How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

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How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

Ralf M.
Hello all,

as the following text is quite long, I'll start with a summary:

I have a lot of documents, and often don't know how the persons
mentioned link up. I'd like gramps help me find that out.

I know how to enter concluded information into gramps, e.g. that John
Smith was born 1885 in Boston (birth certificate) and married 1910 in
New York (marriage certificate).
I even saw hints on how to document the reasoning leading to
conclusions, and how to enter details from different sources about one
person (such that the details of that person can be compared easily).

But I do *not* know how to enter information of different documents
independently (e.g. birth and marriage certificate) and *afterwards*
have gramps help me draw a conclusion, e.g. whether the John Smiths of
the birth and the marriage certificate are the same or different persons.
And that's what I would like to do:
1. Enter data of documents into gramps.
2. Use the entered data, within gramps, on screen, to come to
conclusions about who is who.
3. Consolidate details (gramps doing the routine work, I solving conflicts).

I examined two ideas how to do that in gramps (using person records for
evidence persons, using forms), but both didn't work out. One problem
was that it's very hard in gramps to display details of several
(unrelated) persons simultaneously.


In the rest of this email I'll
- describe shortly my set of documents and what I'd like to achieve,
- outline in more detail the three steps I mentioned above,
- ask my questions using more words than above,
- explain the two ideas I examined and why both didn't work for me,
comparing them in the end.


Currently I've got roughly 900 source documents: About 540 birth /
marriage / death records or certificates, about 290 population register
entries, and the rest a mixture of obituary notices, letters, photos of
tombstones and war memorials, notes of what relatives told me, excerpts
from books, a will, court decisions, etc.
The official records are basically structured documents, but often
contain additional remarks of widely varying content.
Of some of the people mentioned in the documents I know how they are
related to me. I am confident that many others are related somehow to
me. Some of the people mentioned in the documents won't be my relatives
at all.

I would like to turn the content of these documents into a gramps
database which I can generate various reports from.
For this traditionally I would have to study the documents, draw my
conclusions, and enter those into the database. To find out how
documents / the people link up I used to write the key data on slips of
paper and move those around on a big table, or create little boxes in a
graphics software, type the data into these boxes and move them around
the screen, or the like. And once I have drawn my conclusion I have to
type the data in once more, this time into gramps.
I don't like the idea of having to retype data over and over again. I'd
rather like to enter them once into gramps, then have gramps help me to
draw my conclusions and record those conclusions.
In other words: I'd like to use gramps not as a "dumb" database, but as
a tool to interactively work on the evidence data entered. The main
purpose is to save work and time compared to classical offline
conclusion drawing. (A secondary purpose is better traceability from
conclusion to source.)
I think at least some of these aspects have been discussed on this list
occasionally as keeping evidence and conclusion separated within gramps.


My idea is to use a three step procedure, which can be gone through
repeatedly:

Step 1 Data entry
Enter all relevant data of the documents as evidence data into gramps,
i.e. without having to draw conclusions at this point.
The data entry method should be efficient and error-preventing. An
example might be to enter all usual data of a common document type into
a form that somewhat resembles the document. Thus data entry is
straightforward and it's easy to compare the entered data with the
document for correctness and completeness.
It's OK if entering unusual remarks in common documents is more
complicated. The same with entering data from unstructured documents
like letters. But entering both kinds of unusual evidence data must be
possible.
On data entry the proper source citation should be applied to all data
entered from one document.

Step 2 Assign evidence persons to conclusion persons
I.e. come to a conclusion which persons mentioned in the documents refer
to the same real person and record the connection, creating the
conclusion person if it doesn't exist already.
It's easy to come to a conclusion about close relatives one knows a lot
about, but for persons beyond that it's more complicated:
I would like to filter the persons (evidence and conclusion together) by
name, dates, places etc. The filter result should be a list of persons
with basic data like name, time and place of birth and death etc.
After selecting the most likely persons from the filter result list it
should be possible to obtain in-depth data about the selected persons.
By in-depth data I mean something like what the relationship view shows,
amended by occupation and residence information (and possibly religion).
The in-depth data should be presented such that it can be compared
easily, i.e. the data of all selected persons are visible in parallel
and can be rearranged ("moving boxes around").
After selecting persons to be connected in the detail data, the
connection ought to be recorded e.g. by clicking a context menu entry.
In addition to the stepwise refinement outlined above a tool to find
similar evidence persons might be helpful, similar to the find duplicate
persons tool.
The whole step 2 is similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle:
At first you look for easily identifiable puzzle pieces like the edge
pieces and combine them to form the edge. This is similar to combining
close relatives one knows a lot about to a small tree.
Afterwards you sort the remaining pieces by superficial similarity (what
looks like sky, trees, ...). That is similar to filtering persons on
surname, place of birth or the like.
Finally you put similar pieces side by side to compare them in detail
and combine what fits, either connecting pieces to the edges or
combining them to a cluster that later can be placed in the picture.
This is similar to looking at in-depth data of multiple persons and
deciding how to either connect them to the growing tree or combine them
to a cluster of persons that later can be connected to the tree.

