New Version of Lifelines

There is a new version of lifelines on github, 3.2.0 alpha. It is a 64-bit conversion of the venerable genealogy program and scripting language.

So far it works fine for me on Fedora Linux 30.

Here’s the link: Lifelines on Github.


Physical version of the Genealogical Data Model

I just posted my interpretation of the GDM on Google’s Code Hosting GitHub platform. It is a SQL script to create an empty database. It’s primary purpose is to elicit comments and perhaps criticism from others prior to finalizing the layout of the database and beginning programming on it.


What I’ve been up to

After a hiatus of almost four months, I’m contemplating writing here again. Maybe a couple more months of break? Hmmm.

In the meantime I’ve been working on an off-line project called GenealogicNG, a replacement for my current genealogy program. It is being written in Java so will work on all the major platforms (Windows, Macintosh, Linux). It’s an interesting exercise for someone who isn’t really a programmer. 🙂


Ruminations on Genealogy: Part 3


English: The stemma of the kings of Lazica acc...

English: The stemma of the kings of Lazica according to Toumanoff, Cyril. “How Many Kings Named Opsites?”, p. 82. A Tribute to John Insley Coddington on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the American Society of Genealogists. Association for the Promotion of Scholarship in Genealogy, 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A while ago, someone posted on Fb an infographic, part of which read ‘comparisons are clichĂ©’. It should have read ‘comparisons are passĂ©’. The writer, reader, and re-poster got it wrong as far as genealogy goes.


Comparisons are not passé as far as genealogy goes. We do comparisons as part of our basic research. We compare others’ recollections to known facts to prove or disprove what is the truth of a matter about our ancestors. The only thing that is passé about comparison in this way is that it becomes old hat after a while and we don’t bother thinking such things.


As far as writing clichés, that’s a different thing. There are only so many ways to write a birth, death, marriage sequence of sentences in a well-defined format. Indeed, all genealogists use clichéd formulas because they work. Most genealogy programs use hackneyed phrases (The Master Genealogist is an exception) to pass off their data and genealogists need to change them to something unique.


These hackneyed phrases, however, are usually the best way to portray compared data. Yes, they are passé but only in the sense that they work. The writer and reader have only to let their eyes see beyond these phrases to get to the real meaning and the underlying data. Doing this allows one to create a better proof statement and research report.


The writer is responsible for not making the reader’s eyes glaze over with too many redundant statements of the same form.






Sanity Checking with Multiple Genealogy Programs

There are some people, like me, who are not quite satisfied with just one program for genealogical purposes. I use several, and keep an eye out on the others for features that might suit me well.



LifeLines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

is one of the programs I use on a semi-regular basis. It is an old program (console window, anyone?) and has a long history of strong development by the maintainers. Thomas Wetmore originally wrote it back in the olden days of Unix and DOS, but it’s still around.

One of the things I like about Lifelines is it’s powerful scripting language. This language takes a bit of getting used to but once you know it, it seems intuitive. The program comes bundled with a lot of scripts, some better than others, and some near-duplicates of others. The verify script is one of the most powerful sanity-checkers on the market (did I mention that Lifelines is free?). Some of the things it reports on are age boundaries (birth, marriage, and death), multiple marriages, kids out of order, and so on. Several scripts check for people who might be in the Social Security Death Master Index. Another script called, weirdly enough, zombies, looks for people who don’t have death items (death, probate, burial, and so on).

I ran verify recently on a 5500+ person database and it came up with nearly 1600 items that it thought were interesting and that fell outside of user-programmable boundaries. It’s not for the faint-of-heart to look at this report as it can be a lot to digest. The nice thing about the report is that when I go through it, item by item, I can tighten up the quality of the data on a semi-regular basis, and gain a semi-regular consistency for the entire database. It might take years to finally go through the entire list and complete each item, but knowing about these items is the important thing.

Like verify, the zombies script reads through the database and plucks out those that have death items. This report is much simpler, and sortable so you can find the people by year, instead of in database order. The great thing about this report is that you find out who is in the database that is not marked as dead, dead, dead, as in dead. The script doesn’t consider the deceased flag, if there is one on the person, it makes you think about getting the details, and you’ll want to go out and get the details right away.

If you’ve added a lot of what I call “the moderns” you’ll want to run one of the SSDI check scripts and follow up on a visit to the Death Master Index on your favorite online site that has one. I used to use the one at, but removed it to their own site for some reason. Shucks, the Rootsweb version was better, IMHO.

Enough about the great Lifelines scripts. Multiple programs for genealogical data analysis are a must if you are serious about the pastime. Knowing what’s good data and bad is a good idea, as well as ethically correct. My other genealogy programs include an old version of Legacy, and a current version of The Master Genealogist.

TMG is the one I use on a regular basis as it is almost as powerful as Lifelines in the analysis and reporting facets. The only drawback to TMG’s reporting is that it’s not as flexible and programmable as Lifelines. Legacy, on the other hand, even though my copy is quite dated, is pretty good at picking out bad data, too. Even though I haven’t used Legacy for a while, like Lifelines, I keep it around as a variant finding tool.

TMG: Citing the 1940 US Census

Here is an interesting thread from the The Master Genealogist mailing list on RootsWeb.

The technical as well as the philosophical aspects are considered by the members of the list when handling the newest major information source for genealogists of all stripes.


Notes on the Source – Statement Continuum

In The Master Genealogist, version 8 (TMG8), the user is forced to choose between using end notes or footnotes. The differences between the two are remarkable and have an enduring effect on the reader and researcher.

Elizabeth Shown Mills and others have written on the subject and I’d like to add to and paraphrase some of those writings here.

Footnotes are the recommended style in genealogy

A casual reader may not be interested in the source material and can safely continue reading past the end of the page with footnotes. A researcher, however, needs to have the footnotes on the same page.

Benefits and Problems with Footnotes

The major benefit of footnotes is that they are on the same page as the statements to which they relate.

The major drawback of footnotes is that they can be lengthy and contain information not directly relevant to the statement. The best way to handle this latter is to find a way to merge digressing information into the text and add a citation to it.

In TMG8 the problem is compounded by the use of “ibid.” The forced use of this archaic and often confusing Latin abbreviation can lead researchers to cite the wrong source in their own work. It can also cause readers to misunderstand or misread a critical source citation.

Benefits and Problems with Endnotes

The benefit of endnotes is for the casual reader who is not so much interested in the sources as she is in the content about those sources. This type of reader may become a casual researcher and look up a source statement, but is generally put off by having to flip through numerous other notes on the way to finding the one she wants. This effort can lead to problems in finding and thus correctly interpreting the information in the endnote.

TMG8 handles the ibid problem differently with endnotes. You can combine consecutive notes and have them all together as proper. The problem with TMG’s output of endnotes is that they are “uniqued” and not consecutively numbered in the text. Thus you get note 20 followed by note 8, and then note 34. This is meaningless to a skilled researcher and can throw them into a wasteful loop of figuring out which notes are which.

The final grain that tips the balance against using endnotes in TMG is that they are not connected to the text as is proper. They follow the text as additional paragraphs, so you can’t click on the note number in the text and jump to the text of the note later in the document. You need to flip so many pages to get where you are going and maybe lose your original starting point because of the non-continuity of the numbering mentioned above.