HRE newsletter, August 2019


We have a two-edged sword –

It has been difficult to attract appropriately skilled and motivated coding volunteers. We need MORE suitably skilled volunteers to help in the code development

The history of other open source projects reveals that the successful projects were all built initially by a very small closely knit group of dedicated volunteers working towards a very clearly defined aim.

Once the core of the application is stable then it becomes sensible to widen the size of the team.


YES, We are progressing, but at a slower pace than we would like

Recently we have refined a number of the database design aspects as we work on the implementation of HRE features.

Java code is being built to manage the operations on the database through a well defined set of Java classes (API) such that the database engine is independent of the Java code.

We now have over 9,000 lines of Java code supporting 25 windows of the user interface (GUI) under test. Many of these have been proof of concepts that can be used as the basis of creating other similar windows.

Like TMG there are many database tables that provide dictionaries of option values and their default. There are over 100 database tables that contain settings or templates, etc. At this point we have about 4GB of definition data loaded into the initial HRE database.

As soon as we complete an adequate sub-set of the settings and field defaults we will be able to work on the database actions and the display of user entered data. The initial target is the definition and use of TMG-like Tags and TMG-like Name Styles for Persons and for Locations and the simple display of that data.

We will use a similar database initial-loading process to convert the TMG US Sample project to a sample HRE project. This process will then be refined for the importing of any TMG project.


WELCOME to new HRE Board Members


In the last few months 3 members of the original HRE Board have, for quite different reasons, made it known that they would like to retire from the Board. Each has made considerable contributions to the creation and management of the project:

Retired Board Members:

  • John Lucas (USA), long time TMG User and retired employee of a number of US computer companies, who helped in the early project planning, but after moving house and for health reasons felt that he should pass his position to someone with more time. His role on the board was to question the expectations of others and to bring back reality. John still provides some Cloud space for HRE management.
  • Elmar Toime (UK), again a TMG user, as a consultant and board member of a number of companies spread around the globe, always found it difficult to join the Skype-based Board meetings as he was often in an airport or on a flight to the next location. In spite of these activities Elmar managed the financial and legal reporting aspects of the company.
  • Michael Maggs (UK), again a long term TMG user, a retired Intellectual Property Lawyer has some family issues that meant that he did not have the time to commit to HRE. Michael has acted, and will continue to act, as the maintainer of all the intellectual property agreements associated with volunteers and other corporate entities. Michael built the HRE website and will continue to maintain it.

New Board Members:

  • Terry Dansey (UK), is a long-standing TMG user. He has a background in IT and is heavily involved with one of the Livery Companies of London,whose archives hold historical items back to 1501. He is interested in HRE as a way to build a network of information that shows the interrelationships between objects rather than just a catalogue of each object. Terry has taken over the finance and reporting aspects of the HRE Company.
  • Bruce Fairhall (Australia), a long standing TMG user. He has been involved in the Sydney TMG Users Group for many years in a number of roles and in the past has been involved in the introduction of computers into New South Wales schools. In this role he had been involved in ensuring user documentation detail was appropriate for the user population.

The current HRE Board members thank John, Elmar and Michael for their important contributions to the HRE Project


  • LOAD the settings for Name Styles and create the ability to enter Person and Location Names
  • IMPORT Person and Location Names from a TMG project and be able to display/edit those names.


It is very difficult to find and keep suitably skilled volunteers. PLEASE RESPOND if you have Java programming skills and time to help.

HRE Newsletter, January 2019

Robin Lamacraft’s Europe and USA Trip

Robin Lamacraft portraitStop 1: Salinas, California – Laney McGlohon (Lead – Archive Spaces NFP project) 1 Day: Laney very interested in HRE and at that stage was keen to contribute. Later in my trip I received a message from Laney that for various reasons she wanted to opt out because of work commitments – I intend to keep in contact with her.

Stop 2: Tisvlde, Denmark – Michael Erichsen (IT Consultant – TMG User)2 Days: Michael and I spent 2 solid days in discussion and demonstration of what he had been working on. We got along very well. Michael was about to return to contract job on the Monday. Later that week, I got an email to say that he had fallen ill and it may take him some time to recover.

Stop 3: Olso, Norway – Nils Tolleshaug (retired IT communications engineer)
1.5 Days: Nils and I discussed the features of HRE generally. Nils had previously provided Michael with considerable help in designing and implementing the Client – Server communication demonstrated at the December 2018 RUG presentation. We discussed other use cases beyond that first design. I asked Nils to look into methods for recursive searches to find common ancestors, etc.

Stop 3: Winchester, UK – 4 weeks – Michael Maggs, Terry Dansey
(Staying with Paquita, my 1st cousin and first responder to queries on the HRE Website). I spent most of my time drafting documentation or answering HRE email. I also met with Terry Dansey of Coopers Livery which has a large archive back to the 1530’s. He is in the IT business and recognized the issues facing us to create HRE. Additionally, it was possible to have a discussion at Heathrow over lunch with Michael Maggs (HRE Board member) before I flew out to Washington.

