Modern Software Experience

2011-01-18

Dutch Genealogy Empire

genealogy sites

dateservice
2003-10-03Genlias Monitor
2005-04-23Digitale Stamboom Monitor
2005-05-04Genealogische Bronnen Online
2005-08-18Stamboom Gids
2005-11-03Stamboom Forum
2005-11-22Genealogie Online
2005-12-25Genealogie Werkbalk 0.8
2006-07-25Genealogie Werkbalk 1.0
2006-11-09Blog Coret
2007-01-07smart matching
2007-02-26redesign websites
2007-08-25widgets
2009-05-07Genealogie Wiki
2009-09-24Genealogie Werkbalk 2.0
2010-04-24multiple languages
2010-07-04scan search service
2011-01-16premium subscriptions
2012-01-03ancestral PDF charts
2012-04-13Genealogie Gazet
2012-06-03consistency checks
2012-09-1850.000 Stamboomforum members
2012-11-28visitor login
2012-12-05end Monitor services
2012-12-12GensDataPro support
2013-03-16Same Name Children Consistency Check

When you do any research into Dutch genealogy, you'll soon come across the sites Genealogie Online and Stamboom Forum. These and other sites are the work of Bob Coret, a Dutch ICT consultant and genealogist. What started as single handy service has grown into a network of related genealogy sites, of which Genealogie Online is the most prominent one.
Most of it is offered for free. The sites are even advertising-free; back in 2006, Bob Coret experimented with advertising, but concluded that it did not suit his sites, he'd rather ask for donations. This year, he started offering paid services.
Here's a quick chronological overview of the Coret genealogy services.

Genlias Monitor

Back in 1998, the National Archive introduced Genlias, an online index on official birth, marriage and death records. The aim of Genlias is provide a full index on the Dutch civil registration, a project that continues today. The early website had many problems, one of which was and still is that you do not know what has been added since the last time you searched it.
On 2003 Oct 3, Bob Coret announced the Genlias Monitor; a service that alerts you to new Genlias records containing names you're interested in. The Genlias Monitor is not affiliated with the National Archive and does not have direct access to the Genlias database. Instead, it tracks changes to the Genlias database much like a search engine does. The Genlias Monitor is a free service and quickly became very popular with Dutch genealogists.
Users are notified by email, and can view the results in HTML, PDF, GEDCOM or XLS.

Digitale Stamboom Monitor

Local and city archives have genealogy pages on their own website. Several major archives use the Digitale Stamboom (Digital Family Tree) system. The name is a misleading misnomer; this Digital Family Tree does not offer family trees, it offers an index on the official records. The system is used by the archives of Amersfoort, Delft, Eindhoven, Eemland, Leiden en Rotterdam. Leiden recently introduced a complete redone website, and is abandoning the Digitale Stamboom system.
In April of 2005, some users stumbled upon the Digitale Stamboom Monitor. On 2005 April 23, Bob Coret confirmed that this is the same concept as the Genlias Monitor, executed for the Digitale Stamboom sites.

Stamboom Forum

The Stamboom Forum (Family Tree Forum) was announced on 2005 Nov 3. The Genlias Monitor and Digitale Stamboom Monitor both had a forum already. When Bob created a third service, the Genealogie Werkbalk, he decided to create a single forum with subfora for all three. The StamboomForum still has the same main fora it started with: Actualiteit, Onderzochte Familienamen, Hulp Gevraagd en Aangeboden and Service Desk (Topicality, Researched Family Names, Help Offered and Requested, Service Desk).
Less than two years after its introduction, the Stamboom Forum passed 10.000 members. Today, it has almost 35.000 members.

Genealogie Werkbalk

The Genealogie Werkbalk (Genealogy Toolbar) is a genealogical browser toolbar that first became available in 2005. Version 0.7 was the first version that became publicly available, but it was not publicly announced. Version 0.8 was announced on 2005 Dec 25, shortly after the introduction of the StamboomForum. Version 1.0 was introduced half a year later, on 2006 Jul 25.

Version 2.0 of the Genealogie Werkbalk, announced in the Stamboom Forum on 2009 Sep 24, works with Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer, and works on MacOS and Linux as well. Recently, the Genealogie Werkbalk for Google Chrome was introduced.

The Genealogie Werkbalk allows quickly searching multiple sites for the same name, and knows about many Dutch sites that a foreign researcher is unlikely to have heard about.

The Genealogie Werkbalk includes links to genealogy sites, discussions and news. The second major version does not contain a static list of links, but updates itself with the latest genealogical sites from the Stamboom Gids, the latest genealogical publications from Genealogie Online, the latest discussions on the Stamboom Forum and the latest posts from several blogs.

