A tale of 20,500+
K/NIBB/S on Alan Jackson's Atari
In the beginning
The best thing
I ever did was to get married. The second
best was buying an STFM! Within a day
or two of acquiring my Atari back in 1989, I
created a graphic display using Neochrome to
fill a TV screen with colour coded boxes, showing
all ancestors of my daughters back to their
great, great, great grandparents - well as many as I had
then traced. Being computer illiterate,
I vividly remember my utter fascination at tentatively
substituting my graphic for one in the Silica
Shop's starter kit that came with the computer. The presentation used various fade and
wipe sequences to switch between pictures and
amid two of theirs up came mine! I had
found a way to display my genealogical information
in a manner that could not be achieved on paper.
I was hooked. My computer stood
ready to capture all my Jackson and my wife's
I looked around
the PD libraries for genealogical software that
I could use to input the data in my hand-written
trees. One program I tried was from Flying
Pigs in the States. It looked good but
I just couldn't get the demo to work properly. The helpfulness of the Atari community,
which I've always subsequently valued, became
evident when I received a telephone call one
morning direct from America. It was the
proprietor of Flying Pigs who tried his best
to sort out the problem. Eventually, I
hit upon two programs that I still use to this
day. They were Newgen and Family Tree. I sampled another but rejected it.
Even in those
days, it was possible to design innovative hypertext
genealogical presentations using text, sound
and digitized graphics - I used a video camera
as my source capture. I didn't even have
a hard disk drive but upgraded my 520STFM to
2.5 MB. Wow! The cleverest program, I thought, was Connections by Dave Becker,
to whom I had written requesting just such a
program after using his great Autozest. They
were in high resolution, so only black and white,
and were best used with a RAM disk. Mike
Goodman's public domain library submitted one
of my efforts to Atari ST Review who in September
1994 carried an item about it, essentially a
shell for others to use for their own family
Our cat (top
right) led viewers from page to page! Clicking
on a set of initials would bring up that person's
full name and that of their spouse in the vacant
grey areas in the centre. Another click
and you could go to a particular tree or an
individual record card and scroll through all
entries within the same template showing dates
of birth, marriage, death, occupation, interests...
together with a photograph of that person
program, by Tony Greenwood of Stosser fame,
was effectively an HTML forerunner and could
produce amazing results for those days in four-colour splendour! I registered and within
weeks he produced for me a version that could
import 16-colour pictures and it also had the
ability to double the width of the screen, allowing
the display of family trees to good effect. I had some encouraging feedback from those
who purchased my PD disk of it from Mike Goodman.
Here's an example of one of the screens
- follow the bloodline!
created a stunning integrated tree that hangs
proudly framed in my dining room, ever waiting
for the next addition and a new print-out. The
same program produced this roundel but I never
did manage to create clickable areas, though
I had a go with Multiplicity.
My K/NIBB/S One
Name Study was yet to appear on the scene.
Ian and Mark
Baker wrote Family Tree and Ted Richards wrote
Newgen 5K. The latter produces wonderful
charts on fan-folded paper and I use it for
our immediate families. Yes, my Epson
FX-80 is still going strong. At a recent
gathering of K/NIBB/S in Kettering, open to
the public, I could see visitors marvelling
at a chart spreading sideways across 23 pages,
without any glue nor an inch of sticky tape.
houses my main databases. Like Newgen,
every person entered has a detailed "Person
form", including (where found) birth and/or
baptismal dates, marriage date and details,
for example witnesses, death and/or burial dates, together
with the place and/or parish for all events.
Occupation and abode are given, plus extra
information extracted from various sources like
census returns and wills. There are links to
parents, spouse(s), children and siblings.
Here is a Falcon
screen-shot of William Knibb's "person form"
to demonstrate the above. All the names
shown are links as are the ticked boxes. They indicate that further information
is stored and can be revealed in a dialog
box. The dashes alongside the date entries
can be set to "c" for circa (about), before, after
or none. The single arrow after the marriage
date can be clicked to enter a second marriage. Any children of such a marriage
would appear only when the second spouse's entry
or person form is displayed in place of the
begin to appreciate the sophistication of Family
Tree. It is a superb example of genealogical
software having features, displays and routines
that even now many expensive PC programs struggle
to match. It is a joy, not a labour, to
input information. It can import/export
GEDCOM files, so it is simple to transfer all
selected entries from the IGI (the "Mormon"
International Genealogical Index) in that format. Originally I collected the
ASCII text and fed them into Superbase, where
I was able to sort them out ready for transfer
to Family Tree.
