Modern Software Experience

2013-01-01

Best of 2012

GeneAwards 2012

2012

Genealogy 2012 presents an overview of technologies, events, companies and products that shaped the year in genealogy, and Genealogy Trends 2012 highlights industry trends.
Here, without further ado, are the GeneAwards 2012.

GeneAward Best Product 2012

Best Genealogy Product of 2012: RootsMagic 6

Millennia's Legacy Family Tree 8 and MyHeritage Family Tree Builder 8 are expected to be completely redesigned and rebuild applications, that might finally challenge RootsMagic in 2013, but throughout 2012, RootsMagic remained unchallenged.
The RootsMagic 6 application for Windows offers several worthwhile major new features, but the bigger improvement is the introduction of a RootsMagic app for iDevices, to be followed by a RootsMagic app for Android.
One thing that makes RootsMagic such a good product is that features aren't released until they're done; in fact, one feature that was slated for release in RootsMagic 6.0 was postponed because Beta feedback convinced them it was not really ready for prime time yet.

honourable mention: Family Tree Maker 2013

Late in 2011, Ancestry.com rushed Family Tree Maker 2012 out, introducing TreeSync as the new feature of Family Tree Maker 2012, before AncestorSync. There have been many service packs since, each one addressing TreeSync problems, and it is still working less than entirely satisfactory.
Ancestry.com's annual release schedule, combined with a systemic refusal to provide patches for anything but the latest release, effectively strong-arms users into a Family Tree Maker subscription. The flood of user complaints, perhaps combined with not having many new features to show, convinced Ancestry management that it would be a really bad idea to force unhappy Family Tree Maker 2012 users to pay for their upgrades. Ancestry.com decided to do the right thing, and forgo the Family Tree Maker 2013 subscription fee release.

GeneAward Best New Product 2012

Best New Genealogy Product of 2012: RootsMagic app

The new RootsMagic app is a genealogy viewer for RootsMagic databases. Introduced as a companion app for RootsMagic on the Desktop, the RootsMagic app actually gives vendors of other genealogy viewers a run for their money. The RootsMagic app completely free; the ap itself is free and RootsMagic Essentials is all you need to import data from elsewhere. The RootsMagic app does not only work with the latest RootsMagic release, but works with RootsMagic 4 and later. The RootsMagic app uses native RootsMagic databases, so RootsMagic users do not need import, export or convert their database, they merely need to copy their database.
The use of the native RootsMagic database, combined with RootsMagic's excellent and fast import from GEDCOM and competing applications, makes the RootsMagic app serious competition as a smartphone genealogy viewer that can be used with any desktop application.

honourable mention: Ancestry app

Ancestry not only continued to improve its existing Ancestry apps for iOS and Android, most notably through the addition of hints, but also released an Ancestry app for Windows 8 and Windows RT.
That the three different apps do not have exactly the same features is a bit of a pity, but that they are different, that each one shares the look and feel of its platform, is a good thing.

honourable mention: Dutch Roots

Dutch Roots, published by the Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG), is the first ever authoritative English book about Dutch genealogy. Written by Rob van Drie, deputy director and head of research services of the CBG, it is geared toward foreign researchers who do not speak Dutch. The book covers all the basics, has a logical structure, a brief list of Dutch words, mentions practically every major Dutch genealogy site, and is available as an ebook.

honourable mention: Behold 1.0

Behold 1.0 is a very fast and pretty memory-efficient genealogy viewer that offers just one report, the extensively hyperlinked Everything Report. The first release isn't the genealogy editor Behold is supposed to be yet, but Behold 1.0 is useful as a quick GEDCOM viewer, not in the least because Behold's GEDCOM support is nothing short of outstanding.
Behold supports all legal and several illegal character sets and encodings, reads GEDCOM files, not-quite GEDCOM files, and even FTW TEXT files. Behold not only support various vendor dialects, but even corrects for known errors. If Behold does not read your file, it probably does not even resemble a GEDCOM file.
Behold even produces such a detailed import log with errors and warnings that it isn't without merit as a GEDCOM validation tool.

honourable mention: Genealogy Stack Exchange (GENSE)

There already are many places to ask genealogy questions. Vendors have their blogs, wikis, forums and bulletin boards. The new Genealogy Stack Exchange site is a vendor-neutral Question & Answer site for genealogy & family history. You can follow the twitter feed to be alerted to new questions.

honourable mention: KiN2

KiN2 is horribly celebrity-centric, demands that you login with FaceBook, and its functionality is comparable with the infamously poor We're Related, but it does feature the most interesting and best looking diagrams of any new product.

