Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Who wants seamless genealogy data transfers?

Yesterday our friends at FHISO, the Family History Information Standards Organisation, added yet another major player to the lineup of those working to define a new standard for genealogy data exchange. Ol' Myrt here cannot help but wonder why any highly motivated genealogy entity would decline to lend support.

Genealogists the world over recognize the problem with a 15-year-old GEDCOM file exchange protocol that hasn't kept pace with the type of genealogy data we're compiling. For instance, when I share my genealogy data with my cousin Russ, the photos and scanned images of documents don't transfer using the current GEDCOM (genealogy data communications) protocol.

The FHISO Press Release page notes the following participants in addition to the "staff" of volunteers:

  • Federation of Family History Societies, December 4, 2012
  • Federation of Genealogical Societies, October 29, 2012
  • Coret Genealogie, October 11, 2012
  • Calico Pie, September 24, 2012,
  • ourFamily•ology, September 21, 2012
  • WikiTree, August 15, 2012
  •  RootsMagic, Inc., July 28, 2012
  • May 17, 2012

What can the average genealogist do?
Encourage your favorite genealogy software vendors, websites and organizations to join FHISO to ensure the transfer of genealogy data will be seamless. No more lost ancestors!


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

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
G+: +Pat Richley-Erickson
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont


  1. Thank you, Pat. Isn't it exciting! If we all stand up, and stand together, we become One Community, and One Standard will be. :-)

  2. Pat, I don't understand your comment about media not transferring with the current GEDCOM standard.

    I just made a small GEDCOM file of 188 persons in RootsMagic, and had 497 media items transfer into a new FTM 2012 database. Imported the media fine!

    Then I created a GEDCOM in FTM 2012 and imported it into Legacy 7.5 and the media was imported fine!

    1. I seem to remember the media files have to be in the exact same directory structure on the computer on which the GEDCOM is reconstructed or transferred. If you are using your own computer to transfer data and attached media, no problem. If you send it to a cousin using a different computer you have to address these constraints.

    2. Depends on the destination. GedView for iOS doesn't require anything to be done. Just add your folders to a zip file along with the GEDCOM and let it work things out, no changes to the file needed.

    3. There are a few contenders for a container format:

      • Open Office XML. This is a zipped, XML-based file format developed by Microsoft. Initially standardised as ECMA-376 and later as ISO/IEC 29500.

      • MHTML, or MIME HTML. This is a Web page archive format used to combine resources that are typically represented by external links (e.g. images) together with HTML code into a single file. It is used extensively for rich-text email messages. MHTML is a proposed standard, circulated in a revised edition in 1999 as RFC 2557.

      • Java archives, i.e. jar files.

      • ISO/IEC NP 21320-1. This standard was still under development at the time of writing.

      There are pro's & con's to each. JAR files seems about the best, least until NP 21320-1 has some published details.

  3. Dear Randy,
    The current GEDCOM does not provide a container to hold the actual media file. In your example, it is the link to the media file that made it possible for one genealogy program to see where your media file exists. This will work fine if linking to a publicly available file in the cloud, when connected to the Internet, or using only one computer.

  4. Since Windows computers typically use a directory structure that has something like:


    it would be different on Randy's computer. The constraints would be possible but not likely to be overcome by the average researcher.

  5. Pat, Ancestral Quest has a Gedcom that really does this, it grabs the media files, not just the link, not sure you were aware of this. Claire

  6. Unfortunately, the programs mentioned above are not universally used. We cannot continue with such a miss-mash. A "GEDCOM" like option, as with Ancestral contains proprietary software elements exclusive to AQ.