Saturday, February 27, 2010

CVGS - Doin' Things Right! - Ahnentafel Lists

The topic for the First Edition of the Carnival of Genealogical Societies is: Doin' Things Right! The instructions say to "Shine a spotlight on a specific program, project, or publication at a genealogical society and tell us why it worked."

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) has been in existence for over 20 years, and has collected about 150 five-generation pedigree charts that are in large notebooks stored in the society's file cabinet in the Chula Vista Civic Branch Library. Very few members know where they are, and even fewer look at them - ever!

In 2005, the Society decided to collect Ahnentafels (name lists) of the members and publish them on the society web page. A number of members ran their genealogy software programs, created an ahnentafel, and sent them to Randy Seaver and Shirley Becker to standardize the format. The edited files were then transferred to the Webmaster. Gary Brock had just signed on to be Webmaster, and he had a nifty indexing program called PICK that could take text and pick out names, then create an index that linked back to the place in the text.

Consequently, a Surname List that linked to each Ahnentafel was created. Here is the CVGS web page where surnames can be searched:

I clicked on the "A" letter, and the list of surnames starting with "A" is here:

I clicked on Johannes Able (1780-1831) - the third name down the list - and his entry in the Ahnentafel appears (top line of the page):

So who does this Ahnentafel belong to? By going to the top of the Ahnentafel web page, you see:


The top line of the Ahnentafel says "Ancestors of 10002 Carringer." The number 10002 is a code number on a master list of Ahnentafel submitters. In this case, Randy Seaver submitted this Ahnentafel of his mother's ancestry.

The really neat thing is that a search engine, like Google, will pick up the entries in these Ahnentafels. For instance, I Googled ["johannes able" "anna rau"] and the results came back:

As you can see, the third entry down the results list is "Ancestors of Carringer" and the link takes the searcher right to the place in the Ahnentafel list.

With the set of Ahnentafels, and the Surname list, CVGS members have their Ahnentafel information posted on the Internet so that other researchers with the same persons can find them in a search engine. It works great - almost everybody that submitted an Ahnentafel has made contact with another researcher over the six years the list has been online.

There is some online privacy too because we do not publishing the name of the submitter. If someone searches and finds a match, they can send an email to the society and the email is forwarded to the society member that created the Ahnentafel, and that society member can contact the person who sent the email. Works like a charm - both parties are happy to find each other!

Because all of the lists are in text format, the computer space required is minimal, and the search and find system works quickly.

The next challenge for the society is to expand the number of Ahnentafels available for searching. We are soliciting Ahnentafels from our members again. We will enter the five-generation charts into a software program and create an Ahnentafel list for each of them also.

In essence, the society has taken paper pedigree charts moldering in a hidden drawer where nobody can find them or read them, and turn the contents into an online database that is searchable by researchers worldwide, while maintaining the privacy of the submitter.

Why did this work? Because several board members had a vision of a workable system, the Webmaster had a great indexing program, and the members contributed their Ahnentafels in hope that researchers would contact them.


Elizabeth Thomas said...

Looks like a great idea to help researchers to find each other.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I think this is a great idea! My society allows us to submit only a few surnames and location of interest.

I quickly clicked in W looking for Wisner's. Not finding any, Whitney caught my eye and led me right back to you! LOL I have no ideas how many lines we're related on, I'll have to poke around when I have more time.

Kathryn Doyle said...

Thanks so much for the submission – and the idea. The California Genealogical Society has been discussing options for sharing member surnames and locations. We'll have to put this one in the hopper.