Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Build a BetterGEDCOM goes LIVE

Too long have genealogy researchers bemoaned the limitations of GEDCOM (GENealogy Data COMmunication) as a data sharing mechanism between genealogy management programs, and between those programs and genealogy websites. Seeing the need for a non-commercially-sponsored workspace to bring users and developers together, we've built the Build a BetterGEDCOM in wiki format. So rather than talk about it within our small, separate message boards and mailing list groups, let's bring the discussion to one place, where real change can take place.

Below my signature please find the details of today's press release about the Build a BetterGEDCOM wiki. Eventually additional workspaces will dovetail with this starting point.

The initial project will be to develop an update/replacement for the de facto GEDCOM standard based on input from end users and developers world-wide. Long-term efforts will include standards for the sharing of genealogical information over the internet, for example.

A key distinction in this effort from those that have proceeded it is our intention to be a broad-based community development project with an emphasis on codification of our work with international standards bodies such as ISO and IETF. Broad-based community support and international recognition are central tenets of this effort. Please have a look around at http://bettergedcom.wikispaces.com and share your expertise so that we may succeed together in solving the GEDCOM problems for researchers and developers.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

A grass roots initiative to improve data exchange among genealogists

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.

In developing a wiki site for pulling together genealogy software programmers, website developers and end users, genealogy blogger DearMYRTLE explains "The focus is cooperation. We seek solutions that will enable regular researchers like me to share genealogy with cousins regardless of the genealogy program they've chosen to use. The current GEDCOM file exchange strips out much of my hard work, leaving only some of the data I've typed in and attached to each well-documented ancestor. We experience similar problems when uploading and downloading our genealogy data with popular genealogy websites. If all genealogy product developers agree to a BetterGEDCOM format, such problems will be overcome."

The BetterGEDCOM wiki site is open to all, and is located at

"BetterGEDCOM will be independent. This means no single entity who has an interest in our work will be the single driving force. Likewise, no work that anyone has done will be the defined starting place or the de facto basis of our work." says Greg Lamberson, the technician who developed initial pages at the BetterGEDCOM wiki. "We also seek to account for language and cultural differences as we develop data standards for recording family history information in text and multi-media formats. Input from BetterGEDCOM participants the world over is a vital component of this initiative."

"BetterGEDCOM will seek ISO recognition or recognition by other international standards bodies," continues Greg. "This has never been done in the genealogical community. This means we will have to be a community effort with participation by a substantial part of the genealogical technology community. Also, unlike previous efforts, having standards actually codified will provide developers a framework to resolve ambiguities, conflicts or other problems that may develop in using the standard as well as a way to correct or amend the standard as needed."

"Indeed everyone seems to be ready for something new," says Greg. "Every person I have talked to agrees that now is the time for action. The BetterGEDCOM project invites all to participate so that we may achieve meaningful results."


  1. Suggestion: Implement the better GEDCOM in XML Schema. That will move the spec from the esoteric to the well-understood and open it up for processing by a wide variety of standard tools. Adding XSLT to the mix will make the results immediately displayable with contemporary Internet browsers.

  2. Blogger,

    I think that this "project" has started because Users can not share successfully and easily their research. GEDCOM is part of the discussion is because that is where we have been for many years. The "BetterGEDCOM" is just a term for the Community to create a Better way to Share our research.

    It is hoped that our vendors will develop a way to do this.

    As a User of a genealogy program, I don't care HOW our vendors make this sharing possible.

    Again, this is a community effort to move forward.

    I hope you made your comments known on the Wiki, as that is where the community can see your input to this project.

    Thank you,


  3. It's an excellent initiative!

    I myself regret the significant flaws in the gedcom 5.5 on my blog (in French)(http://bit.ly/aIPb5o)

    I think it's time!

    The project is it based on the xml?

  4. Dear B. Callens,
    This project is not based on xml per se.

    This project is to get people like you from all over the world in ONCE PLACE to discuss where to go from here -- and then make it happen.

    I am glad you will be part of the work.

  5. To make the GEDcom more attractable, we must get away from the flat text file based database and utilise a more robust approach. The current GEDCom format (5.5) has outlived it's usefulness. We need a better multi system wide basis.