Monday, January 24, 2011

Peeking at Family Tree Maker 2011 Source Citations in the GEDCOM File - Post 1

I know that the earlier posts about Creating Source Citations in Family Tree Maker 2011, and how they translated to other software programs like RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree 7, were not too exciting... However, they served a purpose - to demonstrate that Source Citations, whether created by templates or in free-form mode, can get mangled when they go through the GEDCOM export/import process.  I didn't know why this happened, only that it happened and I didn't like it.

I created a small GEDCOM 5.5 file of just Isaac Seaver (1823-1901) and his three wives from the Family Tree Maker 2011 program for the purposes of easily finding Source items in a GEDCOM file.  This is a Text file that I opened in Wordpad on my computer. 

Here is the screen of the Source Template for Isaac Seaver's birth Fact from the Westminster, Massachusetts Vital Record book (using the "Book: Basic Format (Print Publication)" template):

I added this in the source template fields (entered data in red):

Author surname:  Systematic History Fund
Author forenames:  [blank]
Author credentials: [blank]
Other authors: [blank]
Main Title: Vital Records of Westminster, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849
Subtitle:  [blank]
Publisher: F.P. Rice
Publication Place: Worcester, Mass.
Year: 1908
Repository:  New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts
Comments: [blank]

The Citation Detail for the specific Fact was: Page 83

The Source Citation for Isaac Seaver's birth that resulted was (including the Source Detail and Repository):

Systematic History Fund, Vital Records of Westminster, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849: (Worcester, Mass.: F.P. Rice, 1908), Page 83. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

The GEDCOM file text for this Person, Fact, Source and Repository was in three parts:

1)  FACT identification:

0 @I33927@ INDI
1 NAME Isaac /Seaver/
2 DATE 16 OCT 1823
2 PLAC Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
2 SOUR @S611@
3 PAGE Page 83

The birth DATE tag has "16 OCT 1823" in the field, and the birthplace (PLAC) tag has "Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA" in the field.

The Citation Detail for this citation is in the PAGE tag.

This lists the Source number as S611. 

2)  The SOURce tag information:  Further down in the GEDCOM file are the lines created by FTM 2011 for this Source tag (SOUR):

0 @S611@ SOUR
1 AUTH Systematic History Fund
1 TITL Systematic History Fund, Vital Records of Westminster, Massachusetts,
2 CONC to the End of the Year 1849
1 PUBL Name: Worcester, Mass., F.P. Rice, 1908;
1 REPO @R7@
2 CONC Systematic History Fund. Vital Records of Westminster, Massachusetts,
2 CONC to the End of the Year 1849. Worcester, Mass.: F.P. Rice, 1908.

The tags in this part are AUTH for Author; TITLE for Title, PUBL for Publisher, REPO for Repository, and NOTE for Notes.  The CONC tag is apparently used to concatenate text that is longer than the allotted GEDCOM field length (it seems to act like a line break).

 3)  REPOsitory tag:  Further down in the GEDCOM file is the Repository tag (REPO) with information:

0 @R7@ REPO
1 NAME New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts

The Repository portion of the GEDCOM identifies the NAME, the ADDRess, the EMAIL address and the PHONe number of the Repository.

We can see that creating a GEDCOM 5.5 Source Citation Family Tree Maker 2011 appears to create some extraneous information for Isaac Seaver's birth source, which is a Basic Book:

*  The AUThor tag has the complete Author's name
*  In the TITLe tag, the Author's name is included before the Title (which is complete)
*  In the PUBLisher tag, there is the word "NAME" for some reason;  all three elements are provided but are in an improper format (a colon is supposed to follow the publishing place, and there should be no semi-colon at the end)
*  The NOTE field contains the complete Source created by the Source Template (without parenthese around the Publisher information). 
*  The REPOsitory tag has the complete Repository information

It's no mystery to me why, when the Source Citations created in Family Tree Maker 2011 were exported to a GEDCOM 5.5 file and imported to the other programs, that the source citations in the other programs were badly mangled.  This looks like a classic case of GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out. 

I think that if Family Tree Maker 2011 had put the proper information from the Source Template into the proper GEDCOM fields, that the GEDCOM file would have the correct information for importing to another program or to an online database. 

I want to look at the output of the "Free-form" source template in FTM 2011 for a similar source type to see if  the GEDCOM components are poorly crafted.  We'll look at the other programs too in future posts.

Was this just inattention to detail on the part of FTM 2011's programmers, or is it a way to keep researchers from switching to another software program?  I've heard others say that it is deliberate, but I don't know that.

The fact is that the SOURce lines in a GEDCOM 5.5 export file created by Family Tree Maker 2011 should be corrected  by the software supplier ASAP, especially before the FamilySearch Family Tree comes online for the general public.

Your comments and observations are welcome.


Tamura Jones said...


I've heard some stories about Family Tree Maker deliberately having poor GEDCOM support, some from sources close to the fire.
However, barring evidence, it seems best to remember Napolean's epigram that you should never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

- Tamura

Caro said...

My family history interests are in the UK and the pre-defined source templates in FTM 2011 are completely useless for UK sources. So I created my own. I quickly realised that it is not a good idea to fill in the various sections in the "Add Source" form. If I do that, the program decides where to put the various elements, both when creating the source in the program and also when transferring the data into a GEDCOM. Instead I simply give the source a title and leave all the other fields blank. I then lay out the citation, with punctuation etc exactly as I want it, in the Citation Detail field of the "Add Source Citation" box. Not only does this give me the exact source citation I want, it also transfers perfectly in a GEDCOM.

Dave B. said...


Legacy Family Tree has about 1700 source templates in its SourceWriter - all those contained in the Evidence Explained book by Elizabeth Shown Mills and a few that should have been there. When exporting to a GEDCOM 5.5 file, all the information appears correctly formatted in the appropriate tags. Here is the output of the same information you used in your example:

0 @I1@ INDI
1 NAME Isaac /Seaver/
2 GIVN Isaac
2 SURN Seaver
2 DATE 16 Oct 1823
2 PLAC Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
2 SOUR @S2@
3 PAGE Page 83.

0 @S2@ SOUR
1 ABBR Vital Records Book test
1 TITL Vital Records of Westminster, Massachusetts to the End of t
2