Sea Genes

Family History & Genealogy Research

Archive for August 2011

TMG 8 Public Beta Review

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While reviewing beta software is not the best way to look at a new version of software, the reviewed items may or may not appear in the final release, the major changes are fair game.

I actually didn’t spend a lot of time with this software. It almost immediately didn’t meet my expectations for a major number release. The primary thing I was looking for was the Windows 7 (64-bit) printing capabilities; the rest of the changes are minor and more appropriate for a minor number release, say 7.5.

I don’t use MS Office products unless they are the ones pre-installed on my machine. OpenOffice.org 3.3 fits the bill more than adequately for my needs, and it’s free. The first, and primarily the only report I tried was the Journal report. The process worked fine, with my restored copy of a TMG 7.04 project, but crashed OOo Writer. Opening the report file with MS Word Starter worked ok. Word can save files to OOo’s format, so I did that, fixing the problem in the process. Why, if the file is ok in Word, is it not ok in Writer, they read and write the same formats? The problem may be fixed whenever Wholly Genes releases TMG8, but I might never know.

The other changes touted by Wholly Genes,

    Tag types and roles
    Adding multiple people
    Color coded report output
    Sorting and filtering options

are less interesting to me. I already can add new people and tags and roles. Color coding report output is unnecessary for me, and the sorting and filtering are minor-version enhancements, not new features.

Like Tamura Jones states in his review, about the Windows 7 printing “It is good that this major defect has been fixed, but it is wrong to call that a major upgrade and charge for it.” The rest of his review is an excellent portrayal of the rest of TMG’s faults, and any potential user should read it.

I was particularly interested in the GEDCOM import/export issues that Mr. Jones raises due to numerous flaws in TMG’s processes. For me, I’ve tried to export a number of major projects for backup and further processing in other applications. A major flaw is that TMG does not completely export witnesses and associates although these items are included in GEDCOM. TMG also has the capability to embed citations within its memo fields. These citations are completely stripped from the GEDCOM output and there is no way to get either the witness/associate or embedded citations out of TMG short of directly reading from the database files. TMG’s deliberately removing a researcher’s work from public sharing or even for private backup is a grievous mistake that could have legal and ethical consequences for the user. All of the other backup/export functions in TMG are completely inadequate to protect a user’s data from this silent destruction.

Since I discovered the data extraction errors, I’ve started working on a program to migrate data from the database. Wholly Genes and several others have kindly provided (in Wholly Genes’ case, incomplete and out-of-date) details of the database schema.

When I uninstalled the TMG 8 Public Beta, I was unable to return to using TMG 7. It seems that although the installer can backup files it replaces (.DLL files and such), it doesn’t replace them. Restarting TMG 7 failed and I had to completely uninstall and re-install version 7. Mr. Jones commented on the Amyuni PDF printer driver that TMG8 Public Beta installed; it was not removed on the uninstall of the TMG package; I had to remove it myself. I also was prompted by the Windows Update utility to apply a patch for it, although I had no clue what it was for or why I needed it. I also don’t need another PDF printer driver, I’ve got my own system for making PDF files, of my own choosing.

Speaking of print output. Why are the ancient, and perhaps extinct, formats like Mass-11, AmiPro, and XyWrite, still supported? I remember these from the 1980s and early 1990s; Mass-11 on a mini and XyWrite on an 80386.

TMG 8 seems to be an ease of access and bug-fix update instead of an upgrade to a new version. The items listed in the upgrade are fixes and enhancements and not new features. The product is showing it’s age and not moving with the times and modern technology (see Mr. Jones’ comments). We probably won’t see any major improvements to TMG until Wholly Genes is forced to migrate away from it’s underlying database technology in 2015 when Microsoft officially ends its support for FoxPro. Even then, given that TMG has other long-standing flaws that haven’t been fixed for years, it’s kind of doubtful that a major re-write will be forthcoming at that time.

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Written by N. P. Maling

27 August 2011 at 16:02

Posted in Genealogy

Tagged with , , ,

Research Look-up Listings

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Over the past weekend and week I restructured my professional research strategy on GenLighten.com. The new listings are

  • Idaho Federal Land Records – 1860 to 1934
  • Oregon Federal Land Records – 1851 to 1908
  • Washington State Federal Land Records – 1855 to 1910
  • Oregon Naturalization Records – 1859 to 1956
  • Washington State Naturalization Records – 1850 to 1974
  • Seattle, Washington Obituary Look-ups – 1888 to 2011

Most of these records are National Archives and Records Administration microfilm holdings at the Pacific Alaska Region facility in Seattle. Depending on site availability, I can use different archives for the obituary lookups.

Feel free to post questions about the listings and specific items on that site.

Other obituary and newspaper item look-ups are also possible, using a custom look-up request mechanism on the GenLighten site.