The GEDCOM format,
designed by the "Mormon" Church, has
for some years been the standard for exchanging
genealogical data between different programs
and platforms. Family Tree fully meets
this standard, in my experience, better than
The program also
allows me to enter quarter dates where I don't
have an actual date for an event. I should
explain that the birth, marriage and death indices
at The General Record Office (GRO) are shown
in "quarters", that is, Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun, Jul-Sep and
Oct-Dec. Try searching for a person for
whom one only has a quarter date entry in any
PC program - they won't be shown in the correct
date order, if indeed one can enter a quarter
date at all. Family Tree, however, takes
such a search in its stride. This is invaluable
for someone like me carrying on a One Name Study
incorporating thousands of people.
below shows the "edit person" dialog box used
for searching superimposed on the previously
shown "person form". The asterisk
is, of course, a wildcard and could just as
well have been used here to return both Knibb and
Knibbs entries. The dates specify the
period searched and the flag box is available
here if required to narrow down the search even
further. One could even use the place
of birth line but I tend not to do so as it
can be too restrictive. Another reason
is that searches without that line are returned
immediately. The details box is a nice
feature that allows me to see a summary of the
person selected, in this example, Benjamin Knibb born
21 February 1872 before I click on OK (or the
[Return] key) to bring up his full person form. I might decide that he is not the person
I'm looking for and can then select another
without leaving the dialog box.
I do issue one
warning. You won't find any
dates such as 23 February 1745/6 which is used
by many researchers as a standard for a Julian
date in GB pre-1752. Family Tree can't
cope with that! Any date within the database
after 1 January in a year before and including
1752 will be shown as if the Gregorian calendar
had already been adopted. Accordingly, in the
example given, the date would appear as 23
February 1746, not 1745. If a similar standard
had not been adopted by the person who compiled
the source upon which I may have relied, then
it's likely that the database date will be "out"
by one year. No sweat.
The "flag" feature
already mentioned is great when searching for
a particular person within a large database.
I set the flags for English counties.
So searching for a Knibb who married in
say Oxford around 1710, I can narrow down the
candidates to those in that or an adjoining
county, without returning Knibbs born hundreds
of miles away or on the other side of the world. Searching on first name only is also a
boon when a person might be registered differently
in records as Knibb, Knibbs or Nibbs depending
who wrote down the surname.
I haven't found
a PC program that allows me to backtrack previously
viewed entries, whereas Family Tree can, allowing
one to alternate between one family and another
at random. I can also switch between descendants'
charts on screen to an individual record and
back again. From father to son, sibling
to sibling, nephew to uncle, all without
having to go to another screen. I can
construct custom trees across generations
and families and similarly switch between an
individual there and his/her record card.
available. ST-Guide will respond to the help
feature within Family Tree and fetch the relevant
entry. Screen Grabber by Joey Sherman can save
a custom tree can and thus with the help of
Imagecopy become a GIF image on my K/NIBB/S
web site. I can instantly find the day
of the week a certain event happened using Calendar
by Bill Aycock. A "To-do list"
created with a simple word processor. Such
accessories cancel out the "advantages" of multi-tasking
as far as I'm concerned.
The STFM loses
out to a Falcon
It was shortly
after taking early retirement in 1996 that I
acquired a second-hand Atari Falcon030, having
first established that it would run my genealogy
software, much to the relief of the seller.
Now the K/NIBB/S
One Name Study could begin in earnest. With
the importation of those in the IGI alongside
my wife's and the clockmakers (see below), the
database soon exceeded 3,000. I established
from Ian that there was virtually no limit to
the numbers which the program could handle and
he even tweaked it in places to meet a couple
of my requests. It grew significantly
as I started to enter K/NIBB/S from the GRO
and census returns.
The Falcon, upgraded,
now holds over 20,500 individuals within Family
Tree. Some family groupings are very large
(500+ individuals) spanning several generations. I also use the Falcon for most of my correspondence,
graphics, scanning, and not least I created
my web site on it.
It was originally
a basic 4 MB machine
which System Solutions expanded to 14 MB.
It came with an Apple CD-ROM drive to which
I added a SyQuest EZFlyer, mainly for creating
back-up files. This was just as well because
a few years ago the hard drive gave up the ghost.
this I purchased a notebook PC to enable me
to access CD-ROMs, such as the 1881 census and
UK Info 4. Why, oh why, even then did
essentially database content CD-ROMs have to
have a Windows/Mac front end? I felt it
was another nail in the coffin for our Ataris.
The notebook also fared better than the
Atari surfing the internet for more K/NIBB/S. I
had got into comms a little late with considerable
help of colleagues from the West Riding Atari
Group (the late lamented WRAG). However
by now Bill Gates had taken over the world.
in Atari Computing on HTML were a very helpful
source of information as I toyed with the prospect
of a K/NIBB/S One Name Study web site. I have to
confess though that lately most additions to
the web site have been made using a PC but with
nothing more sophisticated than Notepad
I do frequently
use Imagecopy for graphics and value the fact
that it can handle transparent GIFs.
Of course, one
joy of the Falcon is that, with a program such
as Kobold, it is possible to format 3.5"
high-density floppy disks so that they can be
read by a PC as well as by an Atari. This
means that I can transfer across to my PC graphics
and texts from the Falcon for the web site and
export family listings/GEDCOM files from Family
Tree for transmission to other researchers.
Kobold also backs up the database
in double quick time.
One Name Study
Why did I start
it? Mainly for the reasons given below. I'd also got back as
far as I could on
my family and to be absolutely honest, as a
kid I loved doing jigsaw puzzles. The
study has become a huge jigsaw and I get a thrill
every time I fit another piece of the jigsaw
into place. Some say I have set myself
an impossible task placing each and every K/NIBB/S
that I can find and they are probably correct
but it keeps me out of mischief!