GeneAward Best Organisation 2012

Best Genealogy Organisation of 2012: Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com had a great year, and became an even more important resource to genealogist than it already was. So much so, that Ancestry.com passed the 2 million subscribers mark in 2012.
Ancestry.com's 2012 claim that they now have more than 10 billion (milliard) records should be taken with a truck load of salt, as they seem to count every Mundia profile as another record.

Ancestry.com not only introduced new collections as they always do, they also were the first to offer a completely indexed USA 1940 Census.

Ancestry.com made several acquisitions, most notably GeneTree and Archives.com, introduced their renewed AncestryDNA and the new newspapers.com site. Their new AncestryDNA offering was rightly criticised for not providing raw data, but the relative low price still proved attractive to many.

After royally messing up Family Tree Maker 2012 with the Beta-quality TreeSync feature in 2011, Ancestry.com did the right thing in 2012; they decided to skip the artificial version increase to Family Tree Maker 2013, and continue to provide updates to Family Tree Maker 2012 users.
Ancestry.com also improved the existing Ancestry apps for iOS and Android, and introduced an Ancestry app for Windows 8.

honourable mention: MyHeritage

In 2011, MyHeritage bought WorldVitalRecords. In 2012, MyHeritage introduced MyHeritage Record Matching, matching MyHeritage trees against WorldVitalRecords collections, and MyHeritage SuperSearch, a search engine that searches both MyHeritage trees and WorldVitalRecords collections.
The Family Graph API remained read-only, but they did introduce an Family Graph API SDK for Android and iOS. MyHeritage did not introduce a new version of Family Tree Builder, but it is good that they aren't rushing what is likely to be a long overdue full rebuild.
Their decision to become a Family Tree DNA reseller signals an intention to become a one-stop service. MyHeritage became one of the companies offering indexed scans of the USA 1940 Census, and seems poised to introduce a crowd-sourcing platform of their own.
The one dark spot on their 2012 record is their decision to unilaterally terminate all Geni.com lifetime subscriptions after acquiring Geni.com.

honourable mention: U.S.A. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released the USA 1940 Census. This was the first time they released a census digitally. Lots of things could have gone wrong, but they did a great job. They offered both the complete set of scans and lots of background information on their own site. The scans were available from day one, on both on the official 1940 Census website and on vendor sites.

honourable mention: Regional Archive Leiden

In 2010, the Regional Archive Leiden (RAL) got a new website. In 2011, the Vele Handen (Many Hands) crowd-sourcing site was introduced. During 2012, the RAL made a minimal investment in a project that takes maximum advantage of the existing infrastructure and the available data for maximum effect; the Missing Links Projects links existing scans to existing indexes, for presentation on their own website.

Special Recognition 2012

GeneAward Special Recognition 2012

Most Promising Genealogy Organisation: Family History Information Standards Organisation

One major complaint people have about initiatives like OpenGen and BetterGEDCOM, that aim to replace GEDCOM with something better, is that they are slow to actually produce something.
The Family History Information Standards Organisation (FHISO) is moving slow too, and is not likely to produce an actual standard any time soon. FHISO has in fact deliberately been moving slow to focus on formally founding the organisation and obtaining broad industry support for a vendor-independent standardisation organisation.

Vendors and other organisations that joined FHISO during 2012 include Ancestry.com (Family Tree Maker, Mundia), RootsMagic (RootsMagic, Personal Historian, Family Reunion Organizer), WikiTree, ourFamily•ology, Calico Pie (Family Historian), Coret Genealogie (Genealogie Online), the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the Federation of Family History Societies and brightsolid (findmypast, ScotlandsPeople, Genes Reunited, censusrecords.com).
That is a promising start for this new organisation.

GeneAward Special Recognition 2012

Best Geopolitical Videos: C. G. P. Grey

Many genealogists have already discovered The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained and the more recent Holland versus the Netherlands, but there are many more humorous and informative videos on C. G. P. Grey's YouTube channel.