Stamboom Gids

The Stamboom Gids (Family Tree Guide) is an online index to genealogy websites. When it was introduced on 2005 Aug 18, it contained hundreds of links already, it now has more than fifteen thousand links. These links are all categorised in multiple categories and subcategories. The main categories are Archives, Books, Sources, Family Names, International, Internet, Organisations, Software and Specialisations. The Family Names section probably provides the most complete list of personal genealogy sites in the Netherlands.

Genealogie Online

On 2005 May 4, Bob announced the availability of Genealogische Bronnen Online (Genealogy Sources Online), a place to host genealogical data, both family trees and prayer cards. This service was originally available on a subdomain of coret.org, but Bob did not like either the name or the domain, and on 2005 Nov 22 he changed both; Genealogische Bronnen Online became Genealogie Online.

Early in 2007, he added aanknopingspunten, literally connection points, generally known as smart matching, an important feature that certainly boosted the popularity of Genealogie Online.

In the slightly more than five years of its existence, Genealogie Online has become a major genealogical site that boasts several million pages view per month. Some four thousand genealogy databases totalling more than twelve million profiles have been published on GenealogieOnline.

This impressive number of profiles makes Genealogie Online the largest Dutch genealogy hosting site, but that position will not be easy to retain. The new StamboomNederland site of the Central Bureau of Genealogy is attracting users thanks to their name recognition and the free advertisements in Verborgen Verleden, the Dutch variant of Who Do You Think You Are; on 2011 Jan 1, StamboomNederland had 12.501 users already. Many of these are passive users, that merely browse the data, but the active users had already contributed 5.336.609 profiles.

Blog Coret

Bob Coret started the Blog Coret on 2006 Nov 9. Blog Coret is Dutch blog focussed on Dutch genealogy, but not just Dutch genealogy. Bob writes about web technology, genealogy and their intersection. This reflects his interest is applying web technology to make genealogy easier. Although their is a clear focus on his own sites, he frequently mentions international sites and events as well.
Before he created his blog, Bob often announced new services in soc.genealogy.benelux. Nowadays, he generally post his announcements on his blog, the Stamboom Forum or both.

redesign websites

All these genealogical websites share a similar look & feel, in part because they were created by the same person, but also because of a conscious effort to make it that way. Early in 2007, all the websites were redesigned to be a bit more web 2.0, but mostly to present a more consistent look and feel across the multiple sites. The main difference in design between the various sites is their main colour. If you use the sites frequently, you'll come to associate the main colours with each site; burgundy for Genealogie Online, green for the Genealogie Werkbalk, orange for the Stamboom Forum, blue for the Stamboom Gids, and a brownish green for Familie Archivaris.

Genealogy API

Late in 2006, Bob Coret wrote a blog post in which complained about the programmatic accessibility of existing web sites; the site may  accessible for end users, but is the data accessible to applications? Case in point are the Genlias Monitor and Digitale Stamboom Monitor; neither service has direct access to the databases, both essentially reconstruct the database through webscraping. That works, but it is rather fragile; whenever the page layout changes, the application has to be updated. These two services would both simpler and more reliable if Genlias and the Digitale Stamboom offered an application interface for access to the data.
Bob decided to lead by example. In a comment on his own blog post, Bob remarks that he has created genealogical API for access to some of the features of genealogy services. In 2007, he wrote another article, announcing that Genealogy Online now supports the same programmatic interface as PhpGedView.

widgets and wiki

In 2007, Bob created a few widgets for his web services, such as a widget for your user profile and a genealogical news widget. None of the widgets was a great success, but they are still available.

The Genealogie Wiki (Genealogy Wiki), introduced on 2009 May 7, is a Dutch genealogy wiki. It is a bit surprising that no Dutch genealogy organisation had thought to create one yet. However, the Genealogie Wiki wasn't a big success. Interest in a Dutch genealogy wiki turned out to be so low, that it was silently discontinued on 2010 Dec 30.

crowd-sourced translations

Before 2010, Genealogie Online was only available in Dutch. There was a button to get English pages, but it used Google Translate and one of the things that Google Translate doesn't understand is that person and place names should not be translated. So, that approach wasn't a big success.

