Events - part 1: an introduction

Friday, April 9, 2021 by Fouke Boss

In Centurial v1.20, Events have been promoted to be full-flown entities, just like Persons and Relationships. In this blog, we introduce the concept of events, and we take a look at how to incorporate them into your research.

What is an Event?

In Centurial, an Event is defined as something that happens in the life of a person. This definition of course includes the most basic of all genealogical events - birth, marriage and death - but also includes others: religious events like Baptism, Bar Mitzvah and Nikah to name but a few; secular events like hospitalization, graduation and retirement; and many many others.

Events happen at a certain time and in a certain place. Most events will happen on a single day, or even at a specific time. Notable exceptions include a vacation, the Hajj or a pilgrimage; these events might take several days or weeks.

In contrast to some other genealogical applications, attributes like residence, nationality and occupation are not considered to be events in Centurial. Such attributes describe a state of a person during a longer period of time and therefore are not events. Actually, there's some interplay between events and attributes in that it's usually events that cause attributes to change. An immigration event causes the nationality attribute to change. Similarly, retirement ends an occupation.

Events are Entities too

As you already know, working in Centurial is different in that it focuses on collecting evidence from sources, and then analyzing the collected evidence to form conclusions. Up until v1.19, Centurial allowed the user to collect evidence related to properties of persons and the relationships between these persons. Together, persons and relationships in Centurial are called entities. A very limited set of events was supported as well, but these were implemented simply as properties of these entities.

Starting from v1.20, Centurial now treats events as a third type of entity, just like persons and relationships. The main advantage is that Centurial is now able to differentiate between multiple occurrences of the same event type. Before, Centurial could only handle a single occurrence of any event type per person or relationship. For example, although the marriage banns are usually being read multiple times before marriage, Centurial used to handle all evidence as being related to a single event. With events being an entity in their own right, Centurial is now able to tell multiple events apart.

Events in Centurial always belong to either a person or a relationship, which is called the principal role. The person being born has the principal role in a birth event, and a marriage is an event that belongs to the relationship between the two newlyweds.

Other advantages of promoting events to be an entity include being able to add the new Event List, the inclusion of many new event types, and being prepared for future developments for events like anecdotes and roles.

Stages of Life

Centurial v1.20 comes with 85 different event types, and this number is expected to grow in future releases. To keep this number manageable, we've categorized the event types into 5 stages of life: Birth, Youth, Adult, Family and Death.

Birth Youth Adult Family Death
B'rit Milah
Naam Karan
Registration of Birth
Zeved Habat
Affirmation of Baptism
Amrit Sanskar
Bar Mitzvah
Bat Mitzvah
First Communion
Adult Baptism
Civilian Service
Legal Judgement
Military Service
Anand Karaj
Church Marriage
Civil Marriage
Civil Union
Common-law Marriage
End of the Long-Term Relationship
Marriage Banns
Marriage Contract
Marriage License
Marriage Settlement
Nikah 'urfi
Start of the Long-Term Relationship
Vivaah samskara
Al Dafin
Antam Sanskar
Ash Scattering
Last Rites
Mataka Vastra
Registration of death
Salat al-Janazah

The list of event types tries to reflect the many relevant events that happen in a person's life. With the help of Marc Engel, the list contains a set of event types for the major world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. For the family events, we've also tried to take into account the many forms and shapes a modern partnership can take.

One might argue that categorizing event types between the Youth and Adult stages is a bit artificial, and perhaps not correct. Many of the adult event types could also relate to the youth stage, and vice versa. Instead, we could have opted for one stage, life. In the end, we kept the 2 stages as they are now, as this hopefully helps the user in locating the correct event type more easily.

Adding an event to a person

Just like persons and relationships, new events are added to your research project in the Source View. After selecting the person you want to add the event to, click the + Event button of the corresponding stage of life. The Event Selector will pop up, allowing you to select the event type you wish to add.

The Event Selector allows you to filter the event types, enabling you to quickly locate the event type you're looking for. By default, the event types will be filtered by the corresponding stage of life, but you can change the filter to one of the other stages. Alternatively, you can filter by religion. At the bottom, there is also a filter (Other languages) for event types that do not have an English equivalent of their own, like the Dutch ondertrouw event.

For the selected event type, the Event Selector will display a short description of the event, and a web link for more information. To add the selected event type to the Claims Panel, either click the Add button or double-click the event type.

Adding multiple claims and events

After selecting the event type from the Event Selector, Centurial adds an event of the selected type to the Claims Panel. The green bar left of the event label indicates which entry fields together make up a single event. Also, each event comes with little and buttons:

The button will remove the event (after confirmation by the user), while the button allows you to add a second occurrence of the same event type. Now there are 2 interesting points to make here.

First of all, you might wonder about the possibility of a second burial. Indeed, it does not happen often, but it is known to happen. For example, Theo van Gogh, the brother of the famous painter, died in 1891 in Den Dolder near Utrecht and was buried there. In 1914, Theo's body was exhumed from his resting place and reburied with his brother at Auvers-sur-Oise at the wish of his widow, Johanna, so the brothers could lie together eternally [wikipedia]. So Theo was indeed buried twice.

