Gauss' Children:About

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Background

This web site publishes material I inherited from my mother's aunt, Minna Gauss Reeves. The effort began in the mid to late 1990's with a static web site at RootsWeb, The Charles Henry Gauss Family papers. In the 2000's, I became interested in the software behind Wikipedia. I fiddled with it at work[1], setting up several MediaWiki sites.

I learned about the Semantic MediaWiki extension for MediaWiki and became fascinated. The Semantic Web is a concept and effort that assigns properties to web pages and other documents in a form that computers can understand and read, search for and bring together in an interesting form to answer questions. So this site has, in part, become my playground for experimenting with Semantic Web concepts.

Use of semantic properties has really proved a life-saver to me, as I have mostly worked alone, and keeping the many cross references updated would have been impossible to do by hand.

I think this site provides an interesting look at nineteeth and twentieth century Americana in the Midwest, as well as prototyping techniques that could be extended to other bodies of information.

Structure

Most of the pages on this wiki represent real world entities: people, places, documents and events. These entity pages have properties that correspond with the real-world objects they represent. For instance, a person has a birth date and location, possibly a death date and location, a father, a mother, one or more spouses, etc. The page representing that person has properties like "date of birth", "place of birth", "is child of", etc. And so, if you know the arcane secrets of the semantic wiki query language,[2] you can find out the children of, for instance, my great grandfather, Charles Henry Gauss:


On his page, you will find this information, plus a list of letters he has written and received, document and records he is mentioned in and any photos of him. All of this is predicated on someone having added the relevant properties to pages that mention him, of course, but it only needs to be done once...and the magic happens automatically.

For another example, you can click on his birth date, and see a list of events for that decade: 1840-1849.

I have had a great deal of pleasure reading old documents and developing this this web site to develop a context for them and to share them with other people who might be interested.



  1. I spent 32 years as a computer programmer.
  2. A query language is a specialized language for making a computer return information about data. This particular query language is well documented on the Semantic MediaWiki web site for those who are interested.
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