NOTE: This article is written by guest author Mark Lang in Australia. The article is copyright by the author and cannot be republished elsewhere without his permission.
A few weeks ago, Progeny Software Inc. of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, invited me to take a look at their updated product, World Place Advisor. Originally called Place Auditor, this became World Place Advisor 1.1 in an update, then in this version, is now a Universal Edition (WPA-ue).
Installation is via CD. Requirements for this program have been kept to a minimum, but it is advised that the minimum CPU is a Pentium 3 running at least at 300MHz with 64MB RAM (128MB recommended). If you are limited for space on your hard drive, you will need at least 75MB if accessing the database from the CD, or 182MB for a full installation. You will also need additional space for a geo-coded file from your genealogy data file.
This Universal Edition can read directly from nine different genealogy databases without the need to create a GEDCOM file. Those programs are (alphabetically), Ancestry Family Tree, Ancestral Quest, Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, Heritage Family Tree Deluxe, Legacy Family Tree, Personal Ancestral File, RootsMagic, and The Master Genealogist.
WPA-ue is just one tool to help aide family historians in their on-going projects. It can help determine geographic locations for further research, place name analysis, and a gazetteer of over 3.3 million locations in its database.
To begin the process is simply a matter of clicking the Open icon on the toolbar, or the "universal" Ctrl+O keyboard shortcut. The Open dialog filters for all the program files mentioned above, so it is easy to find your files. If you don't have any of the programs mentioned above, be thankful for the inclusion of Family Historian's data file structure, as it uses *.GED or GEDCOM. This will cover programs such as Brother's Keeper, Family Origins, Genbox, Generations, Heredis, Relatively Yours, and others amongst the many that are still available or in use.
WPA-ue opens with an empty Geo-Tree View. All this means is that the program opens to a blank screen, divided by roughly by a 60/40 real estate split. Once you import (Open) your file, WPA-ue then cross checks all the locations in your file against its database; this process is called geo-coding. Geo-Coding is the process of analysing your data to find the exact geographical location for each place name in your data file. When this process is finished, the results are displayed in the Geo-Tree View according to geographical location. This is like the structure found in Windows Explorer, where the top folder (or root directory) holds all the locations and is name appropriately "World". Below these are nodes for each specific country. Expanding these reveals states/territories, and expanding these reveals cities and towns.
Clicking on any one of the nodes then shows, on the right hand side of the screen, all individuals that partake in that location. As you move down the nodes, that list is re-written until you are on a town, where, under normal circumstances (unless there is a popular surname, or a large database), this list is somewhat smaller. You can sort the list by clicking the column header and then sort the names alphabetically (A-Z or Z-A), by event (A-Z or Z-A), and by Date (Increase and Decrease). Although it is possible to sort the Place field (A-Z or Z-A), this is most effective at the country or state level, where you are able to sort the various lower levels.
For each section/node in the Geo-Tree View, you will notice that there are some locations that are bolded to grab your attention. These places are identified as needing attention by you, the user, as they have been flagged (by preset conditions in the options) as possibly being an error. There are 8 errors types that WPA-ue will pick up: Misspelled, Ambiguous, Wrong Jurisdiction, Unknown Places, Incomplete, Non-Specific, Missing Commas, and Events Without A Place.
New to this version are several features: a spellcheck option; recognition of international Chapman Codes; long US county names are no longer truncated; an additional 20,000 townships have been added to the gazetteer of world place names; and place names in the UK can now be identified under England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Some of the US States do not have counties; therefore, the word 'county' is not longer appended to Alaskan census areas or boroughs, and Louisiana parishes are no longer reported as counties.
Probably the best function in this upgrade will be the map links. The geo-coded gazetteer is now quick-linked to current maps, using MapQuest.com. Using programs with these types of features usually leave me slightly apprehensive as I have tried other programs in the past, only to find my resulting target with a lot left to be desired; in other words, mapping features were not just one or two miles off base, but sometimes ten or twenty miles. So, I tried WPA-ue’s feature with a few, such as home city, even home suburb, and the results were 100% spot on target.
I cannot stress enough that the gazetteer has links to current maps only. As you go back in time in your research, you may also have to use other tools to help you locate places that are not current, such as AniMap or GenMap.
Whether I sort geographically or by error type, it makes you want to fix those errors in your database (don't we all). As I just mentioned, I enjoyed the accuracy of the map links in the gazetteer. World Place Advisor - Universal Edition is available on CD-ROM only and costs $34.95 plus $6 shipping and handling. (All prices are in U.S. dollars.) It can be ordered on the Progeny web site, using their on-line ordering over a secured server.
About the Author
Mark Lang has authored over 60 genealogical program reviews since April 2000, has traced his wife's ancestry back to late 18th century Scotland. He has been interested in family history since 1991, is a member of his local family history group since it began in 1996, and was their webmaster for four years. He has a degree in computer science and is currently writing a book involving a genealogical program.
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