The “Verein für Computergenealogie” – association for computer genealogy – short: CompGen

by Dr. Jesper Zedlitz, Computer Genealogy Association

Since March 2015 the “Verein für Computergenealogie” (association for computer genealogy – or short CompGen) is a member of ICARUS. In this article I would like to introduce the association and some of its projects.

With more than 3,700 members CompGen is the largest genealogical association in Germany. It was founded in 1989 and quickly gained popularity (and members) by taking chances on a then young technology, the internet. CompGen is a non-profit organization and is completely funded by member fees. As an advocate for open-access data, CompGen surely had a share in the fact that the genealogical market in Germany is different than in other countries. Under our ‚brand‘ we offer a variety of information infrastructure.

Several hundred genealogy- and history-related mailing-lists facilitate the communication between genealogist not only in Germany but word-wide. Some of those mailing-lists date back to 1995. There are both closed lists for associations and projects as well as open lists where anyone can participate. Most of the open lists also have a public archive to re-read old topics.

GEDBAS is our free online family tree with currently more than 17 million listed individuals. Genealogists can upload their research results as a GEDCOM file. The purpose of GEDBAS is both to establish contact between researchers and to provide backup and storage for research findings. Even some municipal archives use GEDBAS to publish indexes for their civil registry records.

Local heritage books (“Ortsfamilienbuch” or the older term “Ortssippenbuch”) are a special kind of secondary source in Germany. They contain information about the population of one village,  typically collected from several sources such as church registers. Traditionally these are printed books with only a few copies. CompGen offers an online database for local heritage books, making them accessible to a much wider audience.

The genealogical wiki GenWiki is an encyclopedia for genealogists written by genealogists. GenWiki now has more than 140,000 pages of genealogical knowledge. Like its “big sister” Wikipedia it is based on the principle of give-and-take. Over time, genealogists develop highly specialized and specific knowledge about their field of research. GenWiki allows them to preserve  this knowledge and share it with others.

Our digital library DigiBib collects relevant genealogical and local history books that are out of copyright. DigiBib makes these often difficult to find resources available to a large audience free of charge and ad-free.

Historical city directories are important sources for many fields of research—especially due to the lack of census data in Germany. That’s why we deal with this topic in a variety of ways: The GenWiki contains the probably largest bibliography for historical German city directories with almost 10,000 records. In addition, we try to obtain rare copies of city directories. We scan those books and put them into our DigiBib. But that is not all. We also extract the information contained in the city directories into a structured electronic form, making it available to research. So far many millions of structured entries have been generated.

Grabstein © Jesper Zedlitz

The tombstone project archives and preserves part of today’s funeral culture for future generations. From a cultural and historical point of view, the collection of tombstone images is quite significant; documentation makes it possible to view and compare changes in the style of grave stone monuments over time. Today’s tombstones are much simpler in design than in the past, often bearing only the family name and no additional personal data.

The historic geo information system GOV (“Geschichtliches Orts-Verzeichnis”) is the probably largest historic geo and administrative information system for central Europe. It was created to make managing location data easier and to provide high quality place information for everyone. Unique place identification is an essential tool for many fields of research. The GOV contains not only the geographical location of a place but also key properties such as the postal code, previous or foreign names, and—maybe most important—information about the changing historical administrative affiliation.

Our largest single-source project so far was the in-depth-indexing of the German WW1 casualty lists. This source comprises 31,000 newspaper-format pages displaying more than 8.5 million entries. For this task we developed a novel crowd-sourcing platform DES. The DES has an easy-to-use browser-based interface that heavily contributed to the motivation of the volunteers. With the help of approx. 700 volunteers we finished this enormous task within 32 month—on time for the WW1 centenary in August 2014. The completion sent positive waves through the German media.

Now, we also use the DES for several other sources, such as other casualty lists, historic city directories, civil registry records, church records, and many more. I will write about one especially interesting ongoing DES-project in detail in an upcoming blog-post.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert.