Archive for Category: Genealogy Wiki


Faces of America – Inspiration

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

I just watched the third episode of Faces of America on PBS and was inspired. I meant to write a blog entry about the second episode which dealt with immigration and naturalization, two topics I deal with a lot in my research, but instead, this third episode has given me a revelation.

Of course I was interested in the stories of the families who were in America before it was the USA, but the story that hit me the hardest was that Yo-Yo Ma. It was that book, the one that literally fell out of a wall. What genealogist wouldn’t do anything to find a book like that?

He is incredibly lucky to now have such an item in his possession, but the only way most of the rest of us are going to get a book like that is to make it ourselves. We probably won’t be able to go back as far in the lineage, and we certainly won’t have first-hand accounts of anyone who lived more than 100 years ago, but we can take what we know now and begin the book.

It’s the old adage of “publish or perish” that most genealogists have heard time and time again. We need to create the book ourselves so that future generations will have the information to look back on.

Can you imagine how the genealogist of your family in 100 years’ time might feel when they want to know more about their family history and they find the book that you create today?

So I have a new idea in mind for how to go about this. It’s an old project that has had a few starts, but maybe this will be the one that works out and finishes. (Not that genealogy research is ever finished, but the others never came very close.) I want to combine a blog, the coolest features from my genealogy wiki, and hopefully incorporate the genealogy database I already have to create a new web site. I want to entice my relatives to leave their own stories as comments, and be able to reasonably easily publish all of the information in a printed book or PDF. Oh yes, I have a lot of programming to do.

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To Wiki or Not To Wiki, That is the Question

Monday, 25 January 2010

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you know I just got a new computer. It’s a Windows 7 computer. So along with the new OS, I decided to upgrade all my software. I downloaded the newest or newest stable releases of Apache, PHP, and MySQL, since I do my own web development and my genealogy database is self-programmed using those. I also opted for the latest release of TikiWiki. I had an old release before only because it would run on the old PHP/MySQL versions I had.

Unfortunately, the wiki program seems to have degraded over time. There were fewer themes and the old ones were utterly incompatible, so I had to go with an entirely new look. After not spending enough time on that, I started looking around at my pages. The wiki menus had changed and I didn’t like them. My Hebrew text didn’t survive for some reason. Maybe it was the way the wiki set up the database, but my regular genealogy database Hebrew survived the transfer to the new computer. One of the newest wiki pages I created was a name index with a list of surnames at the top linked to the anchors within the page. Well, the new TikiWiki version entirely erased all those anchors within the page and even when I tried to put them back, it wiped them out again. It has new plugins specifically for anchors and linking within pages, but they don’t seem to work or I couldn’t figure out how they work. The documentation site is usually non-functional, but I was on it briefly and saw nothing to suggest how to use them differently than I was already trying to do.

So that leaves me with the big dilemma. I originally wanted to use MediaWiki because I like the look and feel of Wikipedia. But I was also considering putting this online someday as a private web site and my current web host practically begged me not to use that particular wiki. They had TikiWiki installed and I was able to find an older version that I could install to my local computer. There seems to be a way to convert from one to the other, but it’s in Python, which I don’t have or really want, and it was done using an even older version than I was using, so it might not work at all.

I spent a lot of time on the wiki and was finding the initial results to be very interesting. I hate to abandon the project, or even start over from the beginning again in a new wiki program, but I’m considering it. I’m also considering going back to my original database and working more with that. My GEDCOM export was still riddled with errors and I wanted to fix those. And I wonder if I could write my own wiki-like program based on the database I already have. I was setting up some things quite differently in the wiki, so I would have to make a lot of adjustments for it.

So in the middle of writing this post, I installed PHPMyAdmin, which went pleasantly well. Taking a look at the database tables for the wiki, I noticed that most of the tables TikiWiki created are empty. One table has the text of each wiki page while another keeps track of every link between pages. If I don’t try to do the latter, I bet I could use the database I already have and generate output that looks like the wiki.

Once I get the rest of my computer applications set up and running, creating a wiki-like output from my current database may be my next project.

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