Worst of 2012

Worst Genealogy Product of 2012: GEDCOM X

Parts of GEDCOM X was written back in 2008, the GEDCOM X project was revealed late in 2011 and the GEDCOM X source code has been available since, yet it wasn't until early in 2012 that FamilySearch officially opened up the GEDCOM X website. After first abandoning GEDCOM, GEDXML and GEDCOM XML, FamilySearch was now promoting GEDCOM X.
FamilySearch pushed for GEDCOM X to become the new industry standard, but GEDCOM X is an unfinished, poor and Java-centric product. No third party is supporting GEDCOM X. Even FamilySearch's own products aren't supporting it yet.
The GEDCOM to GEDCOM X converter released mid 2012 proved to be slow, crash-prone and spectacularly memory-inefficient. The converter did provide a first look at the GEDCOM file format, and showed it to be not just inefficient, but so stunningly ridiculous that it makes GEDCOM look good.

Although FamilySearch created GEDCOM X without input from the community, FamilySearch showed no compunction about promoting its proprietary open source project as a community standard. It is no surprise that FamilySearch would like other vendors to hail their GEDCOM  as an industry standard, just as Geni.com would love to see Ancestry.com to accept the Geni API as the industry standard…
Only after a blog post on the official GEDCOM X's blog, which was crystal clear about GEDCOM X not being vendor-neutral, did FamilySearch stop pushing for GEDCOM X as the new industry standard.

dishonourable mention: StamboomNederland

Introduced in the second half of 2010, StamboomNederland was a huge disappointment; the Worst New Genealogy Product of 2010.
The promised API is still missing, but that is hardly an issue, as StamboomNederland simply isn't worth using. There's no shortage of aspects that should be improved, yet in more than two years, almost nothing has been done. Even the most glaring issues, such as its privacy issues (it still shows living persons), or the unreadable small font used for the still ridiculously dysfunctional search box, have not been fixed.
In StamboomNederland: Conclusion, I remarked that StamboomNederland is so bad that, if it did not have a CBG logo, the CBG would warn against using it, and it hasn't noticebly improved since. StamboomNederland remains eminently discommendable.

dishonourable mention: MyGenShare

MyGenShare is a new, commercial genealogy site set up by Barry J. Ewell.
I had my first look at MyGenShare during its Beta and provided a bit of feedback. The MyGenShare Beta tried to make a little bit of content seem much by stretching it over multiple pages, making you click for each paragraph or video section, which was pretty annoying, and the Beginning Genealogy section suffered from off-putting propaganda for the LDS.
Something I did not comment upon, is that the site featured lots of third-party copyrighted content, such as articles from the now defunct Everton's Genealogical Helper. Although I was surprised to see on-line access to many electronic books available to paying subscribers, I had no immediate reason to question the legality of the site's content.
Soon after the site went public, Cyndi Ingle Howells noticed that MyGenShare had copied pages full of links and descriptions directly from Cyndi's List, and Brian Wolf Leverich noticed entire pages of links and descriptions copied from Linkpendium.

Worst New Genealogy Product of 2012: WieWasWie

WieWasWie (WhoWasWho) is a new Dutch site, developed as a replacement for the aging Genlias. WieWasWie should not only formally replace www.genlias.nl, but also effectively replace www.digitalestamboom.nl as well. While genlias started out as a web app thrown together in a few weeks, and saw just one major redesign in more than ten years. Development of WieWasWie took about € 4 million and five years, with very little to show for it.

That not all archives are providing scans to WieWasWie is disappointing. That limits the usefulness of its online scans feature, but the feature is there, and the ability to download scans is an improvement over having to order them.
However, that, after years of development, WieWasWie still does not contain all the indexes that were in Genlias is outright incompetence.

Genlias has received its share of criticism, but WieWasWie has users longing back for it.

That the WieWieWas family tree feature is now limited to ridiculously tiny trees of just 500 profiles because of performance and reliability issues, already turns the ambitious WieWasWie concept into an embarrassing failure.

The biggest complaint about WieWasWie is its extremely limited search functionality. When WieWasWie finally went into Public Beta, it did not allow searching on two names yet, making it practically impossible to find index records for marriages. That much-needed feature has been added since, but that addition was followed by the decision to miscategorise this basic and essential functionality as an advanced search feature, that will only be available with a subscription. That is the most important, but not the only basic search functionality that has been taken away from visitors; even exact match, sorting of result columns, and simple filtering of results (by role, time period or place name), vital search features that Genlias has offered for years, are now only available with a paid subscription.

