Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

Mocks for RootsCity

I believe it would be interesting to the youth if family history were more like facebook, where you have profile pages for each of your ancestors and you write posts about them.  
To make it easy for youth and keep them engaged I added challenges, which direct the youth to look for records about their ancestors in specific collections. When you find a record about your ancestor, you “tag” your ancestor in the record. Every ancestor has a number (score) next to their name that indicates the number of posts (records, pictures, or stories) that they have been tagged in.  I believe that tagging your ancestors in records, pictures, and stories will form the basis of a fun/joyful genealogy experience for youth.
In order to make the experience more social I added the need for you to invite someone else to “confirm” a record attachment.  Hopefully the youth would invite their family and maybe even their friends to review and confirm the records they have found.

I believe this also helps youth get started right away doing evidence-based genealogy documenting their research. The posts act as evidences, people in posts are personas, and tagging people in posts attaches personas to individuals.
Here is a link to some mocks:
I’m nowhere near a competent graphic designer, and the mocks are pretty low-fidelity, but I hope that they convey the ideas. This is what I want to build later this year as a free open-source project. I’d love to get feedback / constructive criticism of the ideas.

Starting RootCity

I saw nearly two dozen vendors at RootsTech last week, demoing websites or mobile apps or both.  Most of them need to build the same basic framework: import a gedcom, allow someone to add to the tree, list the people in the tree, create a pedigree view, etc.  Once they have this basic framework in place, then they can start to work on whatever it is that makes their offering unique.

Another challenge they have is advertising. Advertising your genealogy website / app can be expensive. 
It seems that we would get a lot more participation in people developing family history software if there were an open platform for family trees, much like wordpress is an open platform for blogging. This platform would contain the basic framework for importing, exporting, viewing, and editing family trees, with hooks that would allow 3rd-party plugins to be added, just like wordpress and mediawiki do. And if the platform catches on, we’ll have a common place where people can choose which plugins they want to use (and pay for if the plugins have subscription costs) from among a list of available plugins that work with the platform, which helps to address the advertising problem.
I’m planning to start work on such a platform, and I’m wondering if anyone else would be interested.
A few specifics:
* Single-page application using javascript and AngularJS.  I’ve found this combination to be incredibly productive.
* Use local storage for offline access.
* Mobile-first using  check it out – it looks very promising.  
* Back-end data stored in or maybe when it is ready.  Images stored on S3 or maybe a user’s google drive or dropbox or flickr account if we could get that to work.
* Interface with FamilySearch using a “remote tracking branch” so people can track the version of a person at FamilySearch, compare it against their own version, and easily copy information back and forth.  I’m not planning to interface with any other major players because I’m not aware of any other major players with an API that allows updates.
* Keep the basic platform simple: gedcom import and export, list, pedigree, and descendancy views, and editing/adding people with names, facts, and relationships.
* Create hooks for plugins to add additional views and actions.
* Experiment with an evidence-based model exposed to the user as “profiles” (persons), “posts” (evidences), and “tagging people in posts” (personas). Think of the model as Facebook for dead people, where posts are pictures, stories, or records.
* Target market is youth in particular and people who may not normally consider themselves genealogists.
* Software is open-source with free hosting at, similar to how wordpress is open-source with free hosting at