Step 3 Combine details of evidence persons and copy to conclusion person
During step 2 only persons were combined. Birth and death events,
occupations etc. were not consolidated yet. That has to happen in step 3.
As this is a lot of routine work I would like the software to help with
this. The idea is that the software makes suggestions and the user
either accepts them or overrides them based on his/her judgment.
Example birth event:
Lets assume three evidence birth events: "Between 1885-03-14 and
1886-03-13 (no place)"; "1885-11-06 in Bavaria"; "about 1885 in Munich".
The software should suggest "1885-11-06 in Munich" (provided there is a
place hierarchy in which Bavaria encloses Munich). If the last evidence
were "1875 in Munich" the software should provide no suggestion but
leave it to the user to resolve the conflict.
Example occupation events:
Lets assume 6 occupation events: "1860 student", "1870 civil engineer",
"1880 civil engineer", "1890 engineer", "1900 civil engineer", "1910
pensioner". The software might suggest to either copy all 6 events
separately or to combine 1870 and 1880 to "from 1870 to 1880 civil
engineer". The user might decide to only have the first and last
evidence event copied as is and combine the rest to "from 1870 to 1900
civil engineer".
During this step 3 the software should take care of proper source
reference(s).
There are various alternatives regarding the user interface for this
step 3. I don't care too much about that, though; I'm mainly interested
in the functionality as described above. (If I had a choice regarding
the user interface I would prefer one that is flexible and prevents errors.)

In steps 2 and 3 it would be nice if there were a way to document why a
conclusion was drawn. However, that is not my highest priority.

I would greatly appreciate if the software would allow for simple
handling of changed data.
Example: After going through steps 1 to 3 I notice that I misread a name
and mistyped a date. Now I would like to simply correct the evidence
data and have the software point me to the conclusions I have to check
because they depend on the corrected data.


Questions

How do I do steps 1 to 3 with gramps?
I'm not asking for a click-here-then-click-there answer, but am
interested in what features / tools / ... of gramps to use for the
steps. Also comments like "I do it this way and it works great for ...
but I noticed these drawbacks" are very welcome. As are remarks like
"Forget those 3 steps and do it like ...".

If what I would like to do can't be done with gramps today:
How about the near future (e.g. this year)? If I will be able to do
steps 1 to 3 in the future, is there work I can start with now (e.g.
data entry)?

If what I would like to do can't be done with gramps neither today nor
in the foreseeable future:
Is there other software that would let me do it?
(I'm not interested in public web services, I want to keep my data on a
local drive.)


Two ideas that didn't work out

Idea 1 was inspired by a remark Enno Borgsteede made sometime mid of
last year. I thought to remember he wrote that evidence about persons
could be stored in source persons etc. and that gramps had all the
database structures to do so. Searching my mailbox I only found a mail
dated 21. May 2015 which doesn't go quite that far, but at least my
somewhat erroneous memory inspired the following:

The general idea is to use the gramps persons database structure for
conclusion persons as well as for evidence persons. They are
distinguished only by an attribute, an id convention (IC1234 for
conclusion individual, IE1234 for evidence individual) or something
similar. Same with families, events and so on.
A conclusion person is linked to the evidence persons it's derived from
by an association of type "concluded from".

With that idea in mind I look at the three steps described earlier:

Step 1 Data entry
All data has to be entered using the usual gramps editors, i.e. many
editor windows need to be opened for every document. This is neither
efficient nor error-preventing (see GEPS 034).
A possible workaround might be to enter the data into a spreadsheet and
use CSV import. Unfortunately CSV import only supports a very limited
number of fields, and I'm not sure how much work it is to add further
fields (could I do that myself?).
An advantage of using the standard gramps editors is that arbitrarily
complex and exotic data can be entered, as well es data from
unstructured sources like letters. Even if there were a data entry
method for structured document data, unusual remarks or the like could
afterwards be added using the usual gramps editors.

