Notes from the past…


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Daily Journal 30 Oct 2009: an online wiki anyway

Yesterday I posted about my plan to upload my TiddlyWiki research notebook to my hosted site. I even found digestible instructions and everything. (You like that word?) Well, as usually happens when something sounds to good to be true, it was. In spite of those tasty directions, I couldn’t get my little wiki uploaded. Not to my site, that is.

But it is online, hosted at TiddlySpot for free. I still have complete control and can edit my notebook online or locally and sync the two as needed. I even created another page here that links to my wiki. Click on the Wiki page to check it out. All the info is there for anyone to see, but only I can edit it, as a password is required. I could also make it private if I preferred.

I also completed my great-grandfather William Earl Hall’s files. Didn’t take long, as I have almost no data on him. A 1910 census entry, a 1906 marriage license, and his name on both my grandfather’s and my great-uncle’s delayed birth certificates, that’s it. He was the first of my great-grandmother’s 6 husbands and is believed to have died in a railroad accident ca 1917 (?). As I did my routine cursory search that I do as I examine each ancestor’s file, I did locate a possible 1900 census for him, but there is no way to know if this person is really my William Hall:

  • Born about Mar 1885 (my William ca 1887)
  • Born in Kansas (my William in Kansas)
  • Living in Indian Territory, now present-day Oklahoma (my William married my great-grandmother in Indian Territory, OK)
  • This William’s parents’ names are unreadable (smudged!) on the census page and the names of his brothers and sisters don’t ring a bell (not carried down to descendants’ names that I can tell)

So is this my William? Who knows… it would explain why my great-grandparents were married in Indian Territory, OK even thought they lived in north Texas and why my great-grandmother frequently dressed in full Indian garb (according to my Dad). There is an Indian connection, at least. I have never been able to prove that my great-grandmother Dovie McBurnett was actually a Native American and I have researched the McBurnetts back several generations with no mention of it. Perhaps her “Indian blood” was by marriage?

I’ll keep that census sheet in William’s file, but at this time I haven’t added it to my RootsMagic database.

I also posted my Follow Friday entry for Lifehacker.com. A great site, definitely check it out!


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PhpGedview- one week later

Last Sunday, I signed up for a hosted website and installed WordPress and PhpGedView on my new site. Actually, the hosting company did the hard part, the installations. I have done the customization… with a little help from my friends. More about that in a minute.

The WordPress customization wasn’t too difficult. I know a bit about managing a hosted site and I’m learning more every day. The toughest task was choosing a new theme! WordPress.com (your blog is hosted on WordPress) only has a few themes and they can’t be modified. With WordPress.org (your blog is hosted by someone else, or self-hosted), you can use any theme, any widget, any plugin that you want. Both are still open-source and free, as is PhpGedView. The only fee now if for the hosting site, which I paid for a year in advance, as it’s cheaper that way. The company that I chose installed both WordPress and PhpGedView and set them up in their most basic configurations at no extra charge.

Getting WordPress up to speed wasn’t technically difficult at all, once I decided on a theme. There are a few more modifications that I have in mind, very minor changes actually. An image here, a link there…

PhpGedView took a little more work. The program’s wiki covers the basics, but as with most computer software, there will always be those hidden quirks and adjustments that only the developers seem know about. Do you know everything there is to know about Windows XP? Does anyone?

But I eventually figured out how to navigate about the program, how to change the theme, how to fine-tune the configuration page and how to upload and link to images. Cruising now!

But I soon discovered that what was available to view when I was logged in was not the same as what was available to John Q Public (when I was logged out). Back to the wiki I went, but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was.

I have always made my data available to the world, because that’s what I think genealogy is all about. Helping each other. I have met several new “cousins” online and from them I have received info, documents and images that I might never have gotten any other way. Several brick walls have crumbled with a little help from my friends! So in return, I post what I have online (no living!). Certainly a fair trade, I believe.

So I was rather concerned when none of my images were visible to the rest of the world. But after scouring the wiki, I was still stumped. A Google search didn’t help, either.

What to do? The Help Forum, of course! Simple enough. Create an account, log in, ask a question, and hope for an answer. So I posted my problem on Friday as clearly as I could and within a couple of hours, responses began to appear. One gentleman in particular, Brian seemed to really know his stuff and he gave me his email address so that we could communicate a bit easier. We conversed back and forth and finally yesterday afternoon we were able to get the problem solved! What a wonderful guy! Not only did he help me get my images in view, but he logged onto the program and tweeked a few other items, so that now PhpGedView is purring like a contented kitten! A thousand thanks to Brian!

What are my impressions of PhpGedView after one week? Overall, I really like the program. The user interface is pretty clear and simple and genealogical data can be added, edited, or deleted without much fanfare. All of an individual’s data is present on the same page. All of the standard charts and reports are available and can be downloaded in .html or .pdf formats. Most types of media can be added, including .pdf. An RSS feed is also availbale. The main interface (“front page”) has many options, such as Favorites (here I add the person I am currently working on as a short cut to his page), On This Day (genealogical events from the current GEDCOM), surname statistics, even a pedigree chart can be displayed.

I think my one complaint would be the wiki. It’s a bit disorganized and confusing. Maybe a little more plain English and in-depth, step-by-step instructions would be nice. But I guess that’s the nature of the wiki concept. It is constantly being updated and edited, by multiple persons with varying technical writing abilities. The Help Forum is an excellent remedy for the wiki’s shortcomings.

I really can’t comment just yet on PhpGedView’s treatment of sources. I have not added any new data since I uploaded my GEDCOM from RootsMagic 4, so those experiences will be for another post. :)