New Customize Records Feature

Posted February 26, 2005 2:47pm

Post feedback and problem reports here on the new Customize Records feature here. It's in working version "" or later.. scroll down to the "working versions" section of this page:

Also reference the "home page" for this enhancement, which includes a introduction/training video about what it is:

This will be formally released as part of Version 1.0.8

On 2005-02-26 7:54pm GenSmarts replied...


For a few days we're going to leave some debugging code in, which is Windows XP, 2000, and NT only... so won't work with Win/95 or Win/98 yet. After we get a few people using and know it's stable, we'll drop the debugging code and 95 and 98 users can join in.

On 2005-02-26 11:31pm KBH added...

Downloaded version and tried out the new customize records. Great for checking out that collection of miscellaneous genealogy indexes sitting on the shelf.

When will it be the customize records search be incorporated into the main search window?

Keep up the good work.


On 2005-02-26 11:43pm GenSmarts replied...

Incorporating it into the main window will be what phase 2 is about... what we plan on doing is converting the inventory we have currently into this new format, then providing a tool that allows you configure what things out of our inventory and your custom inventory you want to analyze against in the main window.

I would guess phase 2 will be ready some time this summer.

Phase 3 will be tools to better support sharing between users, and notification of updates and new inventories as they become available. Probably year end for that.


On 2005-02-27 10:49am GenSmarts replied... was just posted to

  • it now works for Win95 and 98

  • two bug fixes:

    • change directory now works
    • there was a sequence of events where you could select a state without a country... that's been fixed

On 2005-02-27 1:51pm KBH added...

Bug in

Customize records - when using the sugestion title template and using the variable gsSmartSurName the sample shows the variable name instead of the surname. This variable does work corectly on the Review tab. If you use change the variable name to gsSmartSurname (note the lowercase n) then it works correctly on the Suggestion Data tab but not on the review tab.


On 2005-02-28 12:02pm GenSmarts replied... was just posted to

  • added printing

  • three bug fixes:

1) fixed erroneous warning regarding selection of county

2) fixed bug reported in the post directly above this

3) fixed bug in "go to" record keeping program function

On 2005-03-02 2:06am pricejt75 added...

I've been looking forward to this feature. Nicely done.

I have noticed a couple of minor "bugs" running my first experiment of adding Ancestry's SDDI (it seems to be more up-to-date than RootsWeb).

First, the text in the Explanation box on the review tab contains the default/record-type suggestion title rather than the suggestion title specified on the Suggestion Data tab. For example, "Researching the USA Funeral Home Records makes sense because..." (depends on record type). Interestingly, the correct title is displayed directly about the Explanation box.

Second was mentioned above RE: the gsSmartSurName variable, but I had problems in the Actions tab (the variable isn't replaced, it's simply output as literal "gsSmartSurName".

Keep up the good work.

  • jeff

On 2005-03-05 6:05pm GenSmarts replied... was just posted to

  • fixed gsSmartSurname bug

  • added printing to Query tab & Kiosk mode

  • added support for Brother's Keeper

  • cosmetic changes to File...Open... and File...Open Wizard...

On 2005-03-10 10:52pm GenSmarts replied... was just posted to

Changes since were:

1) Fixed the DLL error introduced by 7.26

2) Made country parsing a bit more conservative, which should result in less "false positives" for country identification. Example... a place name of "Somewhere out east per Mildred" will no longer get resolved as PERU (PER is the abbreviation for PERU). Often times this would show up as strange immigration suggestions.

3) Added several more variabes, such as gsBirthYearIfKnown which is handy for form filling when you want a year in search criteria if it's known, but don't want it specified if it's been estimated

4) The "right click" menu on fields that take variable names now produces a "pick list" to make inserting variables easier (you don't have to type them).

On 2005-03-13 9:38am wvoigt added...

I like this feature. I was playing around with it, trying

to get it to work with some databases I have access to.

I am running version I have a couple of suggestions and observations.

1) Under the navigation tab, it always defaults to the same

directory. I like to keep my data on a different drive from

my programs. Everytime I restart, I have to re-enter this path.

Is there a way this can be saved or set somewhere as a preference

2) Under Actions, to "Run A Web Script", no matter what directory

I change to on the Navigation tab, it still seems to only pick up

the same gsScriptsDir that was the default.

3) Is there some documentation on the Web Script options. I'm still

struggling to get some to work. I can fill out the form, but when the submit happens, the data doesn't seem to go across. The source for the page I am summitting so includes this for submit:

<input type="submit" name="Search" value="Search Birth Index">

4) I am trying to submit to a database that has marriage and divorce

information. As such, it has been hard to fill in the right fields. They depend upon if the person is male or female. The current variables do well for surname, but I need first names as well (the form needs data in a surname first name format. So I have the following suggestions:

gsBrideFirstName First name of Bride if female, blank otherwise

gsGroomFirstName First name of Groom if male, blank otherwise

gsFemaleFirstName First name of female, blank otherwise

gsMaleFirstName first name of male, blank otherwise

gsRIN RIN in brackets if you've enabled that display option

Actually, the first two may be redundant if the 2nd two are implemented. Also, is it possible to actually get the spouse's name? So gsBrideXXXX always has the female info and gsGroomXXXX always has the male info instead of being blank?

