Exploring Custom GPTs: My Journey into AI Tools for Genealogy

Jump straight the the growing list of Genealogy Bots here or access them at OpenAI Store by searching for bots with the term "genealogy." Custom GPTs are free for ChatGPT Plus subscribers ($20/month). I also teach genealogists and educators how to make their own custom genealogy GPTs, hands-on, step-by-step; enrolling now.

Friends, you may have heard the announcement that the OpenAI directory of custom GPTs is now being unrolled to ChatGPT Plus users. Custom GPTs represent an advancement in AI usefulness, marking a step towards more customizable and versatile AI tools. According to the OpenAI, these custom GPTs are described as a means to “create for a specific purpose,” highlighting their adaptability and user-centric design. Wharton professor Ethan Mollick in his article “Almost an Agent: What GPTs can do,” emphasizes the current state and future potential of these tools, noting, “GPTs show a near future where AIs can really start to act as agents.” This statement underscores the transitional nature of GPTs as a bridge between current AI capabilities and the more autonomous agents of the future. Simon Willison, in “Exploring GPTs: ChatGPT in a trench coat?” offers a practical perspective, stating, “The combination of features they provide can add up to some very interesting results.” His experience reflects the innovative possibilities that arise when various capabilities of GPTs are combined. Together, these insights from OpenAI, Mollick, and Willison paint a picture of GPTs as transformative tools, offering both a glimpse into the future of AI agents and a practical platform for current applications.

I’ve got four GPTs (now five) that I’m publicly testing (these are genealogy-related GPTs or genealogy-adjacent; another half-dozen others are still in the lab). I think of these GPTs as little AI tools that you can create, save, repeatedly re-use, and share. Custom GPTs, also referred to as bots, assistants, or agents (though these terms aren’t technically synonymous), represent a method to save a bundle of prompts, custom instructions, and abilities (image analysis, image generation, document reading, etc.) in a profile that you can use and share. For us as genealogists, this means that when we find a prompt, series of prompts, or set of custom instructions, to reliably accomplish a genealogically useful task, we can save that process as one of these GPTs; then, when we need to accomplish that task again, that tool, that bot, that GPT, is already in our AI toolbox.

Months ago, professional genealogist Yvette Hoitink created and shared the first genealogy GPT (to my knowledge), Dutch Genealogy Bot, available to ChatGPT Plus users at https://chat.openai.com/g/g-MMm3v0QX3-dutch-genealogy-bot. When asked for a short summary of its abilities, the bot replied: “As the Dutch Genealogy Bot, I specialize in guiding you through the process of researching Dutch ancestry, using resources and insights exclusively from Yvette Hoitink’s Dutch Genealogy website. I can provide detailed information and methodologies for tracing Dutch heritage, and direct you to specific articles on DutchGenealogy.nl for further guidance and authentic information.”

These four five little bots are my initial efforts, for example:

Open GeneaGPT
A Genealogy GPT based on a collaborative source-available instruction set. An assistant for family history researchers, genealogists, and the generally curious.

Genealogy Eyes
Look at images, photos, and documents through the eyes of a family historian. Try it from your phone! Take a snapshot of a cemetery headstone, document/record, or anything else, and, using the official ChatGPT app, upload the image, say a little about the image and what you want, and click Send.

Lingua Maven
A linguistic expert, I combine dictionary precision, usage panel insights, and style guide expertise. My skills encompass a vast lexicon, dynamic thesaurus, and in-depth knowledge of language evolution, etymology, and dialects. I am a comprehensive resource for analysis and interpretation.

Genealogy Summarizer
Create useful summaries from texts, images, documents, photos, records, and more. This bot looks at what you give it, determines (as best it can) what it is, and suggests several ways to summarize the item. You can then ask follow questions about the item, or collect all the suggested summaries.

Sam the Digital Archivist
Kinda like a spicy librarian. Open GeneaGPT’s over-caffeinated genealogy and family history friend. Embark on a journey through your past with our customized genealogist bot, designed to delve into your ancestry and lineage. Discover your roots while having fun and learning genealogical methods.

It’s very early days, so if you want to share news about your custom genealogy GPTs, I am gathering a list/directory of genealogy bots to update and share with the community. I’m easiest to find at Blaine Bettinger’s Facebook group “Genealogy and Artificial Intelligence (AI)https://www.facebook.com/groups/genealogyandai

Best wishes,

PS: Learning how to make these custom GPTs is a significant portion of the focus of the Empowering Genealogists series class, Level 2: Prompt Engineering and Specialized AI Tools for Genealogists, which starts at the end of January 2024:

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