RootsTech has once again put me in a bad mood. They’re getting too good at this. This time, it’s the developer’s challenge. The challenge was to imagine and then write a brand new program in less than two months. And I got started late. Looking at the finalists, I’d say that either some of them have been working on their programs for more than two months, or I have been left in the dark ages of web programming.
I’m not sure what I was thinking. The prizes are pretty significant this year. Maybe I should have looked at this program as if it was my full time job and put that much effort into it. Maybe that’s what the finalists actually did. Or maybe I somehow knew that I would be left in the dust in the end, so I didn’t.
Either way, I created a program to help beginning genealogists: the people that have just gotten started and found sites like FamilySearch and Ancestry, or maybe a few more, but don’t really know what they’re doing; the people that haven’t been to conferences, webinars, or society meetings; the people that want to know their genealogy but either don’t know how or don’t want to take the time to learn.
Genealogy research is a puzzle. Not only are there methodologies to learn, but you must also learn what records are available. Were your ancestors in Florida? Did you know there are state censuses for 1935 and 1945? Certainly a beginner wouldn’t know. So how does a new genealogist easily find out what’s available?
In order to research your genealogy, you have to know how to do the research, to know what to look for, and to know what records are available. With GenAssist, you just enter the information about an individual and it will suggest document types in which you might find your relatives.
And while it’s telling you what records to search, it is also teaching you. It will explain why to search for certain records.
However, my program has been left in the dust of this contest. The judges found an error and only informed me when I pestered them that they were behind schedule to announce the finalists. They also hadn’t entered the sample information, because my database is extremely limited at the moment. When they finally entered the sample data, they didn’t do it correctly. (When I say to enter 1980, 1908 will not produce the same favorable results. Genealogy and programming are both more precise than that.)
Therefore, I am opening it up for you to try. Login with username “blog” and password “gjg” (without the quotes). Try the “View History” to see the two sample entries, so you can get an idea what kind of data is already in the database. Then add your own if you like. Keep in mind that your individuals are recorded and visible in the history, and this is a shared login for whoever reads this blog post, so don’t use the living. Besides, you probably won’t find much about the living in my database.
Remember that this is just what I got done in about a month in some spare time. Clearly it is nowhere near complete, nor is it incredibly pretty, because I spent my time on the cool programming part instead of the web design part. There is almost no error checking, so don’t test if it can figure out your misspellings. But let me know what you think of it and if I should keep working on it. I do have a lot more ideas for it (you’ll find some on the “RootsTech 2012” page), besides the obvious of filling in the database with genealogy record data.
Also, I will likely not leave the login open for very long. Since my blog gets a lot of spammer comments, who knows what they’ll do to my program.
So, is my program worth working on more? Or should I let it fade away into oblivion?