What are the system requirements?

A: SILKin is a Java application. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. Your computer must have a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) that is available free here. The Windows Installer automatically verifies you have the JRE, and loads it if necessary.

Is SILKin a genealogy program?

A: No. It is designed for the specific task of documenting and analyzing the kinship system in a new language. You can record a limited amount of genealogical data (birth and death dates, marriages and divorces) but almost any commercial genealogy software will do a better job.

Can I import data from genealogy programs?

A: If you have data in a genealogy program that supports the GEDCOM standard (most do) you can import a family tree chart into SILKin. You still must input the kin term data, of course; genealogy programs do not capture that.

After I downloaded SILKin and double-clicked “SILKin.jar” I got a security warning message. Does this mean the file is infected?

A: Most operating systems or anti-virus programs warn you if you are about to launch for the first time a process that came from the internet. That makes sense; most malware is an app that downloads invisibly from the net.

The first time you launch SILKin, you may get a Security warning that this is an unknown program downloaded from the Internet (which is true). If that happens, go to System Preferences and choose Security and Privacy. Under the General tab it will display your current setting to “Allow apps downloaded from:” Below that it will say “SILKin.jar was blocked from opening because it is not from an identified developer.” Click the Open Anyway button. Thereafter, you can launch SILKin normally.

I downloaded and launched SILKin. Now a screen with a blank chart is staring at me. How do I get started? Where do I enter my data?

A: Entering your data is pretty simple. You can see a video demonstration or a presentation of the basic concepts used in SILKin. Or, after you have launched the program, you can go to the Help menu and click on the first topic “Getting Started” and first subtopic “Basic SILKin Screen.” The help pages can be read as a User Manual.

I built 2 Family Tree charts, one for each extended family I interviewed. How can I input the kin terms that people on one chart call people on the other chart?

A: I would restate your question this way: How can I record the kin terms used by an Ego on one chart and an Alter on another? There are 2 ways:

  1. Switch to the chart containing Ego. If you Alt-Click (on some Macs Option-Click) on that person in the chart, they become Ego. Switch back to the other chart and click on the person you want to be Alter.
  2. Switch to the chart showing Alter. In the upper right corner of the Detail Display is a drop-down menu called “Current Ego.” Choose the person you want for Ego in that menu. Now click on the person you want for Alter.

Now you can enter the kin terms that Ego calls Alter (and the reciprocal terms) in Alter’s Detail Display. Pick a new Alter, and enter the kin terms for current Ego in the new Alter’s Detail Display. You can easily enter the kin terms for every Ego/Alter pair in your data.

I created a chart and saved it. Now I can’t find it. Where did it go?

A: When you first save a Context (your chart, people, families, etc.) you are asked what name to use. The file extension will always be “.SILK”. The default folder in which all your SILK files are saved is inside your “SILKin Release X.X” folder. Look for the “Library” folder and inside that is the “Context Under Construction” folder. All your files are stored there by default, alongside some sample files for you to experiment with. If you wish, you can save files in some other location, and SILKin will remember where they are; use the “Open Recent” menu item to open them. Caution: if you save a file in one location, and then manually move it somewhere else, SILKin will not be able to find it.

I saved my work as “Test.SILK” and quit SILKin. Later I double-clicked on “Test.SILK” and it did not open SILKin. Is something wrong?

A: No. SILKin is a Java program; for technical reasons you can’t double-click on a SILK file. You must double-click on the “SILKin.jar” file — or a pointer to it that is on your desktop or in your Dock.

I have invested several hours in my work. Does SILKin keep back-up copies or prior versions of my work?

A: No. SILKin does give you the option to “Save As…” a new file name. If you do this periodically, that will create a duplicate copy of your work. Your computer’s operating system may also provide a way to retrieve prior versions of a file (e.g. the Mac’s Time Machine app).