Why bother to use Forms for censuses?

Until now, I’ve been entering census data using events: specify the date & place, type basic info (e.g. “John 52 builder London, Mary wife 48 domestic duties Essex”, etc.) into the description, copy the EventID, and share with each other person listed. Not very structured, but it works.

Today I thought I’d bite the bullet and try the Forms gramplet, as that should at least make the ‘share to each person’ stage easier. So I entered data for one simple form (just 2 people). It shows up in each person’s list of events, as expected, with a single ID. But whereas at https://gramps-project.org/wiki/index.php/Form_Addons I see …

Using a Form doesn’t mean creating data that can only be accessed with the Form tool. You can forego using the Form Gramplet at any time but still see and edit the data that was entered.

… it took me ages to discover where I can see that data other than by going back into the People view, Forms tab underneath, double-click the source. After searching through Events, Sources, Citations, etc. and clicking through Attributes, Citations, References, etc. each time I saw the form/event listed (in vain), just now I’ve found I can also see it - or part of it - by editing an individual (I tend to work within Relationships rather than anywhere else), double-clicking the Census event, and then looking for Attributes in the top window (Reference information) not Attributes in the bottom bit (Shared information). That seems to be the only place.

But I can’t compare what’s been entered for 2+ people (trying to do so generates the error ‘Cannot edit this reference - already being edited’)… unless I go back to the gramplet (as above: People view, Forms tab underneath, double-click the source). Nor can I see basic info half as easily as I could before, when it was all in the event’s Description - and nor can I copy all the info at once (e.g. to paste into an email) - Ctrl-A or click-drag or Shift-Click etc. all fail.

So I’m tempted to go back to my primitive ‘type it all into the Description’ method. Am I missing something?

(Gramps 5.1.2, Win10)

I dont know anything about the Forms gramplet as I dont use it as I am afraid of how it works basically, but, your example event, I personally would not include the age, occupation and the location in the description of a single event.

Gramps calculates age based on Birth event date compared to event date. If sources of an event have conflictiong age info/dont agree with the calculation, I put that in a Note on the event. Birthplace is added to the event as a place.

Occupations I have only listed as their own Occupation events with dates and location if I have that.

Where a person have Residence, is again added as their own Residence events with date and place if I have that.

And Marriage is their own Marriage event (automatically generated when a family is created) with the info I have about that.

Understood, but actual events such as birth, occupation, residence, marriage are different from “birth recorded in census”, “occupation recorded in census”, “residence recorded in census”, “marriage recorded in census” and so on - they may often conflict with other information. I do record the others separately (with other evidence etc.) - the question is more how to record the census events (and the large number of pieces of information found within them, relating to different people / dates / places etc., as sources).

It would be nice if the form data were stored as a top level “Content” or “Document” style object and not all over in the objects that represent research conclusions. Sources would have a 1:M relation to Content, as in your example where a source may be a census and perhaps you have relatives found in several different regions in the census. Then all the related data would be together in one place and some views could be developed to navigate it in addition to having the extensible form templates to enter it. You would probably want to support both structured, form entered data as well as unstructured content.

In that sort of model you could identify various subjects in the content and correlate them with people or other subjects in your tree. Basically the persona concept except a little more abstract so the research subjects could be other things like a shared event (say military campaign), a family heirloom (say family bible), or other groupings of people like a household (perhaps your Grandfather was raised by an Aunt and Uncle), church or civic organization and so forth. Speaking of Groups they are another thing Gramps lacks at the moment that would be nice I think, as well as the nested Events mentioned elsewhere.

Anyway Citations could then be directly associated with the actual peice of information they reference to support a fact. You could better classify individual peices of information, as some are more reliable than other. The correlation process could then be something along the Evidence Explained approach taken in Evidentia, or maybe you do something different and model it a little differently after the Robert Charles Anderson approach with linkage bundles and dossiers, or maybe you support both.

Anyway just some thoughts…

All data is already in one place: the form.

I often reopen the data in the form on one screen while working on a census event for a person on the other. I can see at the same time person’s data and data in family context.

I then can dispatch census attributes I want to (not the census citation) for a person into its different events as birth event (i.e place and age) or profession event.

I prefer not to have citations of census in the birth or marriage event of the person. Census is declarative, I prefer to put citations in events when they are proofs of them, anything else like census declarations, witness age in a marriage, etc, i put them in attributes. They includes the citation too but they are less formal for proving the event in my point of view.

Hmm @PLegoux’s response helps me understand at least how to see entries for two people at once without both being only in the gramplet/form - but only one person’s data can be elsewhere (i.e. within the event’s non-shared reference information’s attributes).

I guess the Form approach is useful if people really need granular control of data (e.g. you want to filter on people whose job according to a census contains the word ‘domestic’ and exclude everyone else). But as I use census records (events) as a starting point to find out & record more about the people concerned, and want all that information in one place, this doesn’t meet my needs.