My wife is a
first cousin, five generations on of The Reverend
William Knibb, a Baptist missionary to Jamaica,
who was an eminent emancipationist. William
Wilberforce secured the abolition of the slave
trade on British ships. It was William
Knibb who was responsible, as much as anyone,
for the abolition of slavery throughout the
I still remember
the first time I heard about William Knibb in
a history lesson at school. I also recall
learning about Joseph Knibb a renowned English
clockmaker, alongside Tompion. This was
many years before I met my wife, whose mother
was a Knibb. Perhaps we were fated to
meet! Her distant cousin, Michael Pearman
first made the connection between the family
and William Knibb. His hand-drawn chart
was amazing and he had painstakingly copied
all K/NIBB/S from huge sections of the old St
Catherine's House Birth, Marriage and Death
I am convinced
that there must be a connection, howsoever remote,
between William Knibb and the earlier and famous
Knibb family of clockmakers. Having failed
through traditional research techniques to find
the connection, I decided to embark upon the
One Name Study; hence the obscure motto, "Time
to Pray?" on the web site. The site
has been successful in attracting researchers
who surf the internet and nowadays I probably correspond
with 90% of K/NIBB/S researchers by the medium
of e-mail, rather than by ordinary post.
The One Name
Study and web site hasn't exactly taken over
my life but I do spend a fair amount of my time
on them one way or another.
is restricted to those with the surname of K/NIBB/S
and their spouses. Call me a chauvinist,
if you will, but the offspring of female K/NIBB/S
are not included - one has to draw the line
somewhere. Exceptionally, I do have a
separate database of all the known descendants
of William Knibb, whose male offspring did not
Along the way,
various other notables have been encountered,
for example Richard Henry Nibbs, the Brighton marine
painter, Sir George Handley Knibbs, the Australian
statistician and James Langford Nibbs, who applied
for and was granted a Coat of Arms in 1759 and
lately no lesser person than Henry Herbert Asquith,
the former prime minister and a first cousin
to a great granddaughter of William Knibb.
I have endeavoured
to build up family trees of all these but the
database's real strength is in the myriad of
ordinary individuals and families with no pretensions
to fame or fortune. How rewarding then
to find out all about William Nibbs, a swing
rioter, whose story is told within the pages
of the web site.
Generally I request
enquirers to let me know what they know about
their K/NIBB/S family first. I add to/verify
that information with the database and then
send out extracts, either in ASCII listing or
GEDCOM format, by e-mail or snail mail. By
so exchanging information, the database grows
for the benefit of others. I host a mailing
list of some 80 researchers worldwide, my weekly
missive originally generated in Protext on the
Atari. I've corresponded with scores of
others. Members of the list can apply
for various extracts, one being an Excel file
of all the K/NIBB/S in the IGI - here's a copy
of the first page ordered by Parish, an edited
export from Superbase.
There's a similar
file for K/NIBB/S extracted from the GRO birth
indices, exported from Family Tree using another
feature of it CSV (Comma Separated Values).
basics of HTML also gave me the opportunity
to experiment with some new kinds of tree displays.
These can be seen at the web site. I'm
particularly happy with the clockmaker's tree. It is pure HMTL (even the red lines). I also had some fun with Muriel's chart,
not to mention Adam and Eve's!
The value of
the One Name Study is that once everyone in
a locality is accounted for, then it becomes
that much easier to place individuals within
their correct families and/or trace missing
persons. By reference to all the available
data, I can figure out from where families came
or to where they moved.
So that's my
Atari life history! Or should I say my
wife's? All achieved without a clue about
programming or a real understanding of the inner
workings of my Atari.
OK a PC would
load my 25,500 K/NIBB/S much quicker than does
my Falcon. But I'm not in too tearing
a hurry that I can't wait 55 seconds or so for
them to load once a day. And it's still
a fact that I can turn on the Atari and be up
and working within the database sooner than
it takes a PC to start up, load Windows and
open a genealogy program.
My Falcon and
an SVGA monitor stay switched on practically
all day and every day, the database ready and
waiting to be consulted and its contents to
be revealed to any enquirers. I also still
have my original mono monitor and that comes
out of storage to travel with the Falcon to
MIDI users, gamers
and others doubtless feel, as I do, that the
Atari still has much to offer. I reckon
that I have the best of both worlds combining
the "fun" of the Atari with my PC internet friendly
set-up. Hopefully the combination will
continue to be the case for many years to come,
during which I shall be avidly adding to and
editing the database.
for Atari and MyAtari for keeping the flag flying!
Feel free to
come visit the K/NIBB/S One Name Study web site.
Who knows, you might even have a K/NIBB/S
in your family or know one with whom I might
correspond. Fingers crossed for some feedback.
can see my working environment in this month's
Tip of the Day.
Alan is a retired
solicitor living in Leeds. He also hosts
the Jokari website
and those of his snooker and tennis clubs.