Step 2 Assign evidence persons to conclusion persons
For filtering persons the standard filter gramplet can be used, which is
not exactly easy to use, but very powerful.
But I couldn't find a way to afterwards show details of multiple
persons: Neither the Relationship View nor the Charts View allow to show
multiple unrelated persons. Also gramplets seem to display data of one
selected person only.
Multiple Quick Views can be visible simultaneously, but I can open them
only one by one: If I select multiple persons in Person View and use the
context menu to display a Quick View, the Quick View opens only for the
first selected person, not for all.
A suitable Quick View with all details of a person is not available yet,
but according to the docs even I should be able to create one. However I
don't know whether Quick Views can be made such that one can select
(entries in) multiple Quick Views and create associations between the
persons.

Step 3 Combine details of evidence persons and copy to conclusion person
I didn't find any tool that does this or even comes close. Everything
has to be copied manually.
(I just came across GEPS 009. It discusses merging in context of import
/ export, but anything done there might be useful for merging details of
evidence persons to a single conclusion person.)

Pro:
* Uses standard gramps database structures
* Thus all gramps tools can be used
* Strict separation evidence / conclusion
* Data entry flexible

Con:
* Data entry inefficient, complex and error-prone
* No (easy) way to display detail data of several persons
* No solution for step 3
* Needs filter for reports etc. to suppress evidence people
* Evidence and conclusion not easily distinguishable in GUI
The last two items won't hinder initial use, but will be annoying in the
long run.

Summary:
No solution for step 1 and 3, thus not usable for me. I guess most
shortcomings could be remedied by addons or tools, but creating those is
beyond my capabilities.


Idea 2 is the Form Gramplet Nick Hall announced end of October last year.
On 1. October he wrote: "Ideally we should be able to store source
information separately from our conclusions." This is not completely the
case yet, but I take the quote as indication that it will be eventually.

The Form Gramplet allows data to be entered in forms. The form is
connected to a gramps event (thus a conclusion event). To enter a person
into a form one has to select (or create) a gramps person, thus forms
can only handle conclusion persons. All other data entered, the evidence
data, is stored as attributes of event refs (and the event).

With that in mind I look at the three steps described earlier:

Step 1 Data entry
Data of documents are entered into predefined forms.
Users can define forms. A form basically consists of sections, each
containing a person and fields for data about the person. Sections for a
family or a list of persons instead of a single person are possible.
There seem to be no restrictions for number of sections, number of
fields per section or field names.
All form fields are text only. Relationships between persons in the form
are defined by the form; there seems to be no mechanism for input fields
for relationships.
Entering data is easy for textual standard data of structured documents.
As the form and all entered data are visible it's easy to compare the
entered data with the document for correctness and completeness and
directly correct any errors. It's even possible to reopen a form and
edit the data previously entered.
But it's difficult to enter source remarks not anticipated by the author
of the form. As a counter measure forms might contain extra fields for
such data, like a "Remark" field per person. Structural information can
only be entered as textual description.
It's even worse for unstructured documents like letters. The only form I
can think of for unstructured documents contains one section for
multiple persons and a number of fields like "Remark1", "Remark2" and so
on for a fixed number of fields. That's not exactly comfortable.
As entered data are not stored as the usual gramps structures, the
gramps standard editors can not be used to enter additional information.
The only way would be to open an event ref and add attributes (using
arbitrary attribute names).
Data entered into a form are tied to a "real" gramps event. For census
data special census events are used, but the example birth certificate
form uses a birth event. Thus if there are two birth certificates for
one person, the person will get two birth events. (This can be avoided
by tying forms to documentation events only, not to personal events,
e.g. to a birth-certificate-issued event instead of a birth event.)

Step 2 Assign evidence persons to conclusion persons
As forms use "real" persons, i.e. conclusion persons, this has to be
done as part of step 1. That's not what I wanted, but maybe it's not
that bad: in some (many?) cases the conclusion may be obvious on data
entry, so I can use the correct conclusion person immediately. Otherwise
if I'm not sure whether John Smith mentioned in a document is John Smith
born 1895 or John Smith born 1888 (both already in my database) or
whether it's a third John Smith altogether, I can create a new person
"Smith ***, John", treat him as evidence person and wait till further
information comes up. Later I can change the person in the form to the
correct John Smith and delete Smith ***, John. The *** in the name
reminds me not to attach further information (events, ...) to the person
as the person is likely to be deleted later.
There is a problem though when looking for the right conclusion person
in the database: many data entered previously is not visible in the
person selection window. Examples: The birth date of a groom, given in
the marriage record, won't be shown; the birth date of a deceased
person, given in the death record, will not be shown; father and mother
of a child, given in a birth record, will not be shown as partners of
each other. All this is because the person selection window gathers the
data shown from the standard gramps structures (events etc.), but form
data are stored in a different place.
The same applies to the person view, thus filtering is difficult. And
like for idea 1, I couldn't find a way to show details of multiple persons.
To use the jigsaw puzzle analogy from above: When using forms, sorting
and combining the pieces takes place in a dim environment where you can
only discern a few details of the pieces.

