22 October 2010

Where's My Brother?

     Tamura Jones has a great article about genealogy software and the way they present, or should I say fail to present, families. Everyone, especially software makers, should read this article and evaluate their own genealogy software. As stated in the article, "The problem with genealogy software based on the traditional nuclear family is not just that it fails to support other families, but also that it force-fits everything and everyone into its limited model of the world."

     Just about every genealogist has experienced this in their research, even if they haven't put it into so many words. Everyone has someone in their tree that has re-married with children involved, or never married but had children, or perhaps is in a same-sex relationship. How are these relationships presented in genealogy software? Usually in an incomplete way.

     When I look at myself in my genealogy software, Reunion, I often have one sibling: my sister. The problem is that I have a brother, Allen, as well. Technically, he's my half-brother, but I never use the word "half" unless I'm explaining to someone why we have different last names. In Reunion however, I often don't have a brother at all, when viewing my own information. And when I look at my brother in the program, my sister and I often don't exist. To explore this problem, I thought I'd evaluate the different views and reports in Reunion to see how far a simple, and extremely common, family situation like this is not accurately represented.

     In reunion, the default view is the family card. In this view, we are concentrating on a couple, as well as one generation above and below them. In this situation that would be my mom and dad. Above them, you can see four buttons, one for each of their parents. Below the couple you see buttons for their children. In this case, you see my sister and I, but you don't see my brother, because he is not a child of the exact same parents as I am. In order to see my brother, I need to navigate to the family card that shows my mom and her first husband.  I can do this easily, by utilizing the red arrows next to my mom's name. But again, this will be an incomplete view that won't show me or my sister. Nor does it show Allen's other half siblings from his father's second marriage.

     So, looking at the available reports, where can I see myself as well as my brother? I created the available reports in Reunion. When looking at each report, I created it in the best way to possibly display my full family.
  • Family Card for My Parents: No
  • Pedigree Chart for Myself (with siblings): No 
  • Relative Chart for Myself (with siblings): No
  • Relative Chart for My Mom (with siblings): Yes
  • Descendent Chart for My Parents: No
  • Person Sheet for My Mom: Yes
  • Family Group Sheets for My Parents: No
  • Register Report for My Mom: Yes
  • Family History Report for My Parents: No
  • Descendent Report for My Parents: No
     So, three reports and views in which my brother and I appear together and six in which we don't. One of the main problems with viewing myself and my brother in the same report is that many of the reports focus on my parents as a couple. With reports such as the Descendent Chart and Family Group Sheets, my parents are locked together.  In reports where my mom appears as an independent person, my brother and I both appear together. 

    Why can't I look at just the descendants of one person? It just doesn't make any sense! Many times in my family I have a person who married multiple times and had children with multiple spouses. I should be able to see all of the children at once. 

     I would love to see genealogy programs expand their report functions to better display these complete families.


Sarah Farr said...

Great critique! You have some very valid points, I didn't realize it was set up that way. I would find that very frustrating.

Ruby Craft said...

Unfortunately sometimes life gets complicated. I ran into this problem in another software program on facebook. I was trying to add my niece (your cousin) under her Dad who is remarried. It put her Step-Mother as her Mother even though I had her Mother listed also. There was no way to show it correctly, so I abandoned the project. I wonder how many other people become frustrated with this issue and give up.


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