Technical Information about the site


Site Construction

The basic site has been put together using various HTML editors, latterly I have used an old copy of HoTMetaL Pro, simply because it came free with a magazine and has a good site manager with it. The actual family pages are generated using GenoPro - I have a separate database for each "family" and I use this to generate each families pages. This means that all the pages of a "family" are updated at the same time, the home page for the families contains a JavaScript routine that displays an update date (like the one at the bottom of this page). The date is actually the date I uploaded the family to my ISP and this date applies to all pages within that family.

The graphical family trees are PDF (Portable Document Format) files, I have to generate these by hand, "printing" the tree from GenoPro to a printer driver that generates the PDF file. Occasionally you may find that the tree is out of synch with the rest of the database, this could happen if I have added someone, and regenerated the HTML pages but not re-built the PDF. If you spot a problem please let me know - contact details are on the "contact me " page.

GenoPro

When I started researching my family history I used a piece of shareware called Kith and Kin. While it collated the information I wasn't too happy with the graphical presentation. I have used PAF5 from LDS (FamilySearch.org) and this has comprehensive data handling capabilities, but no ability to view large family trees. Eventually I found GenoPro and find it is a good compromise. On the downside the database has few fields which means that a lot of information has to be entered in the comments field (which is why my pages have a lot of information clustered together). It also means that when importing data from GEDCOM downloads chunks of information become "lost". In the main this means that if a person has a christening date but not a birth date in the GEDCOM download I cannot see the christening date in GenoPro, place of birth information is also hidden.

Looking at GenoPro 2 it seems that the database side is being "beefed-up" somewhat with many more fields available, however that won't solve my problem as all my data is in the old format and updating it will take a lot of editing. I like the ability to generate SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) family trees, with hyperlinks back to the data, but I'm not happy that the SVG route will allow many users to view the site easily. Also for me it would mean re-working the custom skins I have developed for each of the families and doing this using XML rather than HTML and a custom scripting language which I am just mastering.

CSS

The early version of the site was a mishmash of colour and typefaces. So I decided to give it all a clean look (a Corporate Style so much favoured by big business). The easiest way was to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and after a lot of tweaking I got things looking the way I liked. Because the family pages are generated from the GenoPro database I only needed to add the CSS link once to the customised skins and re-generate the pages to get the whole site updated.

Clever Stuff

I have tried to keep it all as simple as possible and not use any browser-specific tricks, graphics or fancy animations. About the only exception is the bit of JavaScript that shows the page update date. I have now added a page counter to the site so that I get some idea how busy or quiet things are. After a lot of trial and error trying to get PERL scripts working I found out about PHP; these run on the server and don't need any special browser add-ons. There are quite a few scripts out there that can be downloaded - the first one I chose I couldn't get to work (I still don't know why) and then I discovered the one I'm using at the present - from EP-Dev.com. It took me only a day to get it up and running and it seems just what I wanted, I can access weekly stats and similar stuff - the basic info is now displayed on the main page sidebar. I only count hits on the main page, so if you bookmark one of the family pages and go direct there, not only will you miss any "Latest" announcements, but I'll not be able to count your visit. Just for fun I have added a favicon.ico file for the site - it displays the little icon in the browser address bar and bookmark links.

Originally the way that Genopro generated web pages included a ONLOAD redirection to the main page when the page was not displayed in a frame. This meant that anyone finding the page through an Internet search would be sent back to the Site home page, and wouldn't see the content they had searched for.   I removed this redirection but then the page was displayed in isolation.   I have now added a Javascript routine to each page which, if the page is displayed in isolation provides a link to the Home page, if the page is already in a frame then the link is not displayed.   I have included this routine in all pages that should be displayed within a frameset.

Site Search

Finding information deep in the family histories is difficult without a search facility and Google only checks my site occasionally.   Fueled by the success I had in getting a PHP script to work for the page hit counter I searched around the Web for a PHP site search engine.   The first one I came across has stubbornly refused to work, something to do with included files, I think.   It did look comprehensive but it relied on a database which needed to be manually re-indexed whenever a site update took place.   I then came across a more simple one which worked more or less right away.   Configuration has been mainly "tweaking" settings to get rid of duplicate results and a bit of customising messages.   Its advantage is that no re-indexing is needed - each search will trawl through the current documents.   It does only search the Family History pages themselves - not the supporting documents (like this one).   Comments on its usefulness are appreciated.
Robert Calvert