I nearly concluded I’d have to write my own gramplet to set up a front end (temporary form?) to enter the info (description), then select ‘targets’ for the sharing. But then it suddenly struck me: the clipboard allows this.

Problem solved! :grin:

Personally, if I had information in a cencius that isnt good enough for having own events or dont confirm other sources/events, I would just use Notes.
Might change in the future tho, how I do things isnt locked in an my tree isnt that big yet.

You are correct, you don’t cite every peice of information, only those that through evidence analysis support your conclusion through a proof argument. Most of the time people do much of that in their heads and do not think about or document it.

Today in Gramps if I want to document every possible birth date for a person that I found I would either keep them in a note, create a birth event for each one which gets messy fast, or actually create a separate person for each one which is even worse. None is ideal in my mind. This is because Gramps evolved from the lineage linked Gedcom model, so objects in Gramps are largely intended to represent your research conclusions.

What I suggest is that it would be best to separate all of the research data, the actual content found in the sources, from the actual conclusions. And to do so in a structured manner.

Then if I needed to look at the birth dates and locations I have found for a person I would have all of them at my fingertips for analysis. The source, source provenance and quality, time and place where the event was recorded, the informant, the recorder, other people present, the actual values recorded, and so forth. You can classify the data quality. This is what you need and want on a real evidence analysis report. Perhaps you conclude one source got the date right and place wrong, and two others the date wrong and the place right? Ideally you would cite the one for the date and the other one or two for the place. Then the actual birth event on the person itself would be the conclusion of the analysis, the result of the proof argument.

Programs like Evidentia, Centurial and Clooz are ahead of Gramps in regards to tryng to support such a evidence based research approach and serve as good prototypes to look at for the way forward I think.

Anyway these are just my thoughts about some of this stuff…

I remember someone last year, or maybe two years ago, have wrote on gramps mailing list about a new version of Form gramplet he/she want to code to do much more than the current version.

I don’t know nothing more about it, if its project have go forward or not. May be someone here can give you/us some news?

There are several PRs: #267 , #349 , #351

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I find it interesting that more of the historical census forms are becoming available as fillable PDF forms. And software is beginning to ease the transcription task.

Tools can already automatically recognize a standard form, map the scanned data to the blank form (to refactor the scanned image to be perfectly orthogonal), remove the pre-printed text, underlay a resolution-independent blank form and scroll to the scanned data as the transcriber advances through the form. (With the special instructions to the enumerator visible for that line/column.)

Some handwriting OCR tools actually make a transcription attempt automatically. Then a researcher can flip the view back & forth between the transcribed data on a clean form & raw scan. And the data is fully searchable.

Kinda feels like the tech to remaster Special Effects on the original Star Trek or the MyHeritage “Deep Nostalgia” colorizing & animating of photos.

It seems inevitable that Gramps will eventually be able to crosswalk the fillable PDF forms fields to Gramps Trees… just as our current forms do. But PDF forms can be much more elegant in layout.

And the Python libraries exist to read data from PDF forms & to push data out to re-populate them.

So it seems like this is excellent foundation work.

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After some discussion on the email list, I stopped using Forms. My issues were first that it will create a new event regardless of the whether that event already exists. So, for example, if I add all the data from the census form, every person will have an age and therefore a year of birth. The Form then creates a new birth event for everyone and those then have to get merged with the birth event I already had for them. The second issue was that some of the info gets stored in the event as Attributes and those attributes vary depending on which person you’re looking at the Event in. That person-event concept doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. In the thread I wrote this:

I think the problem is that Forms puts a bunch of info from a citation into the Event as attributes, so if you do merge these Events, then the attributes get merged and you can’t tell where they came from anymore.

The clipboard is a handy thing.

I guess I am a bit confused. I have been using Forms for census input quite a bit. And it does exactly what I want. I have even created a few forms that I needed. I also have created plug-ins to report on people missing a census to provide me a research/work list.

The Form creates a shared Census Event for each person. It does not create a Birth Event. It does not add any attributes to the person. I can attach an image of the census page(s) and the reference. This image is part of the Citation of the Census Event.

I added the Forms gramplet to the lower area so I can easily see what Census are completed and what are needed for an individual.

For me, it makes for an easy workflow - much less error-prone than manually entering for all of the people in the household.

I do not know what would happen if you merged Census Events. I would rather edit the Form input and let the Form manage the creation/edit of the Census Event. No need for a clipboard since all of the people included in the Form share the single Census event. Even the idea of merging Census Events doesnt make sense to me.

So I am not sure what are the issues.

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I agree with Gary, I like the workflow the Form gramplet offers, it’s 1 page to add all participants in the event instead of jumping all over the database adding everyone manually, it also offers a quick and easy transcription of a Census form which are notoriously difficult to read, if I had a complaint it’s that is a bit untidy and takes up unnecessary screen estate, I rewrote all the Scottish ones so they took up less screen space and made data entry quicker

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