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Genealogy and the Internet

The topic of genealogy has been thoroughly researched throughout the decades. The main problem with genealogy was the travel that traditionally accompanied any genealogist in their search for records and sources. Access to records, or the lack thereof, is the pivotal issue for genealogists. They have lobbied successfully to increase physical access to records, and they also work to increase intellectual access through mentoring and educational programs [6]. For example, genealogists in Minnesota assisted in the transcription of death records and in creating an on-line index [7].

Since the unpredictable explosion of the internet and therefore the creation of online indexes, this issue has practically been wiped out. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that use of the Internet for hobbies has grown exponentially, and 24 percent of respondents went on-line to research family history or genealogy [8]. GenWeb is an example of a loosely organized group of genealogists who independently select vital records, index them, and publish the indexes online. There is no quality control, true aggregation, or direct linking to the original. What you see is what you get: many separate online indexes, loosely organized under the USGenweb Project umbrella, available at Genealogists building family trees over the Internet through name indexing and vital records data collection projects has become a massive hobby since the introduction of these online indexes.  The Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU), as part of its effort to collect microfilm (and more recently, digitized) copies of vital records, developed an Internet Indexing System to manage work flow and provide robust tools for volunteers to carry out name indexing projects from the comfort of their homes [31]. The resulting data goes not only to the GSU’s cumulative database, but to each repository that owns the records for merging with its discovery system. This system varies from the work of the GenWeb in this important way. A commercial example of this is [10], which digitized and thoroughly indexed some of the U.S. Federal Census returns, adding value to a public record. The records themselves (or a microfilm thereof) are available for all to see at no cost at the National Archives and at many other repositories. But Ancestry charges for access to its database and with it, its digital images taken from the microfilm. The added values, those that make this worth paying for, are 1) the aggregation, 2) the indexes, and 3) the convenience of online access. They record dates and places of births, marriages, deaths, places of residence and other information, such as occupation, military service or church affiliation. Pedigree charts are used to record familial relations, and history sheets for supplementary information such as anecdotes, newspaper accounts, or other miscellaneous historical information. Every detail needs to be referred to the original source, invariably a primary or vital record, though sometimes secondary sources such as oral history, family bibles, published genealogies, and transcribed records.

2.1.2 Genealogy in Ireland

Information skills development and information exchange are key features of genealogy. When related activities such as membership in genealogical societies, family reunions, and research in libraries and archives are considered, the number of people engaged in genealogical activities is huge [11].

The Irish government has an official website,, ran by the Department for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The website contains a huge database of records, consisting of extremely old records such as the 1901 and 1911 Census. In September 2015, the website received a massive boost when over 2.5 million images of Irish births, deaths and marriage records from the General Register Office, making the website a goldmine for Irish genealogists [12]. Previously, in order to view these records, a person would need to put in an order and wait to hear back from the GRO. Now, all records are easily assessable for any person who wishes, at the click of a button.

2.1.3 Similar Software Already Available

After a lengthy search, including contacting some international genealogy developers, I can conclude that there does not currently exist any software similar to the one I am creating. Online, there are many family tree creators, record searchers, message boards, etc. however none of these can actually give a narrative of a person’s life. Thus, I think that my contribution after creating this application will be of a great benefit when released online.

2.2 Technical material

2.2.1 Sources

There are two types of sources used in genealogical research: primary and secondary. In this project, I will focus on the primary sources. Primary sources can be described as documents and records that were created during the time of the event in question, such as a birth, census, death, or marriage, happened. A person who had direct and personal first-hand knowledge of the event wrote these documents and records. Many of this documents can include vital record facts, such as certificates of births, deaths, or marriages, family bibles, military records, information, naturalization records, and more. Since these documents are said to be highly accurate, primary sources are preferred when obtaining and referencing genealogical information. For example, consider a primary source for your birth date is your birth certificate. In most instances, a birth certificate is prepared either on the day or within a few days of the actual event. This certificate is then signed by one or more witnesses to the birth making it a first-hand primary document. The quickness and inclusion of direct witness make the information within the record a reliable account of the event and therefore of more usefulness to a genealogist.

There are many Irish websites that contain digitalized primary sources [13].

2.2.2 Web Application Choice

Several considerations should be taken when choosing which language to use for building the web application:


When choosing a language, a person should take into account any language that they feel more comfortable with, from using beforehand, making it easier to develop further. As a Computer Science student, I have come in contact with a number of different programming languages so my choice ranges.


The performance of the language itself is the only one real concern that could cause an issue. Performance of how the language crosses with external technologies such as the file system or database is said to be extremely important and should not be looked over.


This is a very important one. You are more likely to find helpful documents online if you use a popular language. You are also more likely to find reference material and other help.

2.2.3 Mean Probability

The probability associated with each source fact will be in the range of 10 – 100%. Using the mean will calculate the overall probability for correctness. The mean value of a set of figures is calculated by summing the figures to find the total and then dividing by the number of figures in the set.

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