Start your family tree week

With Christmas less than a day away, and the DC Thomson Family History brands all promoting “Start your Family Tree Week”, we’ve been working really hard on the latest set of features for the tree, and earlier today I was really pleased to see them launched.

When we first released the tree, we started out with the basic and advanced edit form. To be honest the advanced edit form wasn’t anything to shout about, with only enough options to match the original small set that the old tree tool had. This included “full name”, “birth”, “death”, “marriage”, “occupation” and “nickname”. There were no type ahead features either. Not exactly what I’d call advanced.

A few weeks after that we released our first real “advanced” offering, although we soon realised it wasn’t terribly practical. This was what we called the “uber-edit” form, and it was a complete replacement for the advanced edit form. It highlighted 5 key facts, but allowed you to add up to 104 other fact types, including different name versions, personal facts and family facts. The facts varied in detail, split between description, date, place name and place detail. There was also the option to select one as preferred and have alternatives. Even though we added to this form a date type ahead (any form of date can be entered and an intelligent date parser will prompt for a recognised format to be selected), a place name type ahead (offering places from UK, US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa), and the ability to attach source information, we realised this was far from ideal. It’s downfall was that everything was editable at once, and saving got complicated, not just for the user, but technically as well.

While we considered revisions, we developed and released the Relations tab, with a read-only format as a standard view, and smaller editable selections in a modal. We liked the result of this, which makes the information clearer, and helps the user to focus on editing one thing at a time, and opted to redevelop the Facts and Events tab along the same lines.

profile-facts

The page shows all names first, starting with “Full name” and any alternatives for “Full name”, and then other name facts in alphabetic order. Then all personal facts in alphabetic order, grouped with the preferred version first and then any alternatives. There are options to edit each fact or delete it. The preferred full name fact cannot be deleted. All preferred facts appear in the timeline on the Overview tab. You can add multiple sources to each fact. Family facts, those related to the person and a spouse, and listed at the bottom, grouped by spouse and then facts alphabetically. Family facts appear on both profiles for the couple in question.

The Gender and Living status fields have been off this page and are now editable through the quick edit page only. The header section of the Profile pages was redesigned and includes an link to the quick edit option next to the person’s name. The header also shows the preferred occupation, birth date and place and death date and place. The year of birth and death are highlighted in the top right corner.

profile-header

We also moved the notes off the Fact and Events tab to their own tab. Again we’ve used the same formula as the Relations and Fact and Events tabs, in that we display the information in a clear read only format, and then allow each note to be edited on their own. We’ve also added a private flag to each note. This is a feature that will be very useful when sharing trees in the future. Anything private will NOT be visible when shared.

The other key feature added in this release was the new all Media page. Access this page via the new Media link in the pages drop-down.

all-media

This shows all media items attached or uploaded to the tree. Any media items loaded directly to a profile will also be shown here, but this allows media items to be attached to the tree without having to be attached to a person. However, on the Profile Media tab, you can now select to upload an item or select an existing item or items from this all media page. This lets you link one media item to many profiles.

I’m particularly pleased with today’s new feature list. The tool is really coming together and the simplicity and consistency of the layout hopefully helps user’s understand how features work and how to get the most out of them as quickly as possible.

Well, after a lot of hard work, we’re taking a short break to enjoy Christmas and some family time. As well as spending time getting back to our own family history research and tree building. We have a lot of exciting features coming up in the new year, and I am looking forward to writing about those as we present them.

Best wishes to everyone. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Phil

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Creating a family tree online

This blog is not about creating my family tree. This is about creating family tree software for everyone.

My name is Phil Moir, and until the start of 2013 I was the technical lead for Genes Reunited, one of the leading family history websites. I am extremely fortunate to have found myself in a position to work in an environment where I can indulge two of my personal passions, writing usable and useful software, and family history. My Aunt Moira introduced me to genealogy when I was in my late teens (a few years ago now) and ignited a long term interest.

One of the personal missions working on Genes was to make life easier for the general genealogist, but also make it useful for the expert. That’s still a mission I want to continue. But back in March I was asked to join the team responsible for delivering the “family tree” tool for the family history websites owned by DC Thomson Family History (formerly brightsolid), which includes the FindMyPast brands and Genes Reunited amongst others. Sine then I have been appointed technical lead for the Tree team, and I intend to continue the mission I had on Genes within the Family Tree team. That is, to make it usable and useful, for both beginner and expert alike. The seed has been planted and shoots have already appeared, having gone live on the FindMyPast International sites (.com/.ie/.com.au). The process will be one of evolution, and improvement and change will happen quickly and often.

This blog is my personal insight into the new Family Tree tool we are nurturing to full growth, highlighting new features as they become available and my own tips on how to get the very best out it when recording your own family history.