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 href=http://www.phpgedview.net/>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 decendent
trees, but usually that's the end of that. PHPGedView has a nice
"hourglass" graph which is ancestry and decendents 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=http://www.graphviz.org/>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.