BUILD A BetterGEDCOM
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
“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.”
— end —
Addressing the primary issue of how to format genealogical data and get it from one person to another in some standardized format is the single most important issue in the genealogical community, in my opinion.
Really, what could be more fundamental?
The only thing I can think of that might take precedence is if I lived across from the Family History Library or the National Archives or my local courthouse and it was on fire. Right now. In that case, I’d grab a bucket, but as things stand now, this whole GEDCOM problem is THE issue.
The GEDCOM Standard is now almost 15 years old. Saying a technology standard governing how information is formatted has reached the age of 15 years is about like reaching your 202nd birthday. Here’s a short, impromptu list of GEDCOM’s problems:
- It mostly uses an obsolete character set making basic use a compatibility issue in many cases
- There are many ambiguities in the standard, which cause developers to have conflicts in how they adopt the standard or simply adopt their own solutions which negates the original purpose of having an standard
- Passing core information like sources or external supporting documents is done intermittently, badly or not at all
- Since there is no development on the standard, there is correspondingly no hope of the user community seeing adoption of innovations in genealogy across software programs uniformly
- Lack of any general effort in the genealogical technology community is now causing developers to retreat into their own environments, making their products even less capable of cooperating with the products of other vendors
Do I need to go on? I’m already going to have nightmares tonight.
The only way to solve this problem is for the user community to step up and exhibit some leadership in the area of genealogical technology. We have to band together and get these software companies to work together, because they’re not going to do it themselves.
Aren’t you sick of your data being trapped inside one program unless you’re willing to sacrifice all that more advanced information to get it out? Aren’t you sick and tired of entering the same information over and over again because the products and services you want to use won’t cooperate enough to share information effectively? Let’s get serious, my fellow genealogists!
Stay tuned for some serious community action!