no marriage place (or date) on it, and no individual records for his parents have been created yet. Thus, I would expect to see a map with exactly one push-pin in it. What I see instead is a map with two push-pins in it. The two push-pins are about 30 miles apart from each other, and both of them are about 40 miles or more north of Banchory-Ternan. (If you pan the map a bit south, you'll see the town of Banchory west and a bit south of Aberdeen.) I also noticed that if I click into Place:Banchory-Ternan, Scotland, that particular Place record doesn't seem to be geocoded, so I'm not sure how it is even locating anything.
Ok, I think I see what's going on. The maps show events not only for people displayed in the pedigree, but for all of the children of each family listed. So for Person:George Spring (1), the pedigree map shows birth events for George and also for his siblings. You can click on a map icon to get a list of the people and events represented by that icon.--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
The checkboxes are also wonky. Both pushpins are yellow, and are the "birth" icon. If I start unchecking and rechecking boxes, the pins will disappear and reappear at seemingly random times. It does not seem correlated to a specific checkbox that I can tell. --TomChatt 03:25, 17 December 2006 (MST)
The checkboxes at the top turn on and off event display not only for the person listed (individual, father, mother, etc.) but also for their siblings, which are listed in the same color. So unchecking the checkbox for George hides the icons for his birth as well as the births of his siblings. (Argh - the checkboxes don't work in IE6. I'll look into this right away.)--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
Ok, the checkboxes should work in IE now. You may need to hold down the control key and press F5 to force IE to get the latest version.--Dallan 15:42, 18 December 2006 (MST)
Some of the people on my maps were showing up in the middle of provinces or countries when I'd cited them in more specific places hundreds of miles away from where the pushpins were. This was because the specific place I used didn't have longitude and latitude entries on their place pages. By entering that information on the place pages, the pushpins located closer to where I expected them to be. This didn't happen right away (cache issues?), but when I came back the next day they were in the right place. I do see some unexpected behaviour from time to time, but overall the maps are a cool feature.--Tim 09:19, 17 December 2006 (MST)
A lot of places in our index are not geocoded yet, so if we come across a place that hasn't been geocoded, we look for an enclosing jurisdiction (district, county, state, etc.) that is geocoded, and we put the icon there. These higher-level jurisdictions are usually geocoded near their center. It's not exact, but the only other alternative I could think of was to not display the place at all, and that seemed worse. If you add geocoding information to a place (similarly, if you add any information to any page) it doesn't get re-indexed until that night, so events for that place won't be geocoded until the following day, as you're seeing.
All of this information needs to go into a Help:Pedigree charts page. I'll make a note to get it created.--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)
The sibling thing, combined with the lack of geocoding thing, probably accounts for why I'm seeing more pushpins that I expect, and dozens of miles offset from where I would have expected to find them. As we get our Scottish places organized, I'll try to make sure we're at least geocoded to the parish level, which should help. --TomChatt 18:25, 20 December 2006 (MST)
That would be great -- thank you!--Dallan 01:06, 21 December 2006 (MST)

As I said, these are all just fine points. Overall great job. Thanks! --TomChatt 03:38, 15 December 2006 (MST)

Thank you--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)


What is recommended about naming families where the name isn't completely known? There's the case where you don't know the wife's maiden name, and I suppose you could just create "Tom Jones and Mary Jones", and then later on rename it to something else (with a forwarding link) when you discover Mary's maiden name. But there's the more pernicious case when you don't know one of the spouse's names at all, so you're wanting to create a family called "Tom Jones and Unknown". With unknown persons, you don't really have the same problem, because there's no need to create them until you know them. But with the family concept, sometimes you need to create them. For example, if I don't know Tom Jones' wife, but I do know his children *and* his parents, I need to create the family in order to create and link the generations above and below Tom Jones. I ran into this situation last night, and went ahead and created such a family. But I noticed that "Unknown" got assigned an ID number, and I worry that we'll end up with millions of "Unknown" entries. Is that a concern? Is there a better way to handle that situation? --TomChatt 12:31, 16 December 2006 (MST)

Yeah, I've run across this too. In my case, I also created a "Tom Jones and Unknown" family, just to get something down about children, etc. Luckily for me, I quickly discovered the wife's name and renamed the family page. --Joeljkp 12:46, 16 December 2006 (MST)
I think what you're doing is the best way to handle it. It costs almost nothing to generate the ID for Unknown, and it's no problem to have millions of "Unknown" entries in families. On the other hand, I could add a condition to not generate ID's for people named "Unknown," which might be less confusing for people. What do you think about that? Would it be less confusing to generate ID's for people named Unknown, or not? A similar question exists for people named "Living" (living children of families).--Dallan 23:30, 16 December 2006 (MST)
I guess if I'm reassured that it's not a big deal to create millions of "Unknowns", then I don't mind a number being assigned. (It's not going to eventually bog down index lookups if you have millions of unique Unknowns?) If anyone were to create a Person:Unknown (I don't see the same need for that as with half of a Family: record, but that may just be my lack of imagination), you would definitely want to have the unique ID number, because at some point you'd want to rename it to the real name, and you'd want to rename that particular one, not all Unknowns. Similar issue for Living Person records, I think, over time. In short, I think you'd need the ID if you think anyone would ever want to rename a particular Unknown or Living record. --TomChatt 15:34, 17 December 2006 (MST)
Good point about needing IDs so that you can give the page a real name later. I don't think it will bog down the index lookups because most people probably won't actually create pages for "Unknown" people -- they'll just have a link to a non-existent page. And the lookup that we do for autocomplete is just over the pages in your watchlist (the ones that you've created, or where you've checked the "watch this page" checkbox at the bottom of the edit page).--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)

Proposal for Organizing Place Names in Scotland

Pursuant to some of the comments and interest in this (see Initial Impressions above), I have created a proposal for organizing Place pages under Place:Scotland. See Place_Talk:Scotland. --TomChatt 02:46, 18 December 2006 (MST)

Thanks for spearheading this.--Dallan 14:26, 18 December 2006 (MST)


When citing a website, it's usually recommended that we record the date we accessed it. Where should we put this? Is this what the "Date" field is for when citing a source? --Joeljkp 14:51, 20 December 2006 (MST)

According to the gedcom specification, the date field for a source citation records "The date that this event data was entered into the original source document." Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic do not support this field. PAF labels the field "Date record was made." Legacy 6.0 labels the field "Recorded date" and has a button next to it that you can press to put today's date into the field. So I'm not sure what to tell you. It seems like you could either put the date the original record was made into the "date" field and put the date you recorded the source citation into the "text" field, or you could put the date you recorded the source citation into the "date" field and put the date the original record was made in the text field or else on the "Source" page (in the year range or the text). Perhaps those with more genealogy experience could shed some light here.--Dallan