Written by N. P. Maling

26 August 2011 at 17:21

A Sample Research Project

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This is an article I wrote several years ago, but never posted. I think it’s finished, so here goes.

Recently on a professional genealogy research site I came across a project that a potential client had posted. Although I’m not particularly interested in this project, I decided to work some on it to keep in practice. I think the lessons learned could be useful. In this article the names and other details have been changed to protect the parties involved.

The question posed by the client was to find the official marriage record of a couple who moved from one New England state to another and then to Canada. The client provided little to go on other than the names, birth dates, and birth places of the couple and that they moved often. There were no sibling or children names given, although there were a few facts about the husband’s parents who were believed to have arrived in the country on the Mayflower. Not enough to go on, really, but enough of a start, given few facts available from the client.

The first order of business was to fact-check the information given using standard reference materials for the times and places involved. This included checking my own databases for the areas and surnames of interest; then checking a few standard materials such as those found in libraries.

The Initial Research Plan

This research plan used locally available materials, off-line, primarily, and then with a few sanity checks from on-line databases. Off-line materials included a couple of library archives. On-line databases included the reference libraries available through archive.org and books.google.com. I chose to work off-line first to see whether the data provided by the client could be backed up by existing resources and whether I could find the marriage record in a reliable source first, before getting into other resources.

In developing a first-level research plan I used my listings of locally available resources to give first-level resources. These sources include vital records, genealogies, local histories, and newspaper records. The local histories I focused on were both town and county level resources, and not at the state level, due to the area being partly under New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont jurisdiction at the time. It can be confusing to some, working with record sets created by different groups in this kind of situation since it seems that people were actually living elsewhere when they weren’t.

A second-level research plan would come after exhausting the locally available records by developing clues from them toward materials available elsewhere, such as microfilm ordered through a local LDS Family History Center. This process involved using the Family History Library catalog available on-line to develop leads to records available through the LDS church and possibly through interlibrary loan or photocopy requests, as they may prove less time-consuming and quicker. As a professional genealogist, it behooves one to lessen the costs by this means.

Reviewing the Data and Writing the Report

After reviewing the data that I found initially, I began putting together a draft report on the findings, re-stating the initially known information, integrating it into my preliminary findings, and listing the specific resources that I used. The restatement is important so that the client knows how specific the research pattern was. Also, the statement leads into the list of resources used so all parties involved know whether there was any significant information in them. Not only do I list positive findings, but also negative results. The latter is just as important to both the genealogist and the client so future research is not done in materials already checked.

The second-level research plan is primarily for future reference should the first time given for research be exhausted before the desired result is found. It provides the researcher and the client with the possibility and/or chance of finding the desired records in the future. Should the client want the genealogist to continue the research, the information is already available. Should the client want to go further on their own, the information is also available to them.

Following Through with the Client

Once the research report was written, I would have posted the report to the client. The last report includes the recommendations for future research as developed in the second-level research plan as well as the restatement of the first goal of the project, the findings, and analysis of the data.

The client should have enough time to check the findings for satisfactory work and validity of findings before embarking on the second level, so give them that time. A couple of weeks later you should follow through with a query whether to continue the research for the client or let the client do their own research with the information you provided them.

Wrap-up

I gave myself five hours initially to do the research project. I completed the first level research plan in that time. The time used included writing up the findings of two and one half hours of real research time on-site and on-line. The first review and the report writing took up the balance of the time with about one hour for developing the first research plan and the rest for writing the real report.

Did I find the official marriage record in five hours? No, but I did find enough clues to enable the client and I to continue the research into the second-level research plan with resources that I developed in the first round. I recommended to the client another five hours of research time to continue the project by ordering microfilm from the LDS Family History Library. The client decided to do that on her own with me as a backup if she was unable to continue for some reason.

The amount of material reviewed came to about ten pages of hand-written notes and five pages of report for the client. The materials accumulated will add to the body of knowledge for future research into the family as well as for other families in the area. It was a valuable lesson in New England genealogical research using both old-fashioned research as well as new web-based resources.

Written by N. P. Maling

26 August 2011 at 17:16

Posted in Genealogy

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Re-starting look-up services

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I’m planning to begin offering look-up services in Pacific Northwest area archives in the coming weeks. I’ve been a member of Genealogy Freelancers for some time and had participated in the GenLighten.com beta several years ago. I’ll be restructuring my offerings and fees this weekend and should have them posted on those sites next week sometime.

You may see references to SeaGenes.com in some of my older posts. That site name has been taken over by a completely unrelated person and does not deal with genealogical issues. I think it was an unfortunate occurrence, but it was unavoidable under the circumstances. Seattle Book Scouts is also no longer functioning as a web site at SeattleBookScouts.com, so those references should also be avoided.

Written by N. P. Maling

20 August 2011 at 14:15