Blog article - 21 September 2016

Increasingly,  libraries and museums are being subjected to funding pressures and reductions, often causing digitisation projects to slow. At the same time, large genealogy data providers are bringing new cohorts of searchable data online, motivated more by profit than community wishes. Worse, they often don't know about the wealth of data held by small, local groups. Often, the most wished for information languishes in dingy spaces within small genealogy and history societies, inaccessible to almost everyone.

I think there is an opportunity here for us to tackle the task of bringing new information into the digital realm, either freely or at a moderate cost. Genealogy groups have access to volunteer labour, and have local records that can or have been digitised. I have created software within the Joomla framework that enables family historians to search local datasets. Currently the seach frontend works well, and it can be evaluated by requesting temporary password access (message me for more info).

My package in its current version needs an understanding of Joomla and SQL tables to be set up properly, and I am working on simplifying these tasks. The simplest way to create an SQL file is to prepare the data as an Excel spreadsheet, save as a csv file, and import to the MYSQL database.  Documentation and a range of projects to display other information usually held by family history societies is being developed. I am interested to hear how groups might influence my programming strategies. We do not need to compete with the large data providers, but we should create new ways to provide our family history community with new data, and new ways of accessing previously off-line data. I intend providing my Joomla code to non-profit groups at no cost, but welcome the opportunity to earn some income through collaboration.

Summary - Genealogists are seeing a worrying trend that libraries are losing funding for public digitisation projects, and that the large data companies have financial drivers that determine what digitisation projects they fund, often not what our community want. Local family history groups have an opportunity to gain recognition by publishing local information and datasets on the web, to be widely accessible. I have created a package within the Joomla framework that enables members or users to access new indexes, and it is currently available to evaluate. Message/Email me for access, and see my full blog article here.