Modern Software Experience

2010-08-23

genealogy software

Classical Genealogy Framework

A Framework for Classical Genealogy introduced the Classical Genealogy Framework. Simplistic Genealogy contrasted it with traditional genealogy and Applying the Classical Genealogy Framework discussed how some issues fit in the framework.

Current genealogy software is still based on the deliberately dishonest model of traditional genealogy.

genealogy software

Sadly, current genealogy software still does not really distinguish between biological and legal genealogy. Although some genealogy applications offer a plethora of reporting options, none support the distinction between official and legal genealogy. Current genealogy software is still based on the deliberately dishonest model of traditional genealogy. Current genealogy software still treats genealogy as if the biological and legal genealogy are just one genealogy.

ostensible support

Most vendors of current genealogy software will claim that their software supports adoption and guardianship, but their software does offer real support. Current genealogy does not supports adoption and guardianship as fundamental building blocks of a legal genealogy, but as pesky exceptions to the traditional just-one-genealogy model it is built on.

The ostensible support for these fundamental events is often no more than rather superficial token support; vendors added the events types, but the application does not really support these events. The vendors bolted the events for adoption and guardianship onto their simplistic model as an afterthought; the event is there, so the fact can be recorded, but that is about it, the application remains built for traditional there-is-just-one genealogy. Many reports do not support these events in any way. Consistency checks either ignore the relationships or get confused by them, reporting on age differences as if it were biological relationships. The exceptional events remain awkward additions to the intolerant just-one-genealogy model the software design is based on.

awkward additions

This mistaken approach to genealogy is evident in the limited reporting capabilities, that do allow you to pick either biological, official or legal report, but offer just one report because the software creators thought there is just one genealogy.
It is evident in consistency checks that complain about the age difference between children and their guardians and adopted parents as if these were biological parents.
It is evident in practically everything that does not fit the traditional there-is-just-one genealogy model. For example, some software allows you to enter results of genetic tests in their database, yet does not allow you to indicate that the test proved or disproved a particular biological connection; there is a database field so you can enter your data, but that is about it; the field is not really being used.

broken model

The fields that do not fit the traditional just-one-genealogy model remain awkward additions. Events that should be a fundamental part of the basic product architecture are just a bunch of exceptions grafted onto the ridiculously simplistic model of traditional genealogy, and these exceptions are ignored or maltreated by most of the application.

The erroneous assumption that there is just one genealogy permeates the application. This just-one-genealogy design, with or without carelessly bolted on exceptions, makes current genealogy software perfectly suitable for building the dishonest genealogies of traditional genealogy, but considerably less than ideal for building honest genealogies.

Software that bluntly asserts all parents are married isn't genealogy software, it is anti-genealogy software.

partnerships

Some software is not just based on the simplistic model of traditional genealogy, but on an even more inflexible model and does not even support exceptions, but instead goes out of its way to try and enforce its inadequate understanding of the world on your genealogies. Some ostensible genealogy software still being offered and promoted today does not even support a basic capability such as partnerships other than marriage. FamilySearch PAF is infamous for this unrealistic limitation. It even aggressively asserts, whenever you enter a child, that its parents are married, even if you did not enter any marriage information at all. Software that bluntly asserts all parents are married isn't genealogy software, it is anti-genealogy software.

GEDCOM

Current genealogy software is heavily influenced by GEDCOM. Many vendors have been reasonably successful in working around GEDCOM limitations by using its extensions mechanisms.

More than one vendor has complained about the fact that GEDCOM has not been modelled around individuals, events and relationships as a genealogy standard should be, but has instead been modelled around the idea of a family, which is simply not a very practical approach. What's worse, GEDCOM is not really modelled around the concept of family, but around the genealogically limiting model of a nuclear family in a way that does not support other families, forcing vendors to be creative in extending GEDCOM.

An arguably bigger limitation is that GEDCOM was created to support traditional genealogy, the pretence that there is just one genealogy. The dishonest assumption that there is just one genealogy permeates the GEDCOM specification.

GenTech

In the 1990s several people of various American genealogy organisations and vendors got together to create the GenTech Genealogical Data Model (GDM), which they billed as A Comprehensive Data Model for Genealogical Research and Analysis. The GenTech model has influenced the genealogy software industry, with several companies claiming that their product is based on the GenTech model. Although the GenTech model is arguably somewhat better than the GEDCOM model, it is at the same similar enough that those products can use GEDCOM for import and export.
The dishonest just-one-genealogy dogma of traditional genealogy permeates the GenTech model. The GenTech model may be great for traditional genealogy, but it does not fit reality and does not fulfil the needs of honest genealogical researchers.

We need software and standards that fully understand and support the fact that each child has biological, official and legal parents, and that these need not be the same. We need a second generation of genealogy software and standards.

new generation

The accomplishment of the current, first generation of genealogy software is that it has automated traditional genealogy. That is no big surprise, the just-one-genealogy dogma of traditional genealogy makes it relatively easy to write software for traditional genealogy. Creating honest genealogy software is more complex.

The major standards and models for the first generation of genealogy software are models for traditional genealogy. Current genealogy software may have many advanced features, but because it is software created for traditional genealogy still fails to fullfil current genealogical needs. Traditional genealogy is severely limited by the deliberately dishonesty of its simplistic just-one-genealogy pretence.

We need a new generation of software, a generation that leaves the dishonesty of traditional genealogy behind, genealogy software that embraces the clarity and honesty of the Classical Genealogy Framework. Software that does not bolt a few exceptional events onto an outdated simplistic model, but is built on a model that fully supports all major genealogical events without prejudice. Software that fully supports the differences between biological, official and legal genealogies. Software that does not make the mistake of assuming that the biological, official and legal genealogies are the same, but understands the differences, and lets you research your biological genealogy with the aid of the official and legal genealogy you already have.
We need software and standards that fully understand and support the fact that each child has biological, official and legal parents, and that these need not be the same. We need a second generation of genealogy software and standards.

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