Category Archives: GenDetective

Second Steps with GenDetective

Last week, I wrote about my very first foray with GenDetective. I had a number of questions, particularly why the report said no media files were attached. I mentioned last week that Sandy, the tech support person asked that I share my GEDCOM so that they could see what was going on. I sent it off and received a fairly lengthy reply, which I will share below.

I used my 5x great grandfather, Anders Molin of Sweden, as the subject of the report.

I decided to run a second report on someone much more recent – my grandfather, Vernon Tarbox Adams, as he was born, lived and died in the U.S. Choosing him might remove some of the expected problems with GenDetective in terms of not having to read foreign alphabet letters or to deal with colonial American double dating methods.

Here is a screen shot of Vernon’s report. Again, I’ve cropped the bottom, which has my phone number on it, and I haven’t printed the second page of the report to protect the privacy of the living, as his children are listed there.

Vernon Tarbox Adams
GenDetective Report

I have to be honest here and say that this report concerns me more than the first report of Anders Molin? Why? I have complete dates and personal documentation, i.e. birth, marriage and death certificates, for my grandparents. Yet, this report give April 1899 as his birth date. That was taken from the 1900 census, which not only incorrectly lists his birth – he was born 3 May 1899 – it also lists him as his parents’ DAUGHTER. Yet, it appears that GenDetective bypassed the exact birth date that I entered in my software program and used census information.

It also says the 1910 and 1940 censuses are missing. That isn’t true, either, since I went back and looked in the program from which I created the GEDCOM. Those censuses are, indeed, both attached to him. I saved all the census images the same way – without using source citation boxes built into the software – so why are two of the five censuses not showing up in his file?

Lastly, his death date is given only as DEC 1968, which I am sure was taken from the Social Security Death Index. His exact date of death, 7 December 1968, is also entered in my software program. Again, GenDetective appears to have bypassed information that I entered by hand.

I’m a bit disappointed in this second report. I realize that computer programs only do what they are programmed to do and GenDetective seems to only accept information that has been sourced using software citation templates.

Sourcing information is of paramount importance in documenting family history, but since my method has been to source my data within the notes portion of the program, it doesn’t mesh well with GenDetective.

Here is Sandy’s reply to my questions:

1. Dates for the dual calendar — this is an issue that we have not found an “ideal” solution to.
2. Vernon Adams having the wrong birth date. — Look at Vernon and you will see he has 5 different BIRTH events.  GenDetective picks one birthdate but there is no way to “guarantee” which date is picked.  This happens in FTM as you merge records from Ancestry in they create multiple events with differing dates based on the way the FTM merge of events works.  At this point we do not have a solution to deal with the issue, and even if you were to remove the “extra” events from your people as you use the merge functionality you will continue to get “new duplicate events”.
3. Mangled Swedish locations.  I know that exporting your GEDCOM file from FTM UTF-8 seems like the best character support, but it doesn’t really work, in practice.  If you use wordpad.exe to open/browse your GEDCOM file that you sent me, search for Sweden.  The first several locations appear correct, but about the 5th or 7th location you will start seeing mangled characters in the location name.  GenDetective can only deal with what it is provided.  Try exporting your file as ANSI or ASCII character sets and see if you get better results. (Doing this is beyond my capabilities, but I fully understand the mangled Swedish place names. This isn’t really an issue for me.)
4. Media files in Research Progress report.  In order for media files to show associated with each event, the files must be attached to the individual events.  GenDetective picks up and recognizes your media files (I misunderstood and thought it wasn’t picking up any media files).  If you go to the Create Reports tab and select:
a.  Tell me about my family
b.  My documentation
c.  Pick any of the following reports: My multimedia summary OR My supporting docs OR My documentation inventory
You will see that GenDetective does know about and recognize your media files, but since they are not associated with specific events in your family tree it has no way of “knowing” which files are supporting documentation for each event.
5. Census records, lack of recognition.  — This is a combination of issues.  In FTM these events are recorded by residence vs census.  GenDetective has a function where it “recognizes FTM created the GEDCOM file” and makes a behind the scenes switch.  This is not happening automatically, which means I need to make a code change for the latest versions of FTM.  However, the GOOD NEWS is you can manually make the change, which will address the issue until you take a new update of GenDetective.

I think for now, I will step away from GenDetective. When I have some time to create a new family tree using software citation boxes and implement a couple of Sandy’s suggestions, I will take another look at this program.