Stop 4: Washington DC, USA – 2.5 days RUG Presentation and meetings
On Thurs and Friday, I continued on the preparation of the RUG presentation. I also met 3 volunteers who want to be coding for HRE development. More on them in the future once their roles are identified.

RUG presentation: There were about 20 attendees in the room and about another 25 listening from the Web. I explained that we have been constrained by lack of suitably skilled volunteers and the sudden loss of others for health reasons. I reminded them that TMG itself took about 7 years to become a released product. The second reminder to the audience was that many existing packages are dying as they are not commercially viable products. There are virtually no new applications coming to the market. But it will take a little longer for HRE to reach the first release.

The task ahead of us is breaking new ground – we are steadfast that we will get there, but it will take a little longer. All questions from the audience were already covered by features that we intend to include in HRE.


Volunteers Wanted ….


The HRE Board is looking for volunteers who have had experience in managing project development in the software industry.

It has become apparent that to streamline the development of HRE there needs to be a separate team that coordinates and reports on the progress to the HRE Board. This team would ideally be at least 3 persons, one of whom to be the senior manager. This way the load can be partitioned. The aim of this is strategy to remove some current workload from Robin Lamacraft so that he can concentrate on other technical issues.

If you are interested and have the time to commit to this task please go here
and send us a message. Please put “PROJECT MANAGER VOLUNTEER” at the start of the message.


The HRE Board is looking for several long time TMG Users to become part of a team that reviews these designs.

This team will be like editors who identify omissions, reordering of content and splitting of windows, etc. Where a change is suggested, it has to be justified with an example that shows the problem. These people should work together in a coordinated way. There are a large number of proposed Graphical User Interface (GUI) sketches already documented. Unfortunately not every desired GUI layout or action can be coded. [We don’t want to implement something that most other users would consider hard to use.]

If you are interested and have the time to commit to this task please go here
and send us a message. Please put “INTERFACE DESIGN CRIPTIC VOLUNTEER” at the start of the message.


The HRE Board is looking for several long experience and highly skilled Java GUI implementers who explain why a GUI concept is not possible to easily implement.

These volunteers would have two roles:

To act as an advisor to the  User Interface Design Team

To implement collections of windows related a particular HRE feature according to agreed common HRE implementation rules.

If you are interested and have the time to commit to this task please go here
and send us a message. Please put “INTERFACE IMPLEMENTER VOLUNTEER” at the start of the message.

Meet the Newsletter Team ….


Paquita LamacraftWhen you register yourself as an HRE newsletter subscriber the acknowledgement email will come Paquita Lamacraft.

Paquita is Robin Lamacraft’s cousin, lives near Southampton, in England and with a background in leading IT Transformation combined with a fascination with the history of places and periodssee, She is eager to see HRE become available to non-genealogy users for their diverse research needs. In 2018 she has published 2 quite different books, on business improvement ‘Shrapnel Free Explosive Growth’, and the other about travel ‘The Cuban Approach: The art of letting go’.


Tracey MilliganThe HRE Newsletter is composed by Tracey Milligan.

Tracey grew up in Woodland Hills, California.
He has been a TMG user since 1997. Since years before TMG, he had become his Family’s ‘de facto’ Family Historian.
He has studied computer science and Geographic Information Systems. Working for Alcatel for 16 years, he began there as Technical Support Engineer, then later as service & support administrator. He was an early – 1981 – IBM 5150 computer adopter, is an avid history buff , likes all things computer related and eagerly awaits the debut of HRE.

HRE newsletter, July 2018

HRE Database

At the end of April we locked down the design of the HRE database – that is, the design of all the database tables and how they all link together. We say ‘locked down’ somewhat tongue in cheek, as we’ve already had to modify one small area and can see that some other small changes are required. However, the bulk of the structure remains firmly in place.

In addition, the developers have put together a Database Tool which allows us to ‘look inside’ the database, make changes, fix errors and also enable the preloading of some of the initial tables, as required to create an initial ‘seed’ database.


Based on the insights gained from the database definition process, we have embarked on a process of updating the documentation to match the database design and also to add draft screen designs, action flows, error/warning messages and module dependencies to make the developer’s lives a bit easier. This is now largely complete for the first two phases of HRE development.

Meet our lead contributors

Michael Erichsen

Michael Erichsen portrait

Much of the development to date has been led by Michael Erichsen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Michael has over 35 years of computing experience, working for customers on 6 continents in areas like development, operations, systems programming, tools and methods support, technology advice, and solutions architecture using everything from assembler and COBOL over C to Java. He has about 20 years of Java experience and many years of Eclipse experience. He has always been deeply interested in history, and over the last fifteen years has had genealogy as a time-consuming hobby, using TMG and Second Site.

Laney McGlohon

Laney McGlohon portrait

We also welcome Laney McGlohon from California to the team

Laney is currently the Technical Lead for ArchivesSpace, an open-source software platform used by archivists to manage their institution’s collections. She has been writing software for over 35 years, starting out with assembly, C, COBOL, and FORTRAN and now, primarily, Ruby, JRuby, and Rails.  After a decade of developing simulations for missiles and radars for the defence industry, Laney returned to her library roots in 2007 and has been wrangling metadata and developing discovery systems for academic and cultural heritage institutions since then. Laney is also the family genealogist and has been actively researching her family since 2008.

