Software Used in this project

Several items of software are used in this project. This document is to answer questions about the software and its origins.

Some of the software used are standard packages and some are bespoke

Data entry cycle

The main form of data entry for this project is on a small laptop computer which runs DOS. This enables data entry to be performed during research, while at various locations, including libraries. I use the lowest common denominator, that is I do not assume the existance of windows or much machine memory.

The software selected for this is Brother's Keeper. The current version of Brother's Keeper is designed for windows, but a DOS only version is still available. I keep the versions of BK that I use on my server, but be warned that these may not be the latest:

After data entry I generate a GEDCOM file, and I find that the Windows version of BK performs a good job of this function.

I keep a version of the GEDCOM specification on this server, but again it is not the latest, no neccessarily the version that BK uses for down load.

The GED2HTML converter

The DOS generated GEDCOM is shipped to a unix server which host the web database. This is passed through a bespoke GED2HTML converter.

This converter is based upon the converter of Vic Abell of Perdue University Computer Centre, which in turn was based on the converter of Frode Kvam of Norway.

Converter evolution

The evolution of the converter started with a simple demonstrator program (by Frode Kvam) that took the basic elements of the gedcom file and manufactured plain html files from them. This made one file per person, which on a large genealogy create a significant number of files. On many systems the creation of large numbers of files causes difficulties for the file system. The software was an excellent demonstrator of the concept of using the Web to display and exchange genealogy information.

The next step was made by Vic Abell to utilise the cgi script facility of a web server to extract the desired record from a database. This method is a slight trade off of performance for file space. The gedcom is converted into a tractable database format which can be read quickly by the cgi scripts to prepare the necessary HTML page on the fly. Access to the desired record is made by a key which is the byte offset of the desired record in the database.

The problem with this approach is that as the data is updated the URL's for individual records become stale as the byte addressing will change. This caused a major rewrite of the converter to include the following features:

Limitations of the Software

The software has several limitations:

Future enhancements

Downloading the Software

If you need any help in understanding archive file formats or compression programs you should read the help text on dealing with compressed and archived files.

I keep a local copy of a DOS decompressor for unix compressed .Z files here, as well as the Gnu Zipper fopr .gz files.

Installation Instructions

The Software is available from here.

The Instructions given in the 00README file may be of some help, they are grossly out of date, and if you're anything but a perl and C hacker you'll probably be out of your depth!


Brian Tompsett
Department of Computer Science
University of Hull
Hull, UK, HU6 7RX
B.C.Tompsett@dcs.hull.ac.uk