  • Wendel

On 2005-03-13 11:38am GenSmarts replied...

1) "...always defaults to the same directory..." - It's in the GenSmarts.INI file, if you want to change it. Look in the FILES section.

2)"...gsScriptsDir..." - For now the scripts directory is fixed to be the same directory as the custom records repository default. If you change the INI file as per #1 above, that should change the value of gsScriptDir as well. We'll need to finish the next phase of work to see how best to manage the scripts.

3) "...documentation on the Web Script options..." - Not currently. This will likely get overhauled in the next phase as well, so we don't really want to spend time documenting something that we know will change. We simply exposed some of the internal mechanism we had for now. There's alot more capability than the one example shows, as you might expect. Post the URL of the site you're trying to interface with and we'll post a script as an example of how to do it.

4) "...additional variables..." - We'll try to get these added in an update we're doing later today. So look for later today at One thing we've learned about searches is that there's alot of power in leaving something unspecified... in other words, you want to provide enough info to get down to something you can manually go through quickly, but... every bit of specifics you add to a search increases the odds that you'll omit the record you're looking for because the specifics don't match. So... case in point... do you really need to specify first names? Wouldn't it be better to look at all marriages between a "Smith" and a "Jones" in a given time frame, and not take the chance that he was "Joe" in the records, and not "Joseph" as you have in your data? Rhetorical questions, but something to think about... and of course the strategy varies with the quantity of data and capabilities of each search engine.

On 2005-03-13 12:35pm wvoigt added...

1) GenSmarts.INI file. OK, I changed it here, verified I saved the file correctly, opened GenSmarts -- and the same thing. I go back to the GenSmarts.ini file and it has the default again. Repeated with the same effect. It looks like GenSmarts is hardcoding it into the ini file.

2) OK, I'm looking forward to the next phase. Are you planning on changing the scripts? Or just where they may be located?

3) "Post the URL of the site you're trying to interface with and we'll post a script as an example of how to do it." Sorry, it is behind my firewall right now and I can't open up yet -- I'm sure I have too many security holes. In part this may be my php script, that is why I was interested in the docs.

4) I'll look for I understand problems with very specific searches. I could even open it up to needing just the first name initial. But I would still need a way of distingishing between male/female groom/bride for the form. But you are right, this is tricky to balance too many matches verses not finding the right one.

Thanks for being so responsive.

  • Wendel

On 2005-03-13 1:05pm GenSmarts replied...

Yes, the scripts will probably change somewhat. Too soon to know how or too what extent.

If you want to mail the "end source" for the page that's behind your firewall, that's probably all we need to help. Get it with your browsers View Source/View Page Source option. Send it to

If the page is in frames, then that's likely what's causing you difficulty... you have to specify the target frame in the script as well. If that's the case, let us know and we'll post an example with frames.

On 2005-03-13 1:52pm GenSmarts replied... is up at

There was a bug in the INI file option of changing the default repository directory and that's fixed in this version.

On 2005-04-01 1:08pm sfgayle added...

Love the custom record feature. Like most, I eagerly anticipate future capabilities. Mentioned in an earlier reply:

3) "...documentation on the Web Script options..." - Not currently. This will likely get overhauled in the next phase as well, so we don't really want to spend time documenting something that we know will change. We simply exposed some of the internal mechanism we had for now. There's alot more capability than the one example shows, as you might expect. Post the URL of the site you're trying to interface with and we'll post a script as an example of how to do it.

I am new to scripting, but willing to dig in an learn. Any suggestions on where to go? I read the term CGI a lot. Is that the standard the GenSmarts will work with?

Thanks for your help.[:)]

On 2005-04-01 1:32pm GenSmarts replied...

No, CGI is a web server tool, though programs for it are sometimes referred to as scripts... scripting is somewhat a generic term... there are lots of things that are called scripts for different environments and different purposes... and most of them are not compatible with each other.

We'll likely either expand what we have now, which is our own simple design, or perhaps encorporate a Pascal based scripting language we've been experimenting with... or both - a simple approach for simple things and a more complicated solution for more complicated things.

On 2007-07-11 11:59am KeithT added...

I see the customize records feature has been in the works for a while (about 2.5 years). Any update on when we may see phase 2? Phase 1 was enough to wet our appetite, but really comes up short when compared to the rest of GenSmarts (and I don't mean that in a bad way).

I have a feeling that, once fully integrated into the Todo list, people will start sharing their inventories and script and this will really take off .

On 2007-07-11 1:06pm GenSmarts replied...

It's not in the short term plan (e.g. next 3 months)... beyond that it's in the mix for consideration with other things, so don't know how it will sort out yet. The vision hasn't changed, though... and when we get it done it will be ground breaking :-)

On 2007-08-18 2:17pm DaClyde added...

I know the Customize Records feature isn't fully ready for prime time, yet, but could we get some quick clarification on Web Script syntax?

