Saturday, March 18, 2006

Family Tree Graphing

Family tree

At various times, I've done some genealogical research about my family, with some, but limited success. I recently gave it a try again, to great effect. The tool PhpGedView is a nice PHP based genealogy database manager, though it requires a few too many clicks to do most things. Further, RootsWeb WorldConnect is an outstanding searchable database of people's posted Gedcom files. (Gedcom is the standard format for genealogical data) All this looking was actually inspired by seeing the WikiTree project, which is an interesting idea, with a mediocre to poor implementation and a number of somewhat deep flaws. WorldConnect accomplishes the goal of large shared genealogy much more effectively, even if that's imperfect as well.

In any case, I've managed to trace back to the 16th century for parts of my family and back to the 14th century for parts of my wife's family. Very cool. The three big issues there seem to be with genealogy tools are that all the UIs are mediocre at best, GEDCOM merging tools are weak and annoying to use at best and the kinds of family graphs you can generate are surprisingly minimal. On the graphing issue, everything provides ancestry trees and descendent trees, but usually that's the end of that. PHPGedView has a nice "hourglass" graph which is ancestry and descendents of one individual glued together. What I wanted was a graph that included everyone. So, I wrote a ruby script to parse out GEDCOM files and generate href=>dot input file, and used that to generate the graph. It works. In addition to the entirely illegible version at right, there is a large version of my family tree where I'm the red one. The squares are people and the black circles are marriages. The resultant graph is nice.

So, if your last name (or that of your ancestors) is Gray, Lounsbury, Mentzer, Robe, Wilhelm or Stafford, we might be traceably related. Of course, probably not.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Flora (Arlington, MA) and The Publick House (Sturbridge, MA )

Last month, we visited Old Sturbridge Village, and on the
recommendation of a colleague, had dinner at The Publick
. It was a very good meal, with nice ambiance, good service
and very good food. I had a unusual but very good tomato consomme as
an appetizer that stood out. The variety of breads provided with the
meal was also a very nice touch. For each dish, I've probably had
something similar and a little better somewhere else, but never as
consistently high quality dishes, and we had a very large meal,
sampling many things. Overall, highly recommended.

Earlier this month, Boston had its first winter href=>restaurant week, and we
tried Flora, in Arlington.
They even had a goat cheese souffle on their special menu, which I had
been craving. It was good, though pales in comparison to the souffle
I had at Maison Robert years ago. The food was all quite good and I
would certainly go there again though I'm not in any immediate rush.