: Family Tree


Lichen Software
Nov 26th, 2009, 11:54 AM
Hi All

I find myself starting to have a lot of family information that I do not want to lose. So I am going to build myself a family tree program (Yes I know there are programs to purchase out there, but building one is an interesting project in and of itself).

The questions I have are:

1. What is the family with the largest number of syblings that you know of?

2. When people are looking at the tree itself, how many generations do they want to see on the screen at a time?

3. Do they also want to see step brothers, step mothers etc on the same screen?

4. Aside from the tree, what else do people want to be able to see? I can see things like pictures, movies, documents. But how about things like medical history, family wide documents as opposed to documents centered on an individual?

I am trying to decide on some design parameters.

CubaMark
Nov 26th, 2009, 01:52 PM
Well... you've certainly bitten off quite the project! I've gone through a number of genealogy programs before settling on MacFamilyTree (http://www.synium.de/products/macfamilytree/index.html) (I also purchased, tried, but discarded iFamily (http://www.ifamilyforleopard.com/)). I'd suggest trialing all of the major OS X genealogy apps (including the biggie - Reunion (http://www.leisterpro.com/index.php)) to see what those very mature programs have included as features. Maybe also check out the support forums for each, to see what users think are missing features.

In specific reply to your questions:

1. What is the family with the largest number of syblings that you know of?

My mother is #2 of 12 (+3 stillbirths = 15). Scottish Catholics probably are on the higher end, generally :)

2. When people are looking at the tree itself, how many generations do they want to see on the screen at a time?

I'd suggest making this customizable - maybe a slider that "adds" the latter generations. One thing that has bugged me with the programs I've tried are the limited viewing modes... many force you to go landscape when viewing multiple generations, when my brain is wired for portrait (vertical) display.

3. Do they also want to see step brothers, step mothers etc on the same screen?

Sure - but again, make this *easily* toggle-able, with a very obvious visual distinction (IF the user wishes to distinguish) via colour / icon / whatever.

4. Aside from the tree, what else do people want to be able to see? I can see things like pictures, movies, documents. But how about things like medical history, family wide documents as opposed to documents centered on an individual?

I think you may have hit upon a great product feature idea, which might help set apart your application from others: the medical / DNA side of things. More people are realising how important it is to know your parent's, etc., medical conditions as a way to anticipate your own (and that of your children, once you include your spouse's tree).

Media is a big part of it, too, but it's often implemented clumsily. What if you had an ancestor who was known (or not so much) as a writer / painter / whatever? A clean and easily accessible way to include that material - without muddling up the main interface of the app - would be a nice addition.

FeXL
Nov 26th, 2009, 09:13 PM
We use Reunion. I've never wanted for anything it couldn't deliver.

While I understand the intrigue & challenge of your own database, the wheel has already been invented. A visit to the support forums (as Mark suggested) may get you your feature(s) implemented.

Good luck!

Lichen Software
Nov 27th, 2009, 06:55 AM
We use Reunion. I've never wanted for anything it couldn't deliver.

While I understand the intrigue & challenge of your own database, the wheel has already been invented. A visit to the support forums (as Mark suggested) may get you your feature(s) implemented.

Good luck!

1. A family tree program appears present its own particular design challenges in that it requires both a database and an over lying meta layer for presentation. However, my experience is that there is no such thing as a data model in a vacuum. So even though I would be doing this for myself, it is something that would not be wasted professionally. This is important. I have had occasion to visit a potential client where you have 30 minutes to be able to show some form of data model that would work in their situation. Once they "Get It", they can see a project of their own going forward.

2. It is amazing how the interest in family seems to be both age related (the young are not that interested) and sex related (females are more seriously interested than males or become interested first). Iwould like to have something that I can hand over at will to as many people as show interest. Because I can make runtimes for either PC or Mac, I could do this. So I could pass the data along already organized and useable. Even if people already have a program, they could then use this as a way of adding to it.

3. I work with FileMaker. The current data limitations are 8 Tb per file. This is a serious amount of data, enough so that documents, clips etc can be embedded right into the database, making it even more portable. And it can handle storage of documents, graphics, sound and video clips. Right now I have documents in "Safe Places" that are never looked at and are not catalogued. I have also been able to look at documents of great interest, but had no way of cateloguing a copy. The one I would love to have was the original mortgage to the family farm in North America. It was a 20 year mortgage, payable in pounds. The mortgagor did not have the right to enter into the property until the morgage was paid off. Documents like this give a certain perspective of "then" versus "now". Sadly, I never did have a copy of this and the person who did has passed on some time ago, so that particular document is M.I.A.

4. As time passes and operating systems change, the overlying programs change. This happens to be a vehicle where I have continuity from System 7.1 and Windows 95 right through to current. So what ever happens, the resulting program can be brought up to date without the exenditure of multiple upgrades ( should other family members show interest).

So there are some reasons for doing this as a "Roll Your Own" project.

