February 2017

Welcome to our latest update of progress for the development of History Research Environment, HRE.

The HRE team has been very encouraged by the support we have received for the development of this ambitious Open Source project. Those who have asked to receive our newsletter now number 271 and we have over 30 volunteers and more than twice as many deeply-appreciated donors. We especially thank the RUG (Roots User Group) for their generous support.

Judging from correspondence with those who have been in contact with us, and email address extensions, the interest in HRE spans many different countries – many of which are not those with English as the native language. This is very heartening.

The success of any good project is largely due to it being correctly scoped so that the right tools and systems are able to be applied to the final Requirements document. In our case, as with other projects, this Requirements List is a live document but additions and deletions are done in a systematic and managed manner that is properly documented. This ensures that all detail is properly considered before the agreed scope is altered in any way. It is a time consuming process, but time well spent, for then the terrain over which we must travel is more precisely understood and the combined knowledge and experience of the team can direct HRE development more capably.

You will also note in reading the progress report below, that there is particular emphasis on the genealogical use of HRE – especially enabling onward use of data that is currently within TMG (The Master Genealogist). For those not familiar with the history, TMG is no longer supported. Many TMG users are eager for HRE to particularly focus on the ease of TMG data importation, and to incorporate core features that replicate those in TMG.

This has always been a primary area of focus for HRE but it has been apparent to many in diverse fields of endeavour that HRE has wider application. The ability to accurately map historical data in a way that enables cross-referencing with other data sets along a historical timeline is something required in many subject areas, and currently undertaken in cumbersome ways that could be vastly refined by use of HRE.

Given its origins, the decision was taken that HRE will first develop a version solely for Genealogical use. Once that is considered effective and operational, work can begin to develop application in other areas. Our ability to do so sooner is limited by resources and in no way reflects a lack of interest in these other applications. We are very excited by the wider needs and enthusiasm for adapting HRE versions to them, and had we the capacity we may have had the opportunity to concurrently apply the same focused approach to applications outside our core focus area.

If you know of anyone who is struggling with this same challenge in their discipline, there is always an interest from HRE to collaborate with teams working in a similar manner. Please in this case, direct them to us!

As many of you are aware, project creep beyond the agreed parameters is always a threat when one has an enthusiastic and passionate working team. Happily, our HRE professionals have suffered enough digression in other projects in their working life to be very aware of this threat. They have seen how it can derail progress and create unnecessary complexity, and they manage it accordingly. So, if you do request something from us and it is not forthcoming as soon as you would prefer, please understand this context. We do always try to explain our position clearly.

At the combined (NSW and ACT) TMG USER GROUPS Workshop Weekend (in Canberra, Fri 31 Mar to Sun 2 Apr), Robin Lamacraft and Don Ferguson will give a short presentation on the “Aims and Progress of the HRE project”.


HRE 0.1:
The initial stage that builds the infrastructure of the application. It includes operations on HRE Projects, Location Name Styles and Location Names with their screen displays. NOTE: This will be a single user version with all code in one computer but with replaceable components for later extensions for a multi-user client server configuration when required.

HRE 0.2:
Starts to build the HRE Persons, Human Genealogy and Import TMG plugins. This stage includes HRE Persons, Person Name Styles, Person Names and Flags with their screen displays. It commences the Import TMG plugin by importing TMG Person and Place data into HRE format.

HRE 0.3:
Adds HRE Events, Dates and Tasks with their screen displays. It also extends TMG importing to include the conversion of that TMG data into HRE format.

HRE 0.4:
Adds HRE Sources, Repositories and Citations with their screen displays. It also extends the TMG importing to include the conversion of that TMG data into HRE format.

HRE 0.5:
Adds HRE Flags, Notepads, Subsets, Filters, Images, External Files and Internal Texts (including DNA data) with their screen displays. It also extends the TMG importing to include the conversion of that TMG data into HRE format. This completes the TMG Importing modules, except for some possible conversion issues around sentence-based reporting that are deferred to v 0.7.

HRE 0.6:
Adds HRE Tabular Reports screen displays and output in a small choice of file formats. Person Reports will be added to the Person plugin. Reports based on Genealogy-specific concepts will be added to the Human Genealogy plugin.

HRE 0.7:
Adds HRE Sentenced-based Reports with screen displays and output in a small choice of file formats. Person Reports will be added to the Person plugin. Reports based on Genealogy-specific concepts will be added to the Human Genealogy plugin.

