We have always had weird in-laws
March 27, 2009 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I've been tasked (by myself and others) with compiling an extensive history of my extended family on one side. More than a family tree, we're compiling stories, photos, everything we can gather about my weirdo relatives. What tools should I use to compile it?

I'm a computer geek / developer / cs major, so I'm very familiar with LaTeX, etc, and willing to deal with arcane systems, write code to make things work, etc. But I'd like to do the best practice route for whatever this is. At this stage (just combining data from multiple people), Google Docs might be the way to go, since all formatting will be lost / redone in whatever system I want to use. Is there something like LaTeX which gives you a bit of ability to make things meaningful (labels, footnotes, etc) and separate presentation from data, but possibly better-tuned for long english documents than Knuth-style math?

The final output will probably be a webpage & PDF, which leads me strongly towards LaTeX because of its great filters, but I'm just wary of moving to such a tricky tool when I might want to pass editorship onto another relative, or something like that, in the future?

So, any ideas from anyone who has done this before (and yeah, I'm kind of an open-source dork, so extra points for things that are free and cross-platform)

posted by tmcw to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to check out GenoPro. It is a genealogy software that allows you to put in pictures and narrative. I believe it can do pdf and powerpoint output.
posted by onhazier at 11:40 AM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: (Oh, sorry, forgot to mention that I use a Mac and Linux machine, almost never Windows., so something mac-compatible would be clutch)
posted by tmcw at 11:48 AM on March 27, 2009

You might want to look at geni.com, which has this functionality already, rather than writing something new...
posted by judith at 12:08 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Geni.com is fantastic, especially in the fact that it is online. This allows for other family members to participate and add their own data.

The only problem I've found with Geni is that there's no way to export all the information into a comprehensive format. You can import your data into other family tree software apps, but I can't figure out a way to print it all for archival purposes.
posted by kdern at 12:12 PM on March 27, 2009

geni.com is totally the way to go. What you lose in terms of final editorial control is overwhelmingly offset by ease of access on the web and ease of modification by other family members - especially when you consider that most family members don't actually know that much about the family tree outside of their own immediate branch.

Further, geni has a nifty flash interface that totally addresses the complexities of only showing part of a network. In other words, it's smart enough to only show your immediate branches, but it's also smart enough to show just your wife or husband's branch, or you 2nd cousin twice removed branch (which will be filled in, because someone on that side of the family will have taken the project and ran with it).

My family, for example, went from having nothing to a pretty complete and very informative family tree of 300+ people in the span of 2 weeks, with maybe only 4 people doing most of the work and phone calls/sit downs with elderly relatives. The people that turned me onto geni had 600+ and 1000+ networks.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but geni.com is literally the best social networking app there is. It's executed incredibly well against a problem that fits the technology perfectly.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:54 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I've been using Geni for the family tree portion, but what I'm compiling isn't quite a family tree, there's a lot of text involved, etc, and it definitely isn't going to be an online end, it'll be PDF, printed, etc.
posted by tmcw at 12:55 PM on March 27, 2009

I have GenoPro and I use Geni and Myheritage, but honestly? Ancestry.com was a revelation. It's heavily US-centric but they've just got so much information online that I not only documented the USA side of my family, but I really cleaned up the documentation of the UK side of my family. They have free monthly trials, but I decided to keep going after my month was up.

What works for me is:
1) Offline I use GenoPro. Good and flexible, but I wish there were a native Mac version.
2) Online I use Ancestry, with copies to Geni and MyHeritage to help relatives find me.
3) For online research I mainly use Ancestry.com. Other than that my main research resource has been familysearch.org because it has a lot of the UK parish registers transcribed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:04 AM on March 28, 2009

« Older Charcoal grilling on a Boston rooftop--legal?   |   More than a cold reading in hot California, please... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.