You are right in that there are good commercial programs out there. I doubt that there would be very much commercial potential here, unless by accident, looking with a clean slate, I came up with something that no one ever thought of. I don't think that I am that brilliant. But, I will get what I want and have the ability to add to it and keep it current.

G-Mo
Nov 27th, 2009, 07:12 AM
Back to the OP, why design the DB spec with limitations? Make everything dynamic and user manageable!

Lichen Software
Nov 27th, 2009, 08:34 AM
Back to the OP, why design the DB spec with limitations? Make everything dynamic and user manageable!

Right now the table structure and relationships are dynamic and given a focus person, the program will display as far as I want to take it. However, I am hitting a block with differentiation. In a Grandparent-> Parent-> Child scenario ( or going further), currently the model will show the people in each generational tier, but the children are not associated such that they are displayed with the specific parent, just as a generational layer. This is because there is just a single link of relationships back to the grandparent level. I am still thinking about a remedy for this aside from a meta layer. But the current structure means that one could add a person and link them to syblings and parents and everything automatically falls in place. No separate linking to parents, grand parents, great grand parents, syblings, children, grand children.

As soon as I put a meta layer in, there is processing required and it is not fully dynamic. It would still display as far as one wanted from a focus person, but a structure has to be put into place for the display to activate. As soon as you have to do that, you have to start looking at maximums to display, picking a number such that there are never more in the generation that there are display places. It is not something I wanted to do, but I was glad to see it as a possible solution.

This is one of the reasons I posted asking about numbers of syblings and display preferences. The first lets me set some display parameters. The second allows me to get input from people who are already doing family things on what bugs them. Portrait orientation as opposed to landscape is a really good one here. As soon as I saw it, I went "well ya", because I am the same way.

Part of this is a FileMaker limitation. Everything has to be pre structured in terms of display. It does not create displays on the fly such as is done on web pages.

It is not something I am in a hurry with. It gets done in my "spare time" .

KC4
Nov 27th, 2009, 09:42 AM
Hey LS,

Could you somehow incorporate the functions like iLife's Faces and Places where while focusing on a particular person within your database, you could link to a map or multiple photos of that person.

I am working on family genealogy mega project(s) for my families and I always want to find a map and place where they were at what point in time, along with photos of them at those time. This feature may be out there already commercially but I haven't seen it.

I was using Broderbund's Family Tree Maker and liked it but not only is it not made/supported anymore, it's PC only. I'm trying to decide what (and how) to migrate all this data to on a Mac platform.

Lichen Software
Nov 27th, 2009, 10:08 AM
Hi KC4,

I am planning on that. That is one of the big reasons I wanted to do it myself. Basically once there is a person of focus, the goal is to allow notes and attachments of various media types. The original thought was scanned paper documents and pictures, but as I am watching my son send through video clips of his kids, I am thinking they should be captured too.

I am also considering general family documents accessible from any part of a particular branch of the family. Things like origin of last name, general history.

I like the map idea. A set of maps and associated with a person's life certainly would give "place" to them. That is almost a separate thing unto itself.

pvrfan
Nov 27th, 2009, 04:34 PM
A couple of thoughts...

Genealogy means very different things to different people. Some folks look to gather and publish family histories, others are looking to document their pedigree back as far as possible, others looking to sort out their relations with everybody else that carries that surname. Sort of sounds like you're trying to include everything and the kitchen sink?!?

One big challenge is uncertainty! There may be conflicting or incomplete information about dates and even names. Hard to do a timeline when you know only a birth date for one person, baptism date for another and nothing at all for an older generation. (And if you go back far enough you run into the anomalies when the calendars were 'fixed' for leap years.) I have one ancestor named either Honour or Honor and I think she is the same person as "Honey". Even the spelling of surnames really only standardized in last 150 years.

You haven't mentioned GEDCOM...it may not be the best thing since sliced bread but it does help exchange data between different genealogy programs.

Sonal
Nov 27th, 2009, 04:40 PM
Hi All

I find myself starting to have a lot of family information that I do not want to lose. So I am going to build myself a family tree program (Yes I know there are programs to purchase out there, but building one is an interesting project in and of itself).

The questions I have are:

1. What is the family with the largest number of syblings that you know of?

2. When people are looking at the tree itself, how many generations do they want to see on the screen at a time?

3. Do they also want to see step brothers, step mothers etc on the same screen?

4. Aside from the tree, what else do people want to be able to see? I can see things like pictures, movies, documents. But how about things like medical history, family wide documents as opposed to documents centered on an individual?

I am trying to decide on some design parameters.

1.) 21 siblings.

2.) I'd like to be able to see as far back as I have data available.

3.) Yes, and please remember joint families or multi-wife families if you want to use this multi-culturally. (I'm thinking particularly of China a few generations ago.)

4.) Medical history, addresses, education, etc. Also a place for family stories.