Thursday, November 11, 2010

Build A Better GEDCOM

A group has been formed to build a better GEDCOM (GEnealogy Data COMmunication). GEDCOM has been used for about 25 years or more to transfer data from one genealogy program to another, regardless of the native data storage format of the sending and receiving programs.

Build A Better GEDCOM - Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter:
Tuesday Nov 9, 2010. Alexandria, VA. A group of genealogists and programmers have established a workspace called Build A BetterGEDCOM for developing better data exchange standards to facilitate sharing between researchers using a variety of technology platforms, genealogy products and services.

'Genealogy software users are painfully aware that sharing data with other researchers is difficult since the existing GEDCOM (GENealogy Data COMmunication) file transfer script hasn't been updated in 14 years. In the meantime genealogists have incorporated tools with expanded capabilities reflecting changing technology,' says Russ Worthington, a genealogy software power user and popular genealogy lecturer.

They have started a wiki for discussion of the problems and the process, which seem a good way of doing things.

One of the things I think is important in this kind of exercise is not to overlook the old standard.

Whatever the limitations of the older GEDCOM formats, they worked.

Even if a new standard is developed, people keeping their data in older programs will not be able to export their data in the new format, and so may actually find it more difficult to exchange data with other genealogists if a new standard is developed. It might turn out, for example, that new programs would import data from older GEDCOM formats, but only export it in the new format, and some might not even use the old format at all. The purpose of GEDCOM is to facilitate data exchange, but one must be careful that it does not end up being counterproductive, and actually limiting data exchange. A limited but universal standard is better than a less limited but incompatible one.

I still use a program, Family History System (FHS), that uses two old forms of GEDCOM. One is the original GEDCOM, which no other program uses, and so FHS only uses it to export and import it to itself. It is the only one that exports and imports all the data to and from FHS. The other one is GEDCOM 2, used by PAF 2.x, which does not export all the data, but exports the main lineage-linked families and notes.

The oldest GEDCOM standard is not compatible with the newer ones. But compatibility is the main thing. It is better to be able to exchange some data than no data at all.

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