I’m posting two “Open Thread Thursdays” topics this time to catch up a bit.  The truth is, this one is essentially an edited repost.  GeneaBloggers‘ prompt:

Over the next few years – with the sesquicentennial of the United States Civil War – there will be more of a focus on ancestors who fought in the conflict as well as those ancestors who supported certain causes and movements such as states’ rights or the abolition of slavery.

It is said that history is written by the winners. However, with the advent of blogging and the ability for almost anyone to have a platform where they can write and express their opinion, the stories of those on the losing side of these causes and movements are being told.

How do you handle telling such stories, especially if your ancestor was pro slavery or, for example, anti women’s suffrage? What if there is no evidence as to their opinions or positions yet they fought for the losing side in a war, such as World War II?

Is there, in fact, a “wrong side” of history?

Read more…

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10 February 2011 | Tags: ,

From GeneaBloggers comes this week’s “Open Thread Thursdays” blog-prompt topic:

With the RootsTech conference starting today and the genealogy industry’s continued focus on leveraging technology, what do you think will be available in 5 – 10 years to genealogists and family historians?

~ ~ ~

I’ll place my wager on the Build a BetterGEDCOM project, helping to modernize and clean up the myriad issues with sharing information across a sea of database formats, requirements, and assumptions.

GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) began in 1984 as a way to transfer data in a way that any program — or even we humans ourselves — could read and understand.  The idea was to have a way to send a text file to someone so they can save time reentering it into their software, even if it’s a different brand than the sender used.  By practice it grew to include backups of data and security in case current programs become obsolete.  By 1996, GEDCOM had been updated to the current version 5.5.  Even the latest “draft” proposal dates back to 1999 as 5.5.1 to add some Internet-based facts and an alternate international character set.

The problem, then and now, is seen when software programmers add their own proprietary fields when “exporting” to a GEDCOM file, or expect to see the same fields when “importing” another software’s GEDCOM files.  This might “break” databases between versions of the even same software (though they usually have upgrade scripts) or “mangle” sources or other data when moving data from one to another.  Even exporting a GEDCOM file as a backup and re-importing it to the same software can be problematic.  I’ve had my share of all of these issues over the years.

Enter BetterGEDCOM, a project started in November 2010 in the Open Source and Wiki-edited fashion of community programming.  Volunteers are detailing the issues faced when moving data back and forth, and software developers are participating to move things forward.  Since that’s just in the first three months since the project opened, I’ll predict that a payoff will be sooner than the “5 – 10 years” we have for this exercise.

~ ~ ~

More a “wish” than prediction, though it won’t help with the type of line-colliding handwritten issue of the first example I posted any time soon, I do hope that OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, will continue to improve to help with transcribing scanned printed material.  At least ease post-processing tasks toward the “comparative proofreading” end of spectrum and away from the “re-transcribing with real words” that takes longer than the eye-hand coordination method of faster typists.  I’ve seen worse than this, but even clean printed scans of apt quotes using the proper language settings have some convenient mishaps:

Sjølv om det er arbeidt mykje med å gjere alt så rett som råd er, må ein ikkje undrast om der likevel kjem fram feil.

Langlo, Olav. Stranda Bygdebok III: Ættebok for Stranda. (Stranda [Norway]: Stranda Kommune, 1964), unpaged “Forord” [Forward].

OCR example:
Siplv 0m det er urbeidl mykje med 51 gjcra uh sii rett som réd e1·_ mii em ikkje undrast um der llkevcl kjcm {121111 feil.

The translation of that can serve as a nod to both of these future-tech wishes: “Although there is much work to make everything as right as possible, one must not wonder if something still comes out incorrectly.”

~ ~ ~

What do you predict, or just wish, for the next few years of technology for genealogists?

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06 February 2011 | Tags: , ,

Years ago, when the word “blog” was not yet coined and “journal” sites were still manually edited, I had a modest set of pages called Scribbled Chronicles.  It was a standard early-era personal online journal with random chronological topics, named after a reference to the Anglo-Saxon_Chronicles, a centuries-old chronological history of the Anglo-Saxons, from the Roman era through the Norman Conquest, copied through the ages the way everything was before the printing press–by hand.

Like the classic, my own “scribbled” chronicles were written through my own biases.  But when software came along to make updating such sites easier, or lock portions behind “friends-only” walls, my old manually-created site inevitably faded to the dusty bins of the archives.

Skip ahead a number of years, and the Scribbled Chronicles are back, but with a new focus.  A few of the early entries mentioned my genealogical research and certain headaches and found gems in that practice, and it’s time to bring my own part of that back online.

Genealogical records are after all, a widely dispersed, mostly hand-written chronology.  Some of my own branches date back before the 19th-Century typewriter, before Gutenberg’s 15th-Century printing press, and even, though I can’t be certain thanks to a set of “missing” generations and some “dramatically-fictionalized” sagas, a possible link back to the same era as those classic 11th-Century-and-earlier Chronicles.

1737 Haram Norway Chronicle Example

1737 Haram Norway Chronicle Example

National Archives of Norway, Digital Archives, “Digitised Parish Registers,” digital images, Digitalarkivet (http://www.arkivverket.no/URN:kb_read), Møre og Romsdal county, Haram in Haram, Parish register (official) nr.536A01/1 (1689-1737), Chronological list 1737, p.90.

Here’s one example of the “scribbles” I run across in my lineage, in this case a chronological entry from Haram (Haramsøy), Norway, dated 1737, the last entry in a parish volume that spans 48 years.  Most of the 90 pages are like that, some slightly easier, some worse, many faded with years and water damage in the meantime.

As I haven’t yet deciphered it to determine if this sample even mentions a relative directly, it’s not in my data.  But somewhere in those nearly 50 years of pages, I know I have family.  That volume will take a while.

So welcome to my own journeys through centuries of genealogical records and more recent researches of historical interest.

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