Friday, August 26, 2011

BetterGEDCOM Update

Ol' Myrt here set up the BetterGEDCOM wiki in mid-Nov 2010 with the hopes that a grassroots effort would improve genealogy data file transfers. Today I'd like to share some thoughts about the project.
1. There is currently a GEDCOM standard, with which the genealogy software programmers have elected not to fully comply during the last 15 years.

2. GENTECH attempted to codify a GEDCOM standard with backing from professional genealogists and a core group of coders, but the initiative fell flat years ago.

3. Absent a timely, viable BetterGEDCOM standard with accompanying product that can be readily assimilated by genealogy vendors, AncestorSync (from the same folks who brought us FamilyInsight) has great potential as a "bridging" solution facilitating file sharing among researchers on a variety of platforms.

4. BetterGEDCOM is stronger in the "international" front, while AncestorSync is stronger "getting a product out of the pipeline."

5. FamilySearch has specifically chosen not to work with BetterGEDCOM, though it is accustomed to approving certified affiliates. This is most likely because BetterGEDCOM doesn't have a product for them to evaluate.

6. has not participated in any BetterGEDCOM discussions.

7. Other major software vendors (as defined by great numbers of end users) are not interested in working with us on BetterGEDCOM as a standard, using their time instead to upgrade their individual products to meet current consumer demands.

8. Acknowledging AncestorSync's file transfer capabilities through BetterGEDCOM's independent review is an extension of testing we've done with other programs to describe issues of compliance with current GEDCOM standards. Scrambled data fields and lost data are important issues that have been tracked. If AncestorSync avoids the usual pitfalls, test results will tell the tale.

9. I look forward to testing AncestorSync V4 which will involve end-user to end-user file transfers. At this point, AncestorSync is in V1 beta.

10. It would be better if the *new* de facto genealogy data exchange process isn't owned by a company. We have learned from Microsoft's monopoly.


A.  I believe AncestorSync will gain full acceptance in the industry by vendors and end-users alike. Vendors favor a no-effort solution to GEDCOM file transfer issues, and end-users just want the sharing to happen seamlessly.

B. The concept of archiving genealogy data may be an obsolete thought, given a dynamic program like AncestorSync that plans to maintain file transfer criteria for older versions of genealogy software. Genealogists are becoming increasingly adept with the use of Dropbox, Mozy and other file syncing and backup services.

C. BetterGEDCOM work can continue with GEDCOM file data models and source citation architecture, but I seriously doubt we can gain acceptance in the industry without strategic partnership(s).

D. While collaboration works fine to discuss data models and architecture, but creating an actual product takes funding, man hours, and a top-down project management system. Failing that, here at BetterGEDCOM, with just a few active though highly qualified participants, Ol' Myrt is still herding cats.

E. I favor BetterGEDCOM collaborating with AncestorSync.

Personally, I don't care if AncestorSync gets there before BetterGEDCOM does, just that the work gets done. 
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. I'd like to add:

    It would be better if the *new* de facto genealogy data exchange process is an open, well documented standard, and not a closed, propietary piece of commercial code.

  2. Thanks for this sensible overview.

    So why have there been no Organizers Meetings' minutes since March? If these meetings have stopped, maybe something could be said on-site.

  3. I think BetterGEDCOM is off track and trying to do too much.

    Can I please, please just have an XML schema with keys that allow the file to be ordered, and simple utilities to convert to and from GEDCOM.

    This would make possible all sorts of workflows that are extremely problematic now. I could use standard versioning tools (git, mercurial, subversion) for collaboration, branching and merging. I wouldn't care if Aunt Minnie mangled something with some other tool, because I could easily repair it and replace whatever data got lost in the translation.

  4. Bob,

    The simple truth is that none of the major genealogical software vendors are interested in writing to *any* standard-period.

    If they were they wouldn't even be writing to GEDCOM 5.5.1 which isn't an officially released standard at all.

    It is a catch 22 situation. You can't have an enforcable standard unless the major vendors support it and they won't support it until it actually *is* a standard.

    Unless Gates or Buffet are willing to bankroll the development of a completely new genealogical program that completely outclasses anything on the market today I'm afraid commercial code is what we are stuck with.

  5. I don't think that AncestorSync is going to replace having a GEDCOM standard, is it? Currently AncestorSync syncs between desktop files and online pedigrees. Don't we still need a standard for individuals to be able to share more easily with each other, without having to use an online tree to do it? Or am I missing something about what AncestorSync does?