I've a need to set up a website for a bunch of cousins who (maybe) share a common ancestry but who all definitely descend from people with the same surname in the same small village around 1800 and want to pool efforts to research and display our ancestry. The website will be privately hosted with PHP and mySQL support.

There are a number of options for hosting a lineage-linked tree (Gramps, TNG) but neither of them seem well suited to showcasing the juicy stories (hellfire Baptist preachers, builders from one family who built houses for another in a town far from home, drunkards who regularly sent their daughters down to the pub of a pennyworth for beer or who avoided dying in a colliery disaster because they were drinking in the pub that day and rolled home long after their wife believed they were dead, wide boys who joined the army to avoid the police and ended up in India for 5 years, policeman who were dismissed the service for visiting a house of ill-repute...)

For clarity, these stories would be compiled using a variety of sources, rarely just oral testimony or family tradition. So for example, we have building deeds and census records and wills and probate records in a large town and census records and BMDs from a small village that demonstrate that one individual who set up as a builder in an industrial town far from home then built several houses for other migrants who arrived from the same home village. (And then left all his wealth to his sons, much to the disgust of his daughters). Or newspaper stories, letters to newspapers, census records, BMDs and references in diaries and journals (of non-relatives) that support an interesting narrative about the life and times of a Baptist preacher in late 18th/early 19th century Wales. The bare bones will be in the lineage-linked trees, but we want to publish more polished narratives that bring the trees to life. and set the people in their geographical and historical context.

What options can I consider to host myself that will allow:

  • Collaborative maintenance of (sourced) family trees
  • Publication and linking of stories about the individuals in the tree
  • Information about the history and geography of the 'original village' and the 'destination industrial town'

I've reviewed Publishing family tree online? and Creating and improving family tree online with help from relatives? but none of the answers address the 'story' or 'place' aspect.

Implementing and supporting the website can be a fairly technical activity, but updating the 'stories', 'place information' and 'lineage information' needs to be easy for non-technical people.

  • This doesn't answer your question but it might be of interest to you - this subject has been considered before and a scheme for how it might work was presented at: parallax-viewpoint.blogspot.com/2014/04/…. – ACProctor Apr 30 '14 at 15:19
  • After my blog-post, the I was contacted by the author of the following site: treelines.com. I haven't used it but it's worth investigating given your requirements. I suggested to its author that they add a link in a response to this question, but this doesn't appear to have happened -- hence my note here. – ACProctor May 13 '14 at 9:31

This to me sounds like an ideal use for a blog type of site in addition to your lineage based site.

You can install something like Wordpress in your hosting space and create posts (stories) in it about the individuals and then just edit your lineage based sites menu with an additional entry to the stories sub-site. A little more editing could provide a link from the individuals in the lineage site to their story in the Wordpress sub-site.

As you mention TNG there is a TNG plugin for Wordpress and so you could do this the other way round have the Wordpress install as your main site and serve TNG through the plugin for the lineage and all the other functionality that TNG provides.

I have never seen anyone make a review of "story" recording software for collaboration, so you are forging new frontier here.

But there are a good number of websites that are designed for story recording with a genealogical slant that are designed to be easy to use by the average person.

Try going to GenSoftReviews and search for "stories". When I just did that, I got a list of 31 programs and that number may change as time goes by. You'll have to ignore the ones where "histories" was found rather than "stories", but you'll have over 20 to try out.

Most of these are online, some are free, and most will do what you ask in various ways. Their user interfaces are mostly modern and easy to use. I have not personally checked out each one since I am not in need of such a program. So it will be up to you to investigate and see which one fits your needs best.

These "stories" are, in fact sources. Oral family history is a genealogical source, just the same as a government record.

The only difference is the quality and reliability of the data...

So, if your grandpa told you about what your great-grandpa got up to in Vegas, then that is a source. You can record the author of the source, the date it was created (no doubt many years after the date of the event), the transcript (as best you remember it), etc.

Any genealogy program should let you link this source to all the individuals who are mentioned in it, or participated in it.

Using sources (i.e. GEDCOM "SOUR" records) has the added feature that all your data is kept together in a consistent format that is portable and transferable. So, if better software comes along in the future, you'll be able to switch to it.

Similarly, you can add descriptions/histories of places using GEDCOM "NOTE" records, which can be linked to multiple individuals. Again, this keeps your data in an open, non-proprietory format.

Sticking to standard GEDCOM format, you can also add your own events (EVEN) and link these to multiple individuals using association (ASSO) records. This lets you add things such as an adventure in Las Vegas in a structured way, with dates, places, sources, notes, etc.

Disclaimer - I'm the owner and lead developer for the webtrees project.

  • I agree with you, but it depends on your software. Most programs don't use the ASSO tag and few export and import the custom events properly. – lkessler May 2 '14 at 15:20
  • Stories are not sources -- the people who provide them are sources. For genealogy purposes, stories may be information, which might yield evidence about events and attributes, but they also have significant value in their own right as 'microhistory' (to borrow a phrase from Tony Proctor -- see parallax-viewpoint.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/… for an excellent exploration of the issues inherent in the difference between your view and mine/Tony's. – user104 May 2 '14 at 16:55
  • @ColeValleyGirl - Stories don't have to be considered sources, but they can be, just as a book, or video can be a source. The person providing the story may be considered the author of the story, or the source of the story (sources can be nested). A story, or book, or video may be the source of a birth date, or a name or other relevant events such as the story itself. Sometimes, you don't know where the story came from, so you can't always attribute the fact back to a person, but you can always attribute it back to the story itself. – lkessler May 2 '14 at 18:47
  • @lkessler, A simple story might be amenable to that treatment but what about the complex story that is derives from a number of sources -- say, the life story of an individual? – user104 May 4 '14 at 16:11
  • @ColeValleyGirl Then even more so, the story is a source since it is a compiled work. The sources of the story can be documented. But the sources of the story may never have been looked at or verified. The tellers or compilers of the story may no longer be alive to ask again. The same story may have been written down differently multiple times. It's the specific story that must be referred to as the source in this case. – lkessler May 4 '14 at 17:38

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