Real Coding

Yes, it’s started! The development team have put together the first real screens of ‘HRE v0.1’ and are starting to flesh out the code behind them.

Meeting with TMG Users

Robin Lamacraft and Don Ferguson travelled to Sydney, Australia in late May to present a session on “A TMG User’s view of HRE”. There were many positive responses from long term serious TMG users, just wishing that they could migrate soon. The obvious comments were about the need for new reports and chart output to assist in DNA studies.

The Flying Architect

Robin Lamacraft portrait

To try and more closely co-ordinate and accelerate this most critical phase of development, HRE’s architect and designer (Robin Lamacraft) is intending to undertake a tour at his own expense to Europe and USA to have face-to face discussions with the development team, far-flung as it is, during the July-August period. We see this as essential to help breakdown some of the time zone delays and to keep code aligned to the HRE design as we put the initial building blocks in place.

Donor personal data

Retention and use by HRE of donors’ personal data


Statement of purpose

  1. Your personal data (ie name, electronic contact details and donation details) are retained for the purpose of maintaining our donor list in connection with the HRE software project. The legitimate interests of History Research Environment Limited (‘HRE’) in supporting the project, as well as ensuring that we can deal with any future legal or tax query relating to HRE, provides the legal basis for the processing of this data.


3.  The controller (the organisation responsible for your personal data) is History Research Environment Ltd, a UK company whose registered address is 71- 75 Shelton Street, London, WC2H 9JQ.

4.  HRE does not knowingly process the personal data of minors, and you should let us know immediately if you are below the age of 16 years.

5.  Your personal data will be held for six years after the date of your last donation to HRE, or longer if necessary following any legal or tax query.

6.  You retain the right of full access to your data, to require HRE to rectify any errors, and to object to any processing that you no longer agree with. All correspondence should be sent by email to

7.  Your personal data will be retained in confidence by HRE, and will not be used for any purpose other than those stated above. In addition to the board of HRE, personal data may be processed by a limited number of trusted volunteers, including HRE’s mailing list manager and its liaison & donor manager. Such trusted volunteers (who may be located outside the UK/EU, including in the US) have committed to handling all personal data in compliance with the GDPR and the UK Data Protection Act 2018. Personal data may also be held by the providers of HRE’s third-party platforms (which may also be US-based), including MailChimp, and  HRE’s understanding is that insofar as they store and process personal data on behalf of HRE those third-party providers are GDPR-compliant. You will understand that HRE, as a small non-profit organisation, has to rely on the integrity of its trusted volunteers and on third-party platforms to maintain the security and integrity of your personal data, and risk should be assessed accordingly.

8.  You have the right to lodge a complaint about the manner in which HRE is handling your personal data with the UK supervisory authority, namely the Information Commissioner’s Office (

7 June 2018

HRE newsletter, Dec 2017

HRE progress (with video and Q&As)

We were pleased to be invited in December to make a presentation on HRE progress to the ROOTS Users Group of Arlington Virginia (RUG). Our board member John Lucas presented in person, while Robin Lamacraft and Don Ferguson answered questions on the line from Australia. We were most encouraged by the interest not only from those in the room but from the large numbers of people who tried to sign in remotely – far more, unfortunately, than the live streaming software could handle.

The links below will take you to the video presentation, and to a page of related Q&As. Our video bandwidth is limited, so if you have problem playing the video please try again later.

Watch the video

Read the Q&As

Outreach, and field-specific plug-ins

The first version of HRE will be focused on genealogy, and in particular the need to provide a way forward for researchers who currently have data ‘stuck’ in the no-longer-supported commercial program The Master Genealogist (TMG). However, HRE is designed for a wide range of historical and cultural research needs, beyond genealogy, and we envisage making a range of plug-ins available for the particular needs of researchers in specific areas. The provision of these will depend upon researchers sharing their needs with us, and on the availability of volunteer developers who can work on these specific areas.

We have started initial discussions with potential researchers in fields outside genealogy, including areas of interest to anthropologists, museum curators, and company historians, and we welcome more input.  Do please get in touch if you would like to work with us to develop a field-specific plug-in.

Output to the web, and third-party programs

HRE will support a variety of electronic and paper report formats but early versions, at least, will not include a built-in website generator. We will however be providing the capability of outputting all data in a standard XML format, from where it can be read into an external website generator. We have discussed this with a commercial developer, and we are happy to liaise with any developer, commercial or otherwise, who would like to create software that could read in and make use of our XML output.

We have been asked many times whether HRE will support some sort of GEDCOM output. The intention is that it will do so, but because GEDCOM is extremely restricted in the type of data structures it can handle, any GEDCOM output would be severely limited. Most family historians who are happy to work within the limitations of GEDCOM are unlikely to need the power of HRE.