Software for family historians, biographers and others

Dennis Allsopp

Dennis Allsopp (Author of Genota and Genota Forms) was visiting Johannesburg, so I dropped in to see him and we had an interesting chat.

We chatted about software for genealogists and family historians, and three topics in particular:

  1. The need for an event-based database program for genealogists, historians, biographers etc.
  2. Dennis’s own genealogy research programs, Genota and Genota Forms
  3. Old utility programs for which there are no modern equivalents.

As a result, I’ve uploaded a few of the old utilities to the website of the genealogy software forum, in the hope that they may inspire some enterprising hackers to reverse engineer them for modern hardware and software.

There were programs called Nameview and Namedrop that scanned BBS messages for things like surnames of interest, and manipulated those messages to collect them. They worked with Fido Technology Networks, but no one seems to have written an equivalent that works with mailing lists, newsgroups, or web forums.

There were also utility programs that took data from genealogy programs (mainly PAF 2.x) and printed family grtoup sheets on 3×5 or 4×6 cards.

That is FAR more useful than the stupid trick of software developers who tried to make a computer screen look like a card index, which had all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of the cards themselves.

But those utilities were written in DOS, and modern printers don’t work with DOS. So the utilities need to be rewritten to use modern programs and modern hardware.

There was the Tiny Tafel Generator — which not only developed but matched Tiny Tafels. Trouble is, it was written in Turbo Pascal, which doesn’t work on fast machines. You need a slow processor for it to run, under 500 Mhz, I think.

There are a few more there — back in the old days we may have had less than we do now, but very often we could do more with the less we had. So I’m hoping some hackers will have a look at them, and see if they can reverse engineer them to produce new versions.

But the main thing we chatted about was the need for an event-based program to be used as a research tool, not only for genealogists and family historians, but also for general historians, biographers and others. It would differ from lineage-linked genealogy programs in that it would not only include people that were relatives, but friends and acquaintaces, work colleagues, and even enemies. It would be a useful tool for a biographer trying to keep track of  the events in the life of their subject, or for someone writing general history.

The basic outline of the program would look something like this:

Outline for an event-tracking program

Dennis introduced me to a rather nice mind-mapping and concept-mapping program called VUE (Visual Understanding Environment) which drew the above diagram (he has a far better drawing of it), and shows how the various parts of the program would relate to each other.

The main part of the database would be a chronological list of events, and people and organisations assocated with this events. The organisations could be both formal and informal groups — a political party, church, club, school, hospital, business firm, trade union, family or any other human group.

The “people” part would not only be for family members, as one finds in lineage-linked genealogy programs, but for non-related people, like friends, work colleagues, teachers, pupils, godparents, acquaintances and so on. Perhaps it could also be useful in testing theories of six degrees of relationship — that we are only six degrees of relationshop away from knowing everyone else on earth, and that my wife’s boss’s godmother’s cousin’s penfriend’s vet knows me.

One reason for posting this is to try to find out if there are any others who think that and event-tracking and chronology program would be useful, and if so, what you would like it to be able to do.

Sharon Cottam visits her father’s old POW camp

I don’t know if she is related (possibly by marriage?) but I was interested in this item on the BBC, describing how Sharon Cottam had been taken to visit the places where her father, Flight Lieutenant Ted Nestor, was a prisoner of war in World War II.

But whether she is related or not, it makes intersting reading, and is illustrated by drawings and cartoons showing life in a POW camp, and how some of his fellow inmates plotted their escape.

 

Mystery cousins and royal legends

Our Green family, which we have traced back to Canada, has a family legend that William John Green, alias William Goodall Green, was the the son of Edward, Duke of Kent, and his mistress Julie de St Laurent. This legend has been fairly conclusively refuted by Mollie Gillen in her book The prince and his lady, so there is no need to go into that here.

William Goodall Green was in fact the son of Eliza Green, the daughter of James Green, a Quebec butcher, and William, Goodall, a London merchant. He was born in Quebec on 28 August 1790, before Edward Duke of Kent had set foot in Canada.

The legend did, however, become something of an obsession with some members of the family, and gave rise to some other minor mysteries.

William Goodall Green married Margaret Gray, the daughter of John Gray, the founder and first president of the Bank of Montreal. They had 15 children, born between 1815 and 1842, and Margaret died shortly after the last of them was born. William Goodall Green then went to the Cape Colony, in the Commissariat Department of the army, and two of his sons, Henry and Fred, remained in southern Africa. The eldest son, William, lived in Northumberland, England, and is son, also William, was the main propagator of the legend of royal descent.

