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Is Updating the GEDCOM Customary Mandatory? « Louis Kessler’s Behold Weblog | The Global Today

The GEDCOM Customary was first developed virtually 40 years in the past as a strategy to retailer genealogical information and switch it between packages. It was developed about the identical time the primary genealogical software program packages have been developed.

The early packages developed a fundamental construction for family tree, and the usual mirrored that. The usual was up to date many instances largely to ease its implementation and to switch extra kinds of information, however the fundamental document construction has by no means actually modified.

The usual that’s widespread use now could be GEDCOM 5.5.1. It was drafted in 1999 and finalized with out adjustments in 2019. So in 24 years, the usual hasn’t modified. Equally about 24 years in the past, family tree software program had matured to the purpose the place their information constructions have been set and barely wanted to vary. Having the GEDCOM normal to base their information constructions on had lots to do with that.

What’s a Customary and what’s Good Customary?

A Customary is an agreed-upon doc that gives guidelines or directions for its meant viewers to comply with in an effort to meet the doc’s particular objective.

GEDCOM’s meant viewers is usually family tree software program builders.

GEDCOM’s particular objective is to facilitate switch of genealogical information between software program.

Most individuals would agree that a normal is an efficient normal iff:

  1. It has been adopted and is utilized by most of its meant viewers.
  2. It’s comprehensible and comprises most of what’s wanted to serve its objective.
  3. It’s comparatively secure from model to model with out requiring main adjustments.

So is GEDCOM 5.5.1 an excellent normal?

  1. Virtually all family tree software program builders right this moment know in regards to the GEDCOM normal and the overwhelming majority use it as a strategy to share their software program’s genealogical information with others or to get its information from different software program. – 1 / 1
  2. All the foundations are there. Family tree software program has been efficiently sharing information with different software program for twenty-four years utilizing GEDCOM 5.5.1. – 2 / 2
  3. GEDCOM 5.5.1 hasn’t modified in any respect in 24 years. – 3 / 3

Giving it 3 out of three, I can’t see why this model of GEDCOM 5.5.1 wouldn’t be thought of to be a “good” normal.

Information Doesn’t Switch

GEDCOM is meant to facilitate information switch between packages.

In case you are utilizing family tree program XXXX and resolve you wish to change to family tree program YYYY, then it’s essential to switch your information. So that you export your information from XXXX to a GEDCOM 5.5.1 file and also you import it from that file into program YYYY. You’ll possible discover that plenty of your information didn’t switch.

For the previous 15 years, we’ve seen initiatives resembling BetterGEDCOM, FHISO, and GEDCOM 7.0 attempt to enhance GEDCOM 5.5.1 to allow far more of the info to switch. The concept right here was that there was one thing about GEDCOM 5.5.1 that was stopping the info switch.

I consider this pondering is incorrect.

The work I’ve completed have led me to conclude that:

  • 5% of knowledge doesn’t switch as a result of GEDCOM 5.5.1 can’t deal with the particular kind of knowledge.
  • 35% of knowledge doesn’t switch as a result of the receiving system didn’t implement the performance that wants or makes use of that information, and thus didn’t have an information construction or desk in its database to retailer it.
  • 60% of knowledge doesn’t switch as a result of the developer didn’t use the right GEDCOM 5.5.1 technique, or used his personal customized tags to do the switch.

If solely 5% of the info not transferring is because of GEDCOM, then the usual will not be the issue.

If 35% is because of the receiving system not needing or accepting the info, then no enhancements to the usual may repair that.

If 60% is because of builders not making the hassle to accurately implement GEDCOM, then extra schooling about the usual is required.

What Is Not Wanted

There’s nothing inherently incorrect with GEDCOM 5.5.1.  What will not be wanted is a big revision to it. What I’m referring to after all, is the discharge of GEDCOM 7.0 two years in the past by FamilySearch.

GEDCOM 7.0 is written otherwise from GEDCOM 5.5.1. It not makes use of the GEDCOM type however makes use of a Hierarchical container format. Customary Bachus Naur Format (BNF) for outlining the syntax is modified to “A Metasyntax for Construction Group”. Altering the illustration of the usual is akin to writing it in a special language. It makes the adoption of the usual by 5.5.1 customers unnecessarily harder. Programmers don’t want one thing to vary only for the sake of change. They need a normal the place each change is easy and comprehensible and meets a necessity. If it ‘aint broke, don’t repair it.

The promoting level of a brand new normal is for higher information switch. It looks like slim pickings if they’re making an attempt to cut back the 5% of the info that doesn’t switch. Including new information constructions is admirable if they’re wanted by the bulk. However will enabling adverse assertions, rich-text notes and “higher” multimedia dealing with be helpful if 35% of the programs won’t want or settle for that information and 60% of them won’t comply with the foundations in utilizing it?

After greater than two years, only a few family tree builders have carried out GEDCOM 7.0. Fewer nonetheless have carried out the brand new options that 7.0 added.

There will be many various causes for this, from technical to sensible to the straightforward concept that they’d fairly wait for everybody else to implement it earlier than they spend their time and assets in doing it themselves.

What Is Wanted

If you need extra of your information to switch between packages, you received’t get it by creating a brand new normal for that 5%, and also you received’t be capable to enhance on the 35% that your vacation spot program has not carried out.

The most effective you are able to do is to cut back the 60% of the info that’s written incorrectly or learn incorrectly or written as customized tags which the receiving system can’t perceive. For that we want higher assets that may assist the developer implement the GEDCOM 5.5.1 normal as accurately as attainable.

And there are a few assets out there for that proper now.

  1. The GEDCOM 5.5.1 Annotated Version
  2. The GEDCOM 5.5.5 Specification

Each can be found at:

These specs have been created in 2019 by Tamura Jones with the input of 9 genealogy software developers, myself included.

The GEDCOM 5.5.1 Annotated Version takes all of the information and expertise of those specialists and provides them as notes into the unique 5.5.1 normal. They clarify no matter will not be clear and provides recommendations as to learn how to accurately implement GEDCOM.

The GEDCOM 5.5.5 Specification successfully updates the 5.5.1 normal with the notes from the 5.5.1 Annotated Version and marks gadgets which are not of sensible use and ought to be deprecated from the 5.5.1 normal. On this manner the 5.5.5 Specification ought to be used for writing to a GEDCOM file as it’s 100% backward suitable to five.5.1, aside from some needed correction of errors in 5.5.1 and rest of some size restrictions. 

Additional Studying



Is Updating the GEDCOM Customary Mandatory?  I’d say no. If something, just a few minor additions to five.5.1 can be helpful, however nothing main.

Shifting to GEDCOM 7.0 could possibly be harmful as it’d make information much less more likely to switch accurately. Builders don’t wish to spend time altering their packages to implement options not wanted by their very own packages.

Out there assets such because the 5.5.1 Annotated Version and the 5.5.5 Specification that higher clarify learn how to implement GEDCOM will help builders make their GEDCOM extra suitable with others.

Any future work on the GEDCOM normal ought to strongly discourage the usage of user-defined (i.e. customized) tags, and even higher, make them unlawful.

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