SILKin: New software aids anthropological research

SILKin, a new software package from SIL, offers many helpful features for recording and analyzing kinship data.

(December 2013) SIL announces the release of SILKin, a new software package that supports anthropological research into kinship terminology—the names people use to identify and refer to family relationships. Identifying the system of terms for family relationships can provide valuable insights into cultural practices.

Creating kinship charts by hand is a cumbersome, time-consuming process requiring many revisions. SILKin simplifies the process of mapping kinship networks. More importantly, once the data has been added by a user, it can be analyzed in multiple ways to reveal inconsistencies and identify parallel terminology in other cultures.

SILKin is largely the work of Dr. Gary Morris, who began developing the program during his dissertation research in the field of artificial intelligence. Some field testing was done in Kenya in 2010.

The software has been released in a basic version with more features in development for version 2.0. The current version allows users to:

  • Draw family tree charts to record genealogical data
  • Create charts of unlimited size
  • Track multiple charts for a given community with links between charts
  • Define culture-specific kin terms
  • Flag potential anomalies
  • Opt to receive suggestions based on known kinship patterns from other kinship terminologies stored in SILKin’s Library
  • Import and export data to many other genealogy programs

The development team requests that users contribute feedback on usability as well as ideas for changes and additions to the program.

Above: Anthropologists Dr. Tom Headland and Janet Headland check kinship data with two women from the Agta community in the Philippines; an example of a hand-drawn kinship chart indicating family relationships and residence patterns.

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