This is just a quick alert and bulletin to something that is now getting some momentum, using a track of work being undertaken by Google in the sphere of making it easier to search structured data (read family history data) direct from source without having to manually re-enter it into Google Search engine

Screenshot is an extension that from Ancestry enables the selected ancestry record without re-keying to go and search the familysearch.orgs database for related records .

Some of this was being talked about at RootsTech (US Family History Show / exhibition) and you can see the a video interview with Google Guru for FH at RootsTech 2012 from Lousia aka GenealogyGems (Thanks to Louisa). We have added  it to our IT for Historians YouTube Play List. Lousia came along and met up with us on our stand at WDYTYA 2012 she has a wide and deep knowledge of the FH Marketplace and her content is always helpful and informative and always worth checking out.

It’s still early days with the underlying tech initiative for this stuff… Open Data, seamless transfer and if you have looked at the FH Search engine you can get the idea for the obvious FH application as a first step, get the structured data stored in a person’s record on an fh site and enable an automatic search without having to re-enter the search criteria. But more than tha,t get a better and more accurate result because of the structured search query parameters that Google can pick-up from the source database on which the person’s record is stored (Ancestry/Geni are just examples.)

Now the heads-up on this is that Geni and Ancestry have already had the foresight to jump onboard with Google and have implemented a couple of Google Extensions. They currently only work as Extensions (plugins)  Google’s Chrome Browser, which nicely integrates nicely with the Google apps tool-set.

  • Google are exploring this approach in a number of niches, it has commercial value to them, more accurate search, more accurate results, happy searchers targeted with even more precise ads, more profits….or maybe!
  • Another unconnected application  by example is for posting jobs available and conducting searches for matching candidates and vice versa.

We are conducting some tests with the schema and tools that are emerging (more of that in future posts.) Above is just a screenshot to give you an idea of the art of the possible and definitely worth taking a browse around Mocavo Search site and possibly registering for their free account.

You will find in IT for Family Historians and other Intriguing Resources some references to Open Data and what will be one of the major shifts we will all see and take part in over the next year or two, the easy access and transfer of data, so it becomes as easy as it is to access a web page document or file download.

In fact if you are interested don’t listen to us but a living part of history Tim Berners lee talking about open and linked data.

It’s about time, these more open approaches to data got going and that a lot of the art of the possible has been around for quite a while. It has been the reticence of the commercial interests and holders of the data both government and commercial that have thus far held back it’s application.

You can see where the difficulty lies, they have to fund the costs of getting the data as well as distributing it. It’s easy when as with the Ancestry extension it is just transferring search from Ancestry to FamilySearch when there is no commercial conflict. The test comes when it’s about making that data available across commercial platforms and applications.

  • The recent article by the head of the GRO in WDYTYA highlights some of those difficulties but some of the views and differences of approach between Scotland and England even (due to statutory differences – madness) with reference to historic passport application and registration data.
  • The article seems to completely ignore UK Government’s initiatives (see earlier posts)?
  • Both the record holders (archives original source) and the platform enablers (Ancestry, Geni,, FindMypast  et al), government departments and hey yes, us the customers need to find fair and equitable ways around this.
  • Possibly the recent BL (British Library) project to crowd source “georeferencing” a set of maps for public access was most successful and another wave is in the planning.

So hands-up folks for supporting Open Data, keep your eye out for helping with a bit of open source, open data team work! It will help break down some of the barriers, reduce costs and speed-up access to data.

Realistically in hard pressed economic times it maybe the only way new projects and open data initiatives can move forward, if we all help make some Open Data Archives start working…

Watch in the coming months for more developments in this area, we will keep you posted and urge all FH and wider history buffs enthusiasts, societies and all to get involved in projects across the net to help make this happen!




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