This week I discovered a very useful GEDCOM utility, written by Nils Meier. GenealogyJ is a viewer and editor for genealogy data. It works in Windows, Macintosh OS X, Linux, and Solaris operating systems. It will even work on a web server, allowing you to build a viewer program into your genealogy home page. I used the program this week on both Windows and Linux, and its operation was identical on both. Best of all, GenealogyJ is available free of charge.
GenealogyJ, often abbreviated as "GenJ," is designed to work with GEDCOM files. All modern genealogy programs are capable of creating and importing GEDCOM files. If you are unfamiliar with GEDCOM, you might first want to read my "GEDCOM Explained" article at http://eogn.typepad.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2004/11/gedcom_explaine.html as well as the explanation of GEDCOM found on the GenealogyJ web site at http://genj.sourceforge.net/help/en/frameset.html.
This utility is excellent for examining and modifying your own genealogy data. However, I think it would be extremely useful for examining GEDCOM data that you download from the web or receive in e-mail. After all, you want to make sure that the "foreign" data is accurate and of high quality before you import it into your own genealogy database. GenJ is perfect for that purpose.
GenJ will display data within a GEDCOM in multiple formats, including:
- Table View - this looks a lot like an Excel spreadsheet with rows and columns of data. Each row represents one person, and the columns are properties of each person (e.g. Name, Sex and Birth Date). You can scroll up and down, browsing the rows with the cursor-keys or the scroll-bar on the right. To sort the rows by a specific column, you simply click the appropriate column-header. A small marker will indicate the column and direction you chose.
- Tree View - a classic graphic representation of a family, with parents near the top of the screen, children and their spouses in mid-screen, and grandchildren near the bottom of the display. The user can then zoom in and out to show even more generations.
- Timeline View - Displays events stored in the GEDCOM file from left to right on a timeline. It starts at the earliest point in time of an event and reaches to the latest event. This view is an excellent method of finding data inconsistencies, such as erroneous dates.
- Edit View - This view allows the user modify the information within GenJ. Names, places, and dates can all be modified. All changes can then be saved by clicking on 'OK' at the bottom.
- Navigator View - GenJ offers several ways to navigate through your genealogical data. The Navigator View is a fast method of moving around a family tree.
- Report View - Select from several available reports. GenJ also provides the capability to write your own reports. However, some Java programming experience is required.
You can see sample screenshots of all the views described above at http://genj.sourceforge.net/page/screenshots/en
Like most genealogy programs, GenJ can be downloaded to your computer, installed, and then run as a freestanding operation. However, the program can also be used on a web page as a Java applet. You can upload a GEDCOM file to your personal web site and then also upload the GenealogyJ applet. Anyone visiting that page in the future will be able to view your data in multiple views directly from your web page. You can see a small example of this at http://genj.sourceforge.net/page/applet/en.
GenealogyJ is available in English, French and German. Author Nils Meier says that GenealogyJ can easily be translated into other languages, even by a non-programmer. The language data is completely separated from the program and is stored in text files. All that is required is a familiarity with the appropriate language and the ability to change text files. If you would like to create such a translation, please contact Nils.
GenealogyJ is an excellent utility for examining and even modifying GEDCOM files. It is written in Java, a modern and flexible language that works equally well in Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Solaris systems, both locally and on web pages. Best of all, the price is right: free.
You can find more about GenealogyJ at the program's web site at http://genj.sourceforge.net/.
A complete user's manual is available at http://genj.sourceforge.net/help/en/frameset.html. You might want to read those pages before diving in.