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Alvin Smith, my eldest brother, always had an interest in genealogy and family history. One of my earliest recollections is of Alvin, after questioning our grandmother, sketching out a rough family tree on a roll of yellow paper which showed our relationship to the Clarke ancestors. Over the years the roll of paper became a card index system and then in the last 3 decades technological progress allowed him to use a personal computer with the software program 'My Brothers Keeper' to manage and keep track of his rapidly expanding genealogy database. But Alvin always had a clear distinction between genealogy (the simple recording of basic facts about ancestors) and family history (the rich recollections by family members of events that shaped family development). So a better tool was brought to bear where he could better manage both genealogy and family history recollections and around 1994 he transferred his data to the software program, 'The Master Genealogist' (TMG).

While TMG was ideal for Alvin the researcher, it was less than ideal for other people if they wanted a clear and coherent story from the stored data. TMG provided a template driven reporting option whose effectiveness demanded a rigorous adherence to a format dictated by TMG. The difficulty of producing good reports was compounded by Alvin's own shorthand methods of recording the various events, memos, citations and sources that TMG allowed and those reports required considerable editing if they were to be read by a non researcher. Considerable detail had been recorded by Alvin, but it had to be teased out of the dusty corners of TMG before it was readily understandable.

After Alvin's death in 2011, I felt it important to preserve and continue Alvin's work for future generations and I had my own grandchildren in mind when I wondered whether the family data resource would still be available for study in 50 years time - and in what format. At least two issues needed to be immediately addressed if the data he had assembled was not to be forgotten and thrown on the scrap heap through lack of accessibility and interpretation. The first was to make it available to all interested persons and present it in an environment where people can add to the data and offer corrections and comments. The second was to archive Alvin's work so that future genealogists and family historians can access the original data in the original TMG format. A fundamental scientific tenant - Preserve the original data. Whether people will be able to run TMG on a computer in 50 years time is an interesting question that others must answer.

In an effort to address the first issue, I exported Alvin's data from TMG using the GEDCOM file structure and imported it into this web based application 'The Next Generation'. Using a GEDCOM transfer is not ideal and can result in data inconsistencies, but a careful comparison between the TMG and TNG based data sets showed that only a tiny fraction of the data required manual correction. The TNG web based software allows the expansion of the data base by including photos, documents and other media to make a richer presentation of family history and genealogy.

Vern Smith 2012

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