Lifetime of places buildings etc

I saw this on a mailinglist today. Seems to be a good idea.
I know in gramps places can be part something else during a certain period. But can it do what is mentioned underneath?

Last night I asked the twitterverse, “what ONE thing would you change about the genealogy industry”.

Among the many responses there was one (from user Jan Murphy) that really stood out for me.

" I would create software that understands places and companies and churches and buildings have timelines, too. Not just people".

Jan is quite right. Places do have timelines. County borders change. House numbers are re-organised. Road names are swapped. Churches are re-built. Places are destroyed, demolished, re-invented.

For genealogists knowing the timeline of a place (be it a country, county, borough, district, road, or individual building) can be pretty darn crucial.

Was that font in that church the one that your ancestor was baptised in? Or has it been replaced at some point?

Is that house on google maps really the house your ancestor lived in - or was the road re-numbered at some point?

Why can’t I find the street my ancestors lived on… because it was demolished to make way for a main road ?

Why can’t I find this town in Surrey in the Surrey archives… because it used to be part of Hampshire ?

Exploring and creating a timeline for your places, even if it’s just recording notes as and when you discover details…is vital!

Thanks Jan for the reminder!

Take care


Currently, a spot on a map, ie. a building, can have a name change throughout time. Most notably, hospitals have gone through name changes. Using the Alternative name tab in the place record, you can give these names changes a span of time when these were true. Then based upon the date of the event, Gramps will follow the date path for the record giving that spot its correct name for that date. The alternative names could easily handle street name changes as well as house numbering. The challenge is learning of these changes so that they can be properly documented.

The same is true for the Enclosed by information to track any changes with county/state border changes. Using various record in the enclosed by tab, various hierarchies can be created so that based upon the event Gramps can follow a date path for the location’s full name.

There have been several threads here on setting up this information.

In Gramps 5.2 (not released) one of the goals is to have Events attached to Place records. This would allow the user to record those events special to the location

And interesting thing to note is that latitude & longitude coordinates have a lifetime too.

Although continental drift is usually small enough to be lost in the typical 16 ft radius of current typical smart phones, the Coordinate systems have evolved. The current Greenwich prime meridian has only been in use since 1851. (It had shifted 3 times for equipment upgrades since being established in 1721.) It slowly supplanted the Prime Meridian cities used by other Maritime nations.

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You could read this blog post from Tony Proctor about places as study objects like people - hierarchy, events, etc; Gramps V5.2 will complete these concepts:

Tony’s STEMMA data model is very well thought out and it would be nice to see Gramps extended with similar capabilities.

Adding Group has already been mentioned here before, although the term Sets was used. I know people have brought up being able to have sub-events of events before but really that is just looking for a way to group events.

I think adding Document or Content as a child of a Source provides the means for capturing and properly storing all or a subset of the information from a given Source. I really wish the Forms Gramplet stored data in that manner. I know Gramps grew out of the conclusion based Gedcom model but in my mind we really should have some way to reliably record and separate the source data and content from the conclusions we draw from it in a structured manner. By doing so we can then better classify the data and associate the relevant peices of data as Evidence with the final conclusion or conclusions they support. A Citation would naturally be associated with the Evidence.

Two other research subjects it would be nice for Gramps to support are Artifact for family heirlooms and Animal for family pets.

It would be nice if Researcher was not the singular owner of the database and we could add researchers and associate them with data or conclusions they may have contributed. I can see this being useful for Gramps.js It might be useful to have Agent as well for documenting DNA matches of interest. Actually the former probably is an instance of the later and the Agent would have a type.

Finally instead of keeping trees in separate databases I think adding the concept of a Tree to the data model itself would be useful. When creating an object you could choose if it was going to be global, and hence visible to any tree, or local to that tree only. In that sort of model your Place, Source and Repository objects, and maybe others, would typically be global in nature and shared across all the trees in your database. You could “copy” a tree to work out a new line, and if it is later disproven discard it. Here I am thinking along the lines of the copy on write technique used in virtual memory managers and of course storage subsystems for snapshots. You could also have the ability to fold different trees together, something similar to a git merge.

One closing thought. Gedcom has played an important role in the community for many years, there is no questioning that. But I think an argument could be made that it and the mindset it has instilled have held back the evolution of software in the field for two decades now. And one could argue the online providers are having much the same effect. True there are packages like Evidentia, Centurial and Clooz but in the big picture they have small user bases.


No it is not “just looking for a way to group events”.

Grouping and Main-/Sub-Events are two totally different things!

Main-/Sub-Events gives the possibility to record a main Event, relate objects like places, people, vessels, military units etc AND Sub-Events to that Main Event, it also hold it’s own properties and attributes, it’s own dates or periods, it’s own Notes etc. etc.
The Sub-Event can hold it’s own properties and attributes, and can in addition be the “controlling object” for when a Main Event starts or ends.

A group as you describe it is in reality only a collection/group with no other attributes or properties than the Group Name.

The rest of what you write I mostly agree with and I see a lot of great features, many of them I have tried to advocate for earlier.

Regarding Clooz, I think that software will get a larger userbase when the next version get released, the new version have a lot of great features for document based research, and it will evolve even more with more features for analyzing data etc., and maybe he even might support the Gramps XML or direct DB link when Gramps no longer use Pickled BLOBS in a future version.

I have sent him the the Gramps generated gedcom files, including exported files from the demo database, both versions of export, so he will at least implement read/write for those.
When he has released version 4, I will ask him if he could look at the xml and see if he can support sync with that.

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Think about a more abstract Group object.

A Group has a formation event, a dissolution event, members can join and leave at different times, the group has attributes that describe it, events that can happen to it, and events it can participate in.

When the members are people you are using it to model a Family, Household, or Organization. But what says members can only be people?

But it could be you are right and the two should be separate entities, I haven’t thought it through in that level of detail.

Thinking about it more, the act of joining a Group for a given subject is an Event as is the act of leaving. The membership of the group changes over time, so the Group itself has no list of members as that list is constructed from the participants at a point or over an interval in time.

So conceptually we’re talking about the same thing just the top level container is a legitimate subject in itself and I would argue calling it an event is a mistake. The group type would be an event for what you are describing, with other types being organization, household, etc.

I wrote a long answer explaining, but then I remembered what happened the last times I tried to join a discussion.

So let it be with this: -“No, the Main/Sub-Events I have advocated for earlier, differ from the type of Groups you draft here, and it is not “just a way to group events””.

Your opinion and thoughts on things are valuable, don’t think they are not.

Sometimes dicussions get heated because people are passionate about their points of view. I think the nature of conditioning makes it incredibly hard for any of us to set aside our perspective to see things other than the way we do.

Can you please drop me an email at cdhorn then @ then embarqmail a dot of course and com? I want to run some Zotero questions by you. Thanks!