(1) The following definitions will be converted:
TMG tags, system and user-defined sentences, memos and flags, source types, person and place name styles

(2) The following definitions are not expected to be converted:
filters, report settings and screen layouts

There are some omitted TMG features like genealogical charts that will be added later

The initial stages of HRE implementation are under control of the CORE TEAM whose members are:

Robin Lamacraft (Adelaide, Australia) Instigator and architect of the HRE Project, user of TMG from 1993, Adelaide TMG User Group Leader 1998-2007, expert in Visual Chartform, 40+ years in software development, mainly in statistics and operations research in industrial settings, Chairman of Historical Research Environment Ltd (UK).

Don Ferguson (Melbourne, Australia). User of UFT (1998), then TMG (2001) and Second Site (2009). Engaged in IT in programming, software support, technical leadership and consulting for 40+ years. Active in local genealogy groups, TMG-Refugees site and various other forums as well as supporting HRE from the beginning, Secretary of Historical Research Environment Ltd (UK).

Michael Erichsen, lives near Copenhagen, Denmark. Have used TMG since 2008, publishing a Web site in Danish, using Second Site. Have a very broad 30+ years IT experience with coding, design, operations, architecture and consulting, using about 30 programming languages, spanning from small machines to some of the world’s largest commercial mainframe systems.

I’m Rosemary McKenzie and I live in Canberra.  I’ve been using TMG for more than 10 years and love the way you can customise the application, tag a person with any event and create additional relationships to the standard ones.  I am interested in the direction and structure HRE is proposing and would love to see it implemented.  I have a background in IT mainly database design and user interface, but also have experience in application testing and as a Team Leader.

N.N, Norway. TMG user since 2000. National language TMG user focusing on Norwegian language support in reports. Java and Android application programmer. Development of applications for genealogy database search and GUI presentation of search results.

We also recognise that that there are a number of highly skilled volunteers who for various reasons cannot contribute to coding, but who are willing to offer their skills in short bursts on specific aspects of development. This is the MENTOR TEAM, many of whom have deep knowledge of narrow technology aspects of the HRE Project.

November 2016

The launch of this HRE public website was very successful, particularly in raising the profile of the project to The Master Genealogist (TMG) community. As a result, 217 of you joined the Mailing List, with 17 new volunteers.

There has also been interest from many other disciplines beyond genealogy, in areas where the management of historical records and their relationships with other information is critical.


We greatly appreciate the financial donations and offers of help that have been made. The funds enable us to maintain the HRE company, the website and the wiki.


Many of you have offered to help in testing. To ensure the quality of the released product we will encourage you to participate once that time comes. It will be very difficult to debug all possibilities in such an interwoven application where each user has their own style of use, and your input will be invaluable.


We have found that the number of volunteers who have advanced technical/coding skills is limited, and this has required an adjustment in our implementation strategy. We have decided that a core product with minimal user functionality should be built first by a very small team. This is like the main trunk of a tree. Then, with proper specifications, additional volunteers can add twigs and leaves to expand that core into the full product.


It is a known reality of software development that estimates of effort are an inexact science, and we are no exception. We are not able to commit to any specific timescale at present. Any guess will be flawed by uncertainty, as we don’t have enough valid data to make a reasonable estimate. We are targeting the road ahead in three parts:

(1) Documenting and building the GUI screens

(2) Documenting and building the core modules for validating data entries

(3) Documenting and building the client-server linkage and the database manager

16 September 2016

Launch of the HRE project, including this website and our volunteer wiki.

Public announcement at the Boston TMG users’ meeting, 17 September.

August 2016

A detailed functional specification is being completed.  This includes details of:

  • The implementation architecture
  • The database schema
  • The principles of the GUI design
  • The strategy for importing external data into HRE (initially from TMG)

11 April 2016

Incorporation of our not-for-profit UK company History Research Environment Limited and appointment of the directors:

•    Chairperson: Robin Lamacraft (Adelaide, Australia) retired CSIRO consultant statistician and software engineer
•    Secretary: Don Ferguson (Melbourne, Australia) IT consultant
•    Treasurer: Elmar Toime (London, UK) ex CEO New Zealand Post, now consultant
•    Intellectual Property: Michael Maggs, (London, UK) retired IP lawyer, Wikimedian
•    Alliances: John Lucas (Boston, USA), retired, with corporate experience in services, software engineering, IT, finance and legal, most recently at HP.

September 2015

Initial discussions by Robin Lamacraft, the project’s initial founder and instigator, with a view to establishing a group to create an open source history and genealogy research platform.