After spending millions in taxpayer's money, WieWasWie has been crippled so thoroughly, that it is nearly useless.
Genlias has received its share of criticism, but WieWasWie has users longing back for it.

dishonourable mention: FamilySearch Family Tree

After more than a decade of promises and delays, FamilySearch's social genealogy site finally went public. The latest version is now called FamilySearch Family Tree instead of New FamilySearch (NFS).
FamilySearch Family Tree is a rather dull and disappointing industry-trailing product. It is slow and its functionality is so limited, that the previous (non-public) version is still online. Remarkably, FamilySearch Family Tree does not even support GEDCOM, their old standard, nor GEDCOM X, their new standard.

Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2012: Central Bureau for Genealogy

The Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG) introduced StamboomNederland in 2010. In 2012, the CBG still wasn't ready to admit that StamboomNederland is a colossal failure, still didn't address its many issues, an even keeps pretending is a successful e-depot.
The CBG still lacks the guts to simply face the facts and pull the plug on this embarrassing monstrosity.

The CBG was eager to organise a biennual genealogy & heraldry congress in Maastricht together with the Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging.
Interest in the congress passes was low. Even the belated introduction of day passes did not prevent many seats from remaining unsold. It's non-central and expensive location, lack of keynote speaker, paying for commercial presentations by vendors, the high ticket price, the lack of PR and resulting limited press attention, all made the congress a financial fiasco for both organisations.

After the Dutch christian newspaper Trouw published an article revealing that the LDS, the largest mormon cult, had been dead-dunking members of the Dutch Royal family, members of parliament started asking questions about the legality of the CBG letting an American cult copying the entire collection of Dutch person cards.
The person cards do not only contain sensitive information about the deceased on these cards, they contain information about living persons as well, and the LDS has no intention of respecting the religion of the deceased.
The CBG's new director, Leo Voogt, went on record stating that the copying was okay because the mormon copies can serve as a backup. The Dutch Minister of Internal Affairs, Ronald Plasterk, not only made it clear that the wholesale copying had been illegal, but also lambasted Voogt's sophism by remarking that the mormons aren't our backup service.

During 2012, the CBG became the owner of the WieWasWie project that it was already involved in. The CBG merely shares in the blame for all that went wrong with the WieWasWie project before they became the owner, but is entirely to blame for the one decision that practically destroys the value of the WieWasWie site; deliberately crippling WieWasWie so much that it is nearly useless to visitors.

dishonourable mention: FamilySearch

FamilySearch promoted the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project as a community project, but did not make the index public. On the contrary, although it was advertised as a collaborative community project, FamilySearch claims copyright and ownership of the resulting index. FamilySearch is not sharing that index with all interested parties. Ancestry.com only got hold of when it bought Archives.com.

FamilySearch continues to have a very warped sense of community.
FamilySearch not only tried to pass its proprietary GEDCOM X project off as an community standard, but when BetterGEDCOM members founded the Family History Information Standards Organisation (FHISO), because FamilySearch found BetterGEDCOM too informal, FamilySearch still did not join this actual community effort.

not awarded

Best New Genealogy Organisation and Worst New Genealogy Organisation were not awarded.

links

Genealogy 2012

Best of 2012

Best Genealogy Product of 2012: RootsMagic 6

honourable mention: Family Tree Maker 2013

Best New Genealogy Product of 2012: RootsMagic app

honourable mention: Ancestry app

honourable mention: Dutch Roots

honourable mention: Behold 1.0

honourable mention: Genealogy Stack Exchange (GENSE)

honourable mention: KiN2

Best Genealogy Organisation of 2012: Ancestry.com

honourable mention: MyHeritage

honourable mention: U.S.A. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

honourable mention: Regionaal Archive Leiden

Special Recognition 2012

Most Promising Genealogy Organisation: Family History Information Standards Organisation

Best Geopolitical Videos: C. G. P. Grey

Worst of 2012

Worst Genealogy Product of 2012: GEDCOM X

dishonourable mention: StamboomNederland

Worst New Genealogy Product of 2012: WieWasWie

dishonourable mention: FamilySearch Family Tree

dishonourable mention: MyGenShare

Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2012: Central Bureau for Genealogy

dishonourable mention: FamilySearch