Step 3 Combine details of evidence persons and copy to conclusion person
There doesn't seem to be any tool that does this or even comes close.
Everything has to be copied manually. However there is a gramplet
(Overview Gramplet) that shows a subset of evidence details of a person,
so you can draw your conclusions regarding these details without having
to collect all pieces of data from different windows. The gramplet can
probably be extended to show more details. Insofar forms are a bit
better than idea 1, but you still have to enter all conclusions manually.
Because form fields can be arbitrarily named it might be difficult to
impossible to implement a generic algorithm that semi-automatically
combines evidence details.

Pro:
* User-definable forms for entry of structured data
* Data entered in a form can be edited in that form any time later
* Actively developed

Con:
* Complicated to impossible to enter unstructured / extra data,
especially relations between persons
* Most entered data are not visible in person selection list, Person
View, ...
* No way to display detail data of several persons
* Separation evidence / conclusion only for some data (not persons)
* A little help, but no real solution for step 3

Summary:
Nice concept for step 1, i.e. entering data; unfortunately it only works
for completely structured data. The limited visibility of entered data
makes step 2 difficult, and no real solution for step 3. Thus not usable
for me.
I guess it might be difficult to create a generic semi-automatic tool
for step 3 because input fields can have arbitrary names.


Comparison:
If I had to choose between the two ideas solely based on the principle
of operation, I would prefer idea 1. Looking at other aspects, idea 2
has the huge benefit of someone already working on it with the prospect
of implementing a complete separation of evidence and conclusions. If in
the course of further development the support for unstructured sources
and the visibility of entered data were improved, I would gladly use
idea 2.
In general I'd rather use tools and methods that are mainstream gramps
and commonly used by the gramps community if it works good enough for
me, and not use exotic hand-made tools and methods that might break with
every gramps update even if the exotic tools are perfect for my tasks.


Regards,
Ralf M.

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Re: How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

Ron Johnson
On 02/27/2016 02:44 PM, Ralf M. wrote:

> Hello all,
>
> as the following text is quite long, I'll start with a summary:
>
> I have a lot of documents, and often don't know how the persons
> mentioned link up. I'd like gramps help me find that out.
>
> I know how to enter concluded information into gramps, e.g. that John
> Smith was born 1885 in Boston (birth certificate) and married 1910 in
> New York (marriage certificate).
> I even saw hints on how to document the reasoning leading to
> conclusions, and how to enter details from different sources about one
> person (such that the details of that person can be compared easily).
>
> But I do *not* know how to enter information of different documents
> independently (e.g. birth and marriage certificate) and *afterwards*
> have gramps help me draw a conclusion, e.g. whether the John Smiths of
> the birth and the marriage certificate are the same or different persons.

That's not Gramps' job.  (There's a Duplicate Person Finder, but it's for
helping to determine whether you've typed in or imported from GEDCOMs
someone twice or not.)

--
"I compare what the data tells me.  I don't do things by votes or authority."
Lawrence Krauss


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Re: How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

Philip Weiss


On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 3:28 PM, Ron Johnson <[hidden email]> wrote:
On 02/27/2016 02:44 PM, Ralf M. wrote:
> Hello all,
>
> as the following text is quite long, I'll start with a summary:
>
> I have a lot of documents, and often don't know how the persons
> mentioned link up. I'd like gramps help me find that out.
>
> I know how to enter concluded information into gramps, e.g. that John
> Smith was born 1885 in Boston (birth certificate) and married 1910 in
> New York (marriage certificate).
> I even saw hints on how to document the reasoning leading to
> conclusions, and how to enter details from different sources about one
> person (such that the details of that person can be compared easily).
>
> But I do *not* know how to enter information of different documents
> independently (e.g. birth and marriage certificate) and *afterwards*
> have gramps help me draw a conclusion, e.g. whether the John Smiths of
> the birth and the marriage certificate are the same or different persons.

That's not Gramps' job.  (There's a Duplicate Person Finder, but it's for
helping to determine whether you've typed in or imported from GEDCOMs
someone twice or not.)


