Thoughts of a Professional Amateur Genealogist

My name is Greg Lamberson, and I am an American amateur genealogist. My genealogical research has always revolved around my work schedule, and I typically go from periods of doing a great deal of research to having no opportunity to do research due to extensive travel, living overseas (try getting internet service in the Sinai Desert), working 90 hours a week or whatever my current project or position demands. As such, I have had several periods during which my research went untouched, and my revival of it involved an immediate generational software upgrade, an operating system change or another such massive disruption.

Right now, I'm concerned with the changes that are occurring in genealogical software (and ones that aren't in my own software). My main software vendor (Wholly Genes, Inc., maker of The Master Genealogist) doesn't offer the features I see other packages offering. This makes me wonder how long it wil be before I've got to endure a painful transfer process. I've always been interested in GEDCOM, so this proejct is a natural fit.

Some of the more general aspects of my genealogical research: One thig I often end up doing is tracking down land my ancestors owned in the US. Finding land in the US relies on two kinds of systems depending on where you're looking. The metes and bounds system was brought over from England and is still used in the east, whereas the rest of the country uses the town and range system. I think Thomas Jefferson helped establish town and range, but don't quote me. Anyway, town and range is basically a uniform grid system, whereas metes and bounds is more subjective and relies on what I would call dead reckoning. I would like to see these different legal systems used in the US be incorporated more into genealogy software, but otherwise it's probably just an area of personal interest.

As to the use of terms “genealogy” and “family history,” I consider them to be equivalents. Genealogy has one less syllable and is quicker to type, so I generally use genealogy. I'm sure others have different experiences.

My other activities have helped plant my feet firmly in the amateur category, and I certainly don't expect that to change in the near future. Perhaps in 10 or 20 years? Who knows? But for now, my concerns are far simpler than those of someone working on a genealogy project for clients or someone interested in publishing their work to a scholarly publication (though the subjects interest me from a technical point of view).


brianjd 2010-12-03T23:06:23-08:00
Of land and bounds
I have similar spurts of research coupled with planning too much for too little time.

When yo speak of the two systems, are you conerned about the legal descriptions? Or just entering in some key info on the land. The only thing important is really the legal description, and some are quite bizarre in the East. I've seen legal measurements in all manner of measure including paces (I think) and using temporary landmarks such as "the old oak" or "Speck's rock". The old oak is long gone and someone dynamited Speck's rock to bits long ago.

I have had to accommodate in my code the handling of the entry of legal descriptions. I came up with the following solution. A small text field for storing a condensed text string, and a 4000 character text box which allows copy paste operation.I chose 4000 because of a SQL limitation, and the clients felt 4000 was enough.
greglamberson 2010-12-03T23:18:25-08:00
I'm really referring to legal descriptions. No genealogy software I am aware of makes good accommodation for legal descriptions even though the legal descriptions are relatively easy to read and understand for all but the old colony states and some of Kentucky.

I don't have one on hand right now, but the legal description for a standard 80 acre plot in most of the US would be similar to:

The East half of the NE corner of the 16th section of the 5th township in Town 51 West Range 48 North of the 3rd Prime Meridian (that's wrong but it's close).

It's past my bedtime.