Project promotion materials:

Software is available at:

Project Members:

Len Smith (Project Manager,

Sandra Silcot (Developer,

Matt Coller (Developer,

John Bass (Developer,

ANDS Contact:

Stefanie Kethers (

Project Status:


Founders and Survivors: Genealogical Connections

University of Melbourne

Project Description:

This project is part of a large research project examining the social, demographic and epidemiological history of the Tasmanian convicts, using a distinctive approach which melds genealogy, demography and prosopography. The convicts were a group of men and women who experienced extreme life stress. Some of them survived, some flourished and some succumbed. We want to understand what made the difference.

The experiences of the convicts in the system are recorded in a massive set of manuscript records held in the Tasmanian and British archives, supplemented by information added by volunteer family historians. To reconstruct the convicts’ lives, we need to collect from these records all the fragments of information about an individual and turn them into a synthetic biography. Family relationships are central to this reconstruction, and we needed robust software capable of documenting the genealogies of an entire population, as well as methods to identify individuals in different contexts.

A suitable open source genealogy package, Yggdrasil, had been developed by Leif Kristensen to describe the population of Telemark in Norway, but it needed substantial development to meet our requirements, both to encompass the great variety of sources we use, and to allow for the different research purposes to which the information will be put

We developed Yggdrasil to meet the requirements of two particular research domains – the Koori Health Research Database (KHRD) and Convicts and Diggers (C&D). We used a combination of
o improving Yggdrasil’s user interface with JavaScript libraries.
o extending PHP functionality as required.
o extending Yggdrasil’s database using new flexible features of PostgreSQL eg hstore and integrating existing XML databases.
We also integrate with Google Spreadsheets to provide flexible researcher-designed data capture

Our approach taken to data integration, which relies on unique record identifiers, has enabled dynamic integration and aggregation of data in accordance with a general lifecourse model. This has enabled complex aggregations to occur, eg blending of relational and XML sources and Google spreadsheets, but the essence of the approach is relatively simple and extendable. It can accommodate a wide variety of existing needs and evolve to meet new needs over time.

The provision of a multi-user web based shared database as a common repository that any user can see, access and update collectively, provides a sound foundation for ongoing development of the data archive and has opened exciting opportunities for leveraging and interfacing with broader NeCTAR funded work such as HuNI

The code is readily available. Parts of the database are made publicly available through the Founders and Survivors public website as agreed by the data custodians.

More information on the project can also be found at

Research Champion:

Prof. Rebecca Kippen, University of Melbourne.

Prof. Janet McCalman, University of Melbourne.

Policy Champion:

Gavan McCarthy, University of Melbourne.

Data Type:

Input Data:
Koori Health Research database. Tasmanian born diggers. Tasmanian births, deaths, marriages data 1838-1899. Various Tasmanian convict data from the Founders and Survivors project e.g. convict permissions to marry dataset.

Output Data:
1. A maintainable, ongoing, extensible Koori Heath Research prosopography database, and various researcher determined extractions to flat files for statistical analysis e.g. infant mortality statistics. 2. A maintainable, ongoing, extensible database of Tasmanian born WW1 diggers with their ancestors traced back to convicts, and various researcher determined extractions to flat files for statistical analysis.

High Level Software Functionality:

A more detailed description of the project and its technical subsystems and components to be developed is available here: