About dowlingfamily.info / dowling.one-name.net Website

8 December 2021

This site generally uses slightly reduced contrast between backgrounds and text, which according to my research, makes it easier for people to read.  In particular people with dyslexia who can have great difficulty with high contrast.  Added to this was a reduction in contrast on the 'cards' on the Person Pages which were standard white and are now more creamy.


7 Feb 2020

The information on this site relates, for the mainpart, about my own surname. I have been involved in Dowling family history for over 30 years and running a website for maybe 23 years of that. I am not that technical and have a love/hate relationship with computers and software that never seem to live up to the hype.

The site, years ago, suffered a serious crash leading to website data loss and for years was only a remnant of its former self. Years ago the site held sections mostly divided by topics (Dowlings of the World, WW2, Fashion, Sport, Trivia, etc., etc.). Using the software at the time this became massive and too much work each time a new page was created for each new item. The upside of this was that I understood what I was doing! This not only incurred time costs but the site hosts complained about its traffic.

I embarked up swaping site hosts, several times. Along came 'Cascading Style Sheets' and now I couldn't work out which bit of a webpage was done by which bit of code. I was advised to use a 'content management' approach to site maintenance that was "simple and easy". It was neither simple nor easy and I do not understand the logic used to this day. With a change of site host this led to another catastrophic loss of the site. I was left with a few back-ups that, while they contained the data, were not able to be simply re-uploaded. I had many kind words of support and was pointed to an archives to rebuild the site. What seemed a solution still resulted in lost formatting and so much gobbledegook it was unusable with my skills. Keeping in mind that this was a part-time hobby and I wanted to connect Dowlings not write software code.

An attempt at rebuilding the hard way just ended with the site being neglected as the amount of previous pages was a veritable mountain and my ability to create a page with the new content management software made each page a trial.

Enter TNG 'The Next Generation of Genealogy' Sitebuilding software. By no means straighforward, it did nevertheless resolve a number of complexities in sitebuilding for me to make regenerating the site viable. TNG had a huge learning curve and was, again, not as simple as the TNG website states. After that long learning curve, thinking that certain problems were down to my poor skills I learned a year in that TNG either publishes private data OR, as an alternative to keeping facts private, refers to a deceased person as 'Living'. This may be fine for others but was not suitable for my use.

I sought help from the Guild of One-Name Studies and was recommended to try GedSite and that is what I use now. It still has a learning curve but, in my opinion, shorter than other approaches. It has many basic 'no frills' elements but mostly it seems more logical and, I think, I understand those 'Cascading Style Sheets' now!

For those who remember the old site, where there was enough information, 'topic' pages have been transferred to individual entries in the Dowling One Name Study. This was easier for most 'Dowlings of the World' pages but tricky for some trivia topics.

As I learn more about GedSite I hope more will be easier to find for you and maybe we can inject some lighter elements back in.


Primary Family History Program: Family Tree Maker 2019

Visit Family Tree Maker

Off-line program for storing all my family history information including the living, media, links and sources.  I have been using this since 1990 and find it simple but very comprehensive. 

I have tested other such programs and would say that none are perfect, all have learning curve and all do something the others don't do.  I have found some use so many windows for information that I would get into a right muddle clicking through them.

I use this off-line because, as one big company demonstrated many times with arbitrary policy changes, I could not trust anyone but me with my data.



Primary Repository: Find My Past
Visit Find My Past 

I use Find My Past to search for people in all their collections.  They have a very good number of collections and an excellent layout for searching and filtering.  Their data is easily transferable and logically presented.  FMP has a very small learning curve.  All the big repositories are expensive for what is, after all, our own information but FMP are comparatively reasonable.

I use a lot of other repositories and try hard to mostly focus on the free ones as, while limited to their own collection, they often have the very best search and filter for that database.  I have used Ancestry which, in my opinion, only has the advantage of size but with several errors and policy changes over the years I have found it difficult to justify using them.  I have used MyHeritage and liked it but they took their subscription without notice and when I complained they just refunded and closed the subscription in seconds.

I use and recommend Family Search as it is free and huge; but I do find it clunky to use, quirky to filter, laid out in a distracting way that emphasises data I am not interested in at that time.  It has probably one of the largest learning curves of repositories and is my search repository of last choice.

Source Work: Online Repository Assistant ORA version 1.27
Visit ORA

I am quite astounded as how invaluable I have found ORA!  It has shot to high on my list of most used software.

I use ORA to transfer the data I find on websites onto my family tree program (Family Tree Maker) and also into my spreadsheets used for checking progress.  Ora pick the available information on the webpage and (after my building a template) it puts the data in the right place with any additional words I want to add.  So, sources, citation, facts get added semi-automatically.  The end result is I have shaved off seconds on every entry amounting to huge time savings overall and increased the consistency and accuracy of the input.

ORA has a considerable learning curve and I do feel as if I am working 'under the hood' but the time spent learning the syntax and building templates for each site pays dividends later.  I remember Ancestry would transfer sources direct to Family Tree Maker years ago, and did so in a dreadful manner with inaccuracies but mostly with an entirely useless references to itself rather than the original source and, years on, I am still repairing bad or useless Ancestry source information.  With ORA, I control the transfer.

The links below are to technical pages for ORA users only, if that's not you these links are not for you! 

ORA Collection Report

ORA Template Library Report


Website Creation: GedSite 4
Visit GedSite

I use GedSite to take the GedCom file created by Family Tree Maker (containing family tree information) and convert it to the website you see here.  That sounds easy, and a basic website is easy with GedSite.  However as soon as you want 'more' the learning curve gets steeper.  I am very happy with the outcome and committed to GedSite as a sound program for the foreseeable future.

The underlying problems of doing what GedSite does are huge as website programming was not designed with family history in mind and family history programs not developed with website creation in mind.  So, it is a fantastic job of complexity of which as user I am shielded from most of it... but every now and then I have to look 'under the hood' and try to remember what I did months ago or find out something new.

My judgements are based on the experience of using Dreamweaver, WordPress and more, eventually I was buried in work maintaining a website as I had to duplicate all my activity to the website in a separate activity.  So I needed more automation in the process and I tried other programs including The Next Generation.  TNG was fine and pretty but I could not find out how, even with the writers support, to maintain rigorous privacy.  Again very prettily laid out TNG had some oddities which made uploading a chore every time I made the smallest change. 

Enter GedSite and, although utilitarian in its interface, it does what it says on the tin and Updating the website is a comparative breeze.  It has a deep capacity to huge amounts of things with the GedCom data and I am only scratching the surface.  It does not use any 'server-side' elements which, while this restricts how fancy your website can be, means you are unfettered by server-side quirks and variations which can cause failure when one swaps to another website host.

Additionally, I try to keep my site relatively basic for legacy reasons.  That is, when I die and someone takes over they can hopefully manage the GedSite file fairly easily. 


Word Processing:




Website Uploading (file transfer protocol client):