Also, please be aware of the difference between the and the buttons. While the button allows you to add a second occurrence of an event, the button allows you to add a second claim of the same type. This latter button is useful if a source specifies multiple possible values for the same field. If the quoted Wikipedia page would have stated that Theo was buried in either Den Dolder or Utrecht in 1891, and again in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1914, we would enter this as follows:

So we'd create two events, one for each burial. And in the first burial, we'd enter two possible values for the place.

Adding events to a relationship

Adding an event to a relationship is identical to adding an event to a person. First select the relationship, then start adding the events. For example, on the marriage certificate for the parents of Vincent van Gogh, we find:

As a side step, notice how we use the new auto-complete feature, introduced in Centurial v1.19, to quickly enter the place names: enter the first character(s) of the place name, then select the correct value from the list of auto-complete suggestions using the arrow-up and arrow-down keys, and then press the Enter key to insert the selected suggestion.

Correlation of events

The same event might be mentioned in multiple sources, and so the autocorrelation algorithm tries to match and combine event information from multiple sources to the correct events. This process is similar to the way Centurial autocorrelates persons from multiple sources.

To help the algorithm a bit, Centurial distinguishes between 3 types of events:

Recurrence Description
Once Some events can really only occur once, for example, the birth, death or cremation events. Sources could state contradicting values for a birth date or a cremation place, but one thing is certain: a person is never born or cremated more than once.
Multiple Some events almost by definition happen multiple times within short periods of time. A good example of this are the marriage banns, as they were required to be read at least 2 or 3 times in the weeks before a marriage.
Usually once Most events tend to happen only once, but could occasionally happen multiple times. We already saw the example of a person being buried twice. Other examples might be a marriage (usually, a couple marries only once, but a couple possibly could marry, divorce, and then marry again) or the religious events (in theory, a person might be baptized, then switch to a different religion, then switch back to Christianity and then feel the need to be baptized again).

During correlation, all information for events with recurrence Once will be merged into one single event, no matter what. For recurrences Usually once and Multiple, event information is merged based on how far in time these events are apart.

Just like the autocorrelation algorithm might be wrong from time to time for persons, it might also do a less-than-perfect job for events. For persons, this is solved by allowing the user to manually improve the correlation. In the future, a similar mechanism could be implemented for events; it is however not implemented just yet, as we would like to determine how good a job the autocorrelation algorithm actually does first.

Events in the Person View

After correlation, the events are available from several views. First of all, the events are displayed in the timeline of the Person View. The timeline will display all events that belong to the corresponding person, and all events belonging to the partnerships of that person. As you zoom in, the timeline will reveal additional events for increasingly remote descendants and ancestors of that person.

For example, if we look at the timeline in the Person View for the father of the painter, Theodorus van Gogh, we can see the events from the marriage certificate we just entered, but also the births of children stemming from that marriage, and the death of his mother:

For each event, Centurial displays the date of the event (1), the event type (2), the owner of the event (the principal role, 3), the place (4) and the age of the person at the time of the event (5).

Four parts of each event can be clicked by the user, as indicated by the fact that they will be underlined when you hover the mouse pointer over them:

  • A click on the date (1) will open the Analysis View for the date of the event.
  • Similarly, a click on the place (4) opens the Analysis View for the place of the event.
  • Clicking the principal role (3) opens the corresponding Person View or Relationship View.
  • And finally, a click on the event type (2) opens the new Event View, which we will take a look at shortly.

Please notice that these 4 options are also available from the context menu for each event in the timeline.

The Event List

A second view that displays the events after correlation is the Event List, which is another new feature in Centurial v1.20. The Event List is a chronological list of all the events in your research project. Like the Person List, this list is available on the left side of the Centurial Main Window. It can also be accessed through the ALT+E hotkey.

The events are by default grouped per year. Events that have an exact date (or reasonably exact date) are shown in black, while events with a less narrow date estimate are displayed in grey. Events without any conclusions regarding their date are shown at the bottom of the list. By clicking one of the headers, the list can also be sorted by place or by principal role.

Double-clicking any event in the list will open the new Event View. Also, for each event a context menu is available, allowing direct access to the Event View or the corresponding Person or Relationship View.

The Event View

The final new feature we would like to discuss in this blog is the new Event View. This view displays all conclusions for a specific event and the sources that these conclusions have been based on. It is similar to the Person View and the Relationship View that were already available before Centurial v1.20.

Clicking one of the buttons for the date, time and place conclusions will open the Analysis View for that particular fact. Currently, the Event View is mostly empty, but this screen real estate is reserved for future extensions, like roles and anecdotes (Centurial v1.21) and photos.


Events have entered the arena as the third major entity in Centurial. They are an important part of genealogy research, as they together make up a life story. Also, they are the starting point for upcoming features like roles, anecdotes and photos.