You might be interested in Clooz or Evidentia, which start from the documents and lead to conclusions.  I don't think they'll do quite as much as you'd like for helping you decide if the John Smiths are the same or different persons.  But the workflow you are asking about is closer to their model than Gramps.

Phil.


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Re: How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

dangar46
In reply to this post by Ron Johnson
There are basically 2 different types of information we are seeing used in genealogy today.  Most of the software we use for genealogy are person/event driven, which is the way Gramps is.  You enter a fact, attach it to a person, and then attach sources and such to the fact.  The other way of doing it is source/document driven.  This what you are trying to do.  There are programs that can do what you want already, Evidentia and Clooz, they can used is addition to your current genealogy software. 

On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 6:28 PM, Ron Johnson <[hidden email]> wrote:
On 02/27/2016 02:44 PM, Ralf M. wrote:
> Hello all,
>
> as the following text is quite long, I'll start with a summary:
>
> I have a lot of documents, and often don't know how the persons
> mentioned link up. I'd like gramps help me find that out.
>
> I know how to enter concluded information into gramps, e.g. that John
> Smith was born 1885 in Boston (birth certificate) and married 1910 in
> New York (marriage certificate).
> I even saw hints on how to document the reasoning leading to
> conclusions, and how to enter details from different sources about one
> person (such that the details of that person can be compared easily).
>
> But I do *not* know how to enter information of different documents
> independently (e.g. birth and marriage certificate) and *afterwards*
> have gramps help me draw a conclusion, e.g. whether the John Smiths of
> the birth and the marriage certificate are the same or different persons.

That's not Gramps' job.  (There's a Duplicate Person Finder, but it's for
helping to determine whether you've typed in or imported from GEDCOMs
someone twice or not.)

--
"I compare what the data tells me.  I don't do things by votes or authority."
Lawrence Krauss


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Re: How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

Nick Hall
In reply to this post by Ralf M.
On 27/02/16 20:44, Ralf M. wrote:

> Comparison:
> If I had to choose between the two ideas solely based on the principle
> of operation, I would prefer idea 1. Looking at other aspects, idea 2
> has the huge benefit of someone already working on it with the prospect
> of implementing a complete separation of evidence and conclusions. If in
> the course of further development the support for unstructured sources
> and the visibility of entered data were improved, I would gladly use
> idea 2.
> In general I'd rather use tools and methods that are mainstream gramps
> and commonly used by the gramps community if it works good enough for
> me, and not use exotic hand-made tools and methods that might break with
> every gramps update even if the exotic tools are perfect for my tasks.
>

Idea 1 is basically a persona approach.  This will not work in Gramps.  
There is no mechanism to link an evidence person to a conclusion person
and view the consolidated result.

Idea 2 uses forms for data entry.  These store evidence as attributes in
the existing Gramps data model.  As you pointed out, this is a work in
progress.  I started out by providing a quick and easy way of recording
information in census records.

Information from unstructured sources can also be stored in attributes.  
I have an editor for this, but haven't made it public yet.

I also written some viewers which allow data to be presented in a more
useful way than the standard Gramps interface.  The event viewer shows a
time-line of all events for a person, including family events.  The
layout changes depending on the role of the participant.  All event and
event reference attributes are displayed, which is useful for forms.

I am currently investigating automatically creating birth, death,
residence and occupation events from the relevant attributes.  I would
also like to separate data entry from person selection.


Nick.


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Re: How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

Ron Johnson
In reply to this post by Ralf M.
On 02/28/2016 11:56 AM, Nick Hall wrote:
[snip]
> I also written some viewers which allow data to be presented in a more
> useful way than the standard Gramps interface.  The event viewer shows a
> time-line of all events for a person, including family events.  The
> layout changes depending on the role of the participant.  All event and
> event reference attributes are displayed, which is useful for forms.

That would be *quite* useful!

--
"I compare what the data tells me.  I don't do things by votes or authority."
Lawrence Krauss


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Re: How do I use gramps to come from evidence to conclusion?

Nick Hall
On 28/02/16 22:10, Ron Johnson wrote:
On 02/28/2016 11:56 AM, Nick Hall wrote:
[snip]
> I also written some viewers which allow data to be presented in a more
> useful way than the standard Gramps interface.  The event viewer shows a
> time-line of all events for a person, including family events.  The
> layout changes depending on the role of the participant.  All event and
> event reference attributes are displayed, which is useful for forms.
That would be *quite* useful!

Unfortunately I needed to customise Gramps.  They allow the user to navigate between people, events and places.

I'll investigate creating a single plugin to replace the relationships view.


Nick.


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