My First Steps with GenDetective

Recently, I have purchased several genealogy software programs that don’t seem to have as wide an audience as some programs because two of them are a bit more specialized in their focus and the third is much more widely used in Europe.

NOTE: Any posts that I write talking about these programs should not to be considered as endorsements. No live links are being provided for them, nor is any pricing information included. Please do not consider my posts as a positive or negative recommendation of any kind. I am simply sharing some of my experiences with these programs as I learn how to use them.

The first program I will talk about is GenDetective, which is a software program that imports a GEDCOM, analyzes the information in it and then produces a recommendation report, I guess it would be called, to help guide future research.

To keep the focus on the programs instead of the ancestors, I will use my 5x great grandfather, Anders Molin, as the subject in each of my posts.

A super quick synopsis of Anders is that he was born in 1740 in Ystad, Skane, Sweden. His parents are Nils Molin and Helena Andersdotter. Anders married Sara Brita Krook in 1776 in Veberod, Skane, Sweden. They had four sons together, but only two survived to adulthood – Hans Nicholas (my line) and Johan Peter.

Anders Molin became my brick wall when I discovered that he and Sara divorced, or at the very least separated, about 1785. Anders appears on the 1785 and 1786 tax lists for Marstrand, Sweden, which is hundreds of miles away from where the family had been living. Sara went on to give birth to three more sons, noted as illegitimate, in 1786, 1791 and 1798. Sara died in Andrarum, Skane, Sweden in 1812. Her estate administration mentioned her sons, but the economic value was little.

Most Swedish vital records are not indexed so I am in the midst of reading probate records for 200+ probate courts in Sweden, hoping to locate Anders’ estate records. It is likely that his death would have triggered a probate review because he was a master mason, so had some social and economic status. I would think that his tools alone, as a master mason and a teacher, would have value.

Back to GenDetective – When I opened GenDetective, I chose Anders Molin as the subject of the report to be generated. I’ve cropped the bottom, which lists my name and phone number, and haven’t included a screen shot of the second page of the report, which only says that Anders died after 1786, probably in Sweden and again lists my contact information.

Here is what the report looks like:

Anders Molin
GenDetective Report

First, if you look closely at some of the place names, like Skåne County, they appear odd because the program apparently doesn’t recognize foreign alphabet letters. That isn’t a concern for me right now, but I did submit that as a suggestion for future versions of GenDetective.

Aside from the lettering, there are two other issues with this report that concern me. I have entered Anders’ birth date, which was 17 March 1740. When I first entered it in Family Tree Maker, which is what I used to generate the GEDCOM for GenDetective, I had to adjust the date to 1739/40 because it falls into that strange time period in U.S. colonial history when double dating was used. I wonder if that is why the box in the section above has no check mark to note the inclusion of a birth date?

It also doesn’t have the “occupation” or “religion” boxes checked. I know he was a master mason and I have that in my notes. I also know that he belonged to the standard Swedish Lutheran Church, but how do I get those facts to appear in this report? They obviously must have to be entered in Family Tree Maker, as custom facts.

My third concern is that it says there are no attached media sources for any of the people in this report. That isn’t true, as Anders alone has 15 images attached. I don’t know why they aren’t being seen by GenDetective.

You might also note that it says no sources are attached. That is true, as I don’t use source templates in Family Tree Maker. Instead, I cite my sources in my notes. It’s just personal preference on my part, I guess, and a throwback to the old days of bibliography pages at the back of school reports.

I’ve mentally noted several things:

1. To make full use of this program, using source templates in the original genealogy software program would be a good thing. The report would then show sources cited and might give me further direction.

2. What I call the second section of the report, the sections where the relationship is shown and where the ticked boxes are, seems to be the meat of the report. Items like occupation and religion need to be entered as custom facts in the original software program so GenDetective will produce a more complete report.

3. I contacted tech support for GenDetective to ask the above questions. Sandy replied and asked if I would share my GEDCOM so issues could be reviewed, which I gladly sent off. More on those results in a later post.

Aside from the missing media images and missing data in customized fields, this report indicates that my focus should be directed towards finding Anders’ death date and burial information, which is what I’m doing. I’m a very organized person, so I’m  not sure that creating this report added anything to my research plans for Anders.

Future posts (beginning next week) will talk about some of the general features in GenDetective and other ways the program can be used. Remember, I am not reviewing or recommending this program, I am sharing my limited experiences with it in the hopes of getting some reader feedback from you. Please leave comments if you use GenDetective.