It was William Goodall Green’s grandchildren who appeared to believe most firmly in the legend, and two of them changed their names as a result. Not only did they change their names, but they also seem to have disappeared, and therein lies the mystery.

Cecil Hollings Shipley Green was the youngest son of Major Edward Lister Green, and was born in Napier, New Zealand, in 1870. He became a bookkeeper at Alrig (wherever that may be), and in 1904 went to America. In 1917 his sister Florence Rutherfurd, then living in British Columbia, Canada, mentioned him in a letter to their eldest sister, Louie, in New Zealand:

I am writing to send you Christmas greetings and to tell you about Cecil, or Charles Stuart his name now is. Just the same initials, C.S. Green. He would like to hear from you. His address is

No 2503041 C.S. Green
No 10 Winnipeg Draft
Railway Construction Corps
Broadway Barracks,
Winnipeg, Canada

He seems happier than for years and has been travelling about a great deal. He may have left for England so put if left, please forward. He has given my name as next-of-kin.

And that was the last (as far as we know) his family ever heard of Cecil Hollings Shipley Green, or Charles Stuart Green, as he preferred to be known.

And then there is his first cousin, William Alfred Goodall Esdaile Green, who was almost his exact contermorary, having been born in New South Wales about 1869.

He joined the Brisbane Volunteer Rifles in July 1887, was appointed Staff Sergeant in Feb 1892 and resigned in 1897. He was then appointed Second Lieutenant in the Queensland Defence Force on 30 July 1897 (1st Queensland or Moreton Regiment). He was a Lieutenant in the 4th Queensland (1st Imperial) Bushmen for service in South Africa, in the Anglo-Boer War, where he served from 18 May 1900 to 12 August 1901.

In 1902 and 1903 he applied for posts in the civil service in Natal and the Orange River Colony, and worked as a temporary clerk in the Public Works Department in Natal from 16 Aug 1902 until 31 Oct 1903, and then in the Treasury until 31 Dec 1904. On 13 Feb 1909 he was staying at 166 West Street, Pietermaritzburg and again applied for temporary employment.

After World War I he changed his name to William d’Este-Stuart-Grey, and that seems to have been the last anyone in his family heard from him.  (Letter from Kathleen Schrader to her aunt Louisa Cowley, see Cowley 1996:194).

Did he change his name to emulate his cousin, or to go one up on him, or did both of them do it quite spontaneously without knowing about the other?

Both chose the name Stuart, which had royal connotations, though Edward Duke of Kent was a Hanoverian rather than a Stuart. Perhaps they both had a rush of royal blood to the head, but it would be nice to know what happened to them.

Sandercock family forum

We started the Sandercock/Saundercock family history forum for people of Sandercock descent in October, and by the end of the month we have had some very useful discussuions.

Several members have been helped to make new family connections, or to solve mysteries with existing connections.

There are now 15 members, representing several different branches of the Sandercock families.

If you haven’t yet joined, please respond to this invitation to do so, and pass on the invitation to others who may be interested. The forum is open to anyone with the name of Sandercock, Saundercock and vatiants, or who is descended from Sandercocks, or married to someone descended from them.

To join, just send an e-mail message to:

sandercock-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

or visit the web page for the group at:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sandercock/

Group Email Addresses
Post message: sandercock@yahoogroups.com
Subscribe: sandercock-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
Unsubscribe: sandercock-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
List owner: sandercock-owner@yahoogroups.com

The Sandercock family seems to have originated on the Cornwall-Devon border in south-western England, and have spread from there down and around Bodmin Moor. Some of the towns where the family has been established are St Gennys, Poundstock, and Jacobstow in north-eastern Cornwall; Altarnun, Launceston and neighbouring towns in Eastern Cornwall; Cardinham, Braddock, St Tudy and St Teeth on the south and west of Bodmin Moor, and various towns across the border in Devon.

Sander is said to be a nickname for Alexander, and so Sandercock probably originated as meaning “son of Alexander” — Sanderson is another name with a similar derivation. We hope by pooling our resouces, to track the various families back to the original hypothetical Alexander, though of course there is always the possibility that there were several unrelated ones whose children were given the epithet Sandercock.

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