Working from the example included with the program, I'm trying to build a search to work with the Texas Death Certificates available thru Here's what I've got:






"url" is pretty obvious, but what exactly goes in the "formwith" field? Is that the name of the search field on the specified website? How do you find that value, just digging through the page source? I can get the page to open, and the sumbit button is pressed, but I can't get anything to appear in the search box.

It seems to me that once some simple and obvious guidance is available for this feature, we average users could take a huge load off the programming folks by just posting up the Web Scripts we've gotten to work for various websites.

On 2007-08-19 1:29pm GenSmarts replied...

formwith is used to locate the form on the webpage that the input is to apply to, so it's typically something like the name of the first field you'll be inputting to. Yes, you'll need the source of the web page to understand how the page is put together. Obviously typos and even things like having the wrong case (upper vs. lower) will keep things from working.

As you probably realize, we don't support custom scripts. It works (it's the same mechanism we use) and we exposed it for folks who are self sufficient and have experience in things like scripting and web page construction.

On 2007-08-19 3:08pm DaClyde added...

Thanks for the response and also thanks for making this feature available. I'll keep hacking away at it until I can get it to work. If I'm successful, I'll post my results so someone else can try it.

On 2007-08-19 4:08pm DaClyde added...

Ok, here's the contents of the .gsc file I got to work for the Texas Death Certificates:



input=query;+gsFirstName +gsSmartSurName


This will search for an exact first & last name (using the SmartSurName, so women will be listed with their married name). It's not all that valuable to me, so far, as I've not been able to find a match in the 90,000+ records they've added so far, but the search seems to work. is a subscription site, but you can still search and see the search results without an account.

On 2007-12-04 2:31am rjdalton added...

This is a very cool feature.

I created this script for the NYC death index from





But I have to fill in a radio button to indicate if the last name "is exactly" "sounds like" or "wildcard"

How can I always check the "sounds like" button?

I tried input=kind;"sounds"

but that didn't work.

Here's the HTML coding for the radio button...

      &lt;td valign="top"&gt;Last Name &lt;/td&gt;
                        &lt;td&gt;&lt;input type="radio" name="kind" value="exact"&gt; is exactly &lt;/td&gt;
                        &lt;td&gt;&lt;input type="radio" name="kind" value="sounds"&gt; sounds like &lt;/td&gt;
                        &lt;td&gt;&lt;input type="radio" name="kind" value="wcb"&gt; wild card :&lt;br&gt;

On 2007-12-04 2:48am rjdalton added...

Once I've created a customized records setup in the sandbox, how do I get it to work in my regular to-do list.

On 2007-12-04 1:34pm GenSmarts replied...

The custom rules are only considered in the sandbox for now. We have some designs for how these custom suggestions would be merged, marked, maintained, tracked, etc. as a part of the master list, though I don't have an estimate as to when that enhancement will get implemented.

On 2008-02-26 11:37am rasamassen added...

I don't know much about this feature other than that it's "in development" and sweet. As I know you're still working on it, I want to let you know that I can't wait until it gets integrated with the main ToDo list or at least gets the ability to mark results with a research status. My question would be how are you planning on implementing an ability to determine whether or not the record has already been found and sourced, because this is one feature definitely missing in the sandbox, and I have numerous records coming up in some of my searches which I have already sourced, but have no way of keeping them from appearing in my sandbox results? Also, there hasn't been a reply to this thread in 2 months and I was wondering if there was an update on the status of developing this feature?

On 2008-02-26 7:02pm GenSmarts replied...

The objective would be to have custom suggestions be no different in the main To Do list, so that would include things like being sensitive to the presence of existing sources in the same way that existing suggestions are now.

I've learned that not much good comes from talking in public about features that aren't available yet, and that includes estimates of when they'll be finished. So I try not to do it anymore. The reality is that even I often don't know - as there are so many variables involved and so many things in process at any given time. Priorities always seem to have a way of shifting around and things get scoped up, down, or out.

  • Aaron

On 2008-04-28 1:59pm jmurphy added...

I think if handled properly, the 'Customize Records' feature could make GenSmarts a 'killer app' (must-have program).

Take a site like World Vital Records or Ancestry, which are constantly adding small datasets like parish records which relate to one town or one narrow point in time. Most GenSmarts users are not going to get very much use out of these, so it doesn't make sense for the GS crew to constantly churn the list of stuff GenSmarts knows about to keep up with all these tiny additions.

However, if a particular user needs that dataset, because there may be a lot of people in their file who might have hits from there, it can be added via 'Customize Records', and if advanced users could make scripts and the forum provided a place to exchange 'plug-ins' to add in these datasets or small sites, then users could customize GenSmarts to do exactly what they need, without gunking up the main program with lots of information about sites and databases not relevant to many.

So I encourage you to either:

1) step up your efforts to make the sandbox results integrated with the main program or

2) create a separate program which is entirely customizable so that the sandbox IS the main program.

GenSmarts is very useful as is, but if it included a research log and could be tweaked to fit each individual user, it would be a killer app.


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