Bob decided to crowd-source the translation of Genealogie Online into multiple language. In 2010 April, he introduced an application that volunteers could use to translate the site. In April of 2010, Bob announced that translation into English and German was done, with translation into French, Italian and Spanish to follow soon.

scan search service

An interesting feature of Genealogie Online, introduced mid 2010, is the scan search service; the back-end searches through scan collections, such as those in FamilySearch Record Search, to find scans of original documents that match the data in your family tree.

commercial: premium subscriptions

The 2010 Sep 14 blog post Coret gaat commerciëel (Coret goes commercial), Bob Coret announced that Genealogie Online and the Stamboom Forum would go commercial. He reassured readers that, apart from the introduction of some limits, existing services would remain free. Premium members would get higher limits as well as additional services. The move to a commercial approach was underlined by the pre-announcement of the Familie Archivaris service. That wasn't news to everyone, as the Familie Archivaris website had been under construction for a few months already.

The premium subscriptions for Genealogie Online and Stamboom Online went live on 2010 Jan 16.

Familie Archivaris

The Familie Archivaris (Family Archivist) service went live on 2010 Jan 16 as well, with the posting of a demo video. Familie Archivaris allows members to create an online family archive, accessible to the archivist, their family and friends.
The initial version does not seem to be much more than a digital photo album, where you can share digital content and descriptions, that also finds family photos that have been uploaded to Genealogie Online.

technology

Bob Coret hosts all the genealogy sites on his own hardware, except Blog Coret; Blog Coret is hosted by Google. This is deliberate; one time, when his server was down, he could use his blog to inform users about the status.

The Genealogie Online service is built on free open source software (FOSS). Genealogie Online a LAMP stack; Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP as well as Perl. That's just the basics, the services also uses lighttpd, a lightweight web server. The timelines that Genealogie Online shows for individual are created with the JavaScript routine Simile Timeline. Chart are created with PHP/SWF Charts and with the Google Charts API.
The paid service Amazon CloudFront is used as a content delivery network. Genealogical PDF reports are hosted on Scribd.

The Stamboom Forum is built on the open source MiniBB system. Google Maps is used to display show genealogical events throughout the country. Image collections are displayed through CoolIris 3D. The Stamboom Gids is built on LINKER. The thumbnails it displays are created and served by PageGlimpse.

None of this is any secret; he has written two blog posts that detail the technology behind Genealogie Online and Stamboom Forum respectively. These posts provide additional details, such as that he is using Debian Linux, the eAccelerator plug-in for Apache to improve PHP performance, and that he manages the MySQL databases through phpMyAdmin. Those articles state that the content is indexed by Swish-e, but Swish-e was replaced, first by Sphinx Search, and recently by Solr of the Apache Lucene project.

There are several themes here; Bob Coret does not try to reinvent the wheel, but uses free open source software and existing web services to create a whole that's larger than the sum of its parts.

genealogy empire

Back in 2003, it all started with the Genlias Monitor, a handy service for a Genlias Monitor. This was followed by the Digitale Stamboom Monitor, the Stamboom Gids, the Stamboom Forum, the Genealogie Werkbalk, Genealogie Online and Familie Archivaris.

All these services have been created by just one person who made good use of existing open source software and web services, and was promoted through word-of-mouth advertising. In about seven years, Bob Coret created himself a small genealogy empire, that no one interested in Dutch genealogy can afford to ignore.

updates

2012-01-03 PDF charts

Genealogie Online has introduced a new feature for its premium members: A3-size ancestral PDF charts in 5-, 6- and 7-generation designs.

2012-05-17 Genealogie Gazet

On 2012 April 13, Bob Coret introduced the Genealogie Gazet, a new emag readable in Google Currents. On 2012 May 17, he introduced the genealogiegazet.nl site for the Genealogie Gazet.

2012-06-02 consistency checks

Genealogie Online performs consistency checks now, shows these to both the publisher and the visitor of a tree.

2012-09-18 50.000 members

The Stamboomforum (family tree forum) welcomed its 50.000th member today.

2012-09-20 smart matches

Added mention of smart matching, introduced early 2007.

2012-11-28 visitor login

Publication on Genealogie Online are public by default. Premium members can now require visitors to log in.

2012-12-05 end Monitor services

Because of some server problems, and the pending end of Genlias, t the Genlias Monitor & Digitale Stamboom Monitor services have been terminated.
The www.genliasmonitor.nl and www.digitalestamboommonitor.nl sites display an end of service message now.

2012-12-12 GensDataPro

GensDataPro 2.9.8 and later can upload databases directly to Genealogie Online.

2013-03-10: fan value

Bob Coret has tested Genealogie Online's fan value.

2013-03-16: Genealogie Online

Genealogie Online consistency checking now includes the Same Name Children Consistency Check.

2013-06-21: hardware

Bob Coret has updated the 2009 blog post about the technology with a new blog post, that includes some information about the hardware used.

links

Coret Genealogy Services

technology

announcements