Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Using custom report features of your genealogy program

I recently received the following query from a reader:
We are new to Genealogy and have and Family Tree Maker.

This is a question that I am sure must have been answered a million times but we have not been able to find a solution doing Google searches. We would like to use Excel to help sort out what we know and don't know from the tree that we have built so far.

Is there any software that will download an existing gedcom file onto an Excel spreadsheet?
The best answer is no, although technically it is possible to import the information, but it would just be too unreadable. Ol' Myrt here understands you wish to use your experience with Excel to sort and filter the data. It is a powerful program, and I enjoyed teaching it in the post secondary setting for many years.

Every genealogy management program includes default reports (name-sorted, place-sorted to list a few). But there is also the ability to create custom reports where you specify things like:

  • people in a given time period
  • names in a certain alpha range
  • people where the birth field is blank, etc.

So my best advice is to look to your existing program to create reports on the data  you've entered. Folks tend to have two or three genealogy management programs for the ease of creating reports varies among them.

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


  1. Dear MYRTLE,

    I do hope the person who asked you the question is following your advise about subscribing to the comments on your Blog (yesterday).

    I almost agree with your best answer of no, but, with Family Tree Maker, not so much.

    As we learned with our Inferential Genealogy project, the use of EXCEL or any spreadsheet was helpful. In my current I.G. Project, in fact to reach my Goal for that project, I couldn't live without EXCEL. I am trying to solidify a Family Unit, so that I can find the Parents of my Subject.

    I started by creating an EXCEL file directly from Family Tree Maker. Since your reader using FTM, A thought that I would reply.

    I will do a blog post on how I did what, and how I am using it (EXCEL) to ready my I.G. Goal.

    I'll try to remember to link from my blog to this post.


  2. Myrt, Just have to say, I am shocked that "folks tend to have two or three genealogy management programs". The only time I ever doubled up when was when I was considering switching, and that was 2 times in 20 years.

    I have always suggested to students and those I was helping get started in this great sport to look at several, but, pick one, learn it, stick with it, and get proficient with it, so they can make that program WORK for them.

    I had to upgrade recently (same program) and the learning curve has moments of frustration. I am still in the, "I prefer my old version", stage of said learning curve. Some of the improvements, AREN'T! Well, at least they are not to me! :-)

    As complicated as our programs have become having several to just use the reports overwhelms me, there is no way I can effectively learn one, and surely not 2 or 3.

    Maybe I am just getting old?? LOL

  3. Dear MYRTLE,

    I think and hope that I have answered your readers question here:

    Thank you,


  4. Dear Myrtle,

    I have a reply to this query. I use PAF because my fingers know all of the shortcuts. In PAF's Custom Reports there is the option to print to a Comma Delimited/CSV File. If I choose this option and open the resulting file in Excel (being careful to choose the comma as the delimiter), I get an Excel file that can be sorted on any of the criteria I have included in the report. I think this is exactly what the letter writer was looking for. I suspect that FTM has this capability. If not, PAF is free and would be able to import a GEDCOM from FTM.

    Bill Buchanan

  5. Hiya Russ,
    I agree that Excel is good for working with data PRIOR to it being entered in your genealogy management program -- such as when one is determining which of the three John Smiths are which.

  6. Carol, I believe that those multi-program users still do data entry one program, and merely export when I want a well-designed report offered by another program.

  7. Tamura sent the following:

    Some GEDCOM to Excel utilities

    GEDxlate Lite


    cvbFT Family Tree database

  8. One of my California genealogy friends helped me with information about an ancestor with missing data and made a spreadsheet to help him track the specific time line, people, documents, and sources The "missing cells" were where he and I needed to focus our research.

    I have found an Excel spreadsheet helpful in the following area:

    1. Making my own columns in Excel allows me to customize the information I have at hand and if needed I can insert another column.

    2. It was very helpful to create a spreadsheet of my mother-in-law's many friends over her lifetime who were mentioned in her several address books. The info included names, nicknames, addresses (sometimes multiple), phone numbers,occupations, met on vacations (cruises), school (college or teaching staff), time of location, familial relationships in the list, etc.
    3. The clarity of a spreadsheet is much better than any report in a genealogy software program because one can see at a glance all of the pieces of information and perhaps where the missing information or "holes" are in the empty cells.
    4. The columns can be sorted according to column heading to show different topics: who lived in one town or state, time line by sorting dates, or groupings of familial relationships, occupations, schools, or vacation locations, etc.

  9. Keep in mind that an Excel date will rarely handle a "genealogy" date properly. Dates in your genealogy software before 1900 won't be treated as dates. Also, partial dates like "1 May" or "May 1950" will having the missing part guessed by Excel. And this doesn't even touch all the modifiers that may have been used: about, before, between, estimated, etc.

  10. The Legacy Family Tree program will export a List Report to a CSV file which can then be opened in Excel. The report has 8 optional fields and you can choose from a long list of items for those fields, such as - birth date and place, death date and place, father, mother, spouse, marriage date, etc. It's a great tool and the person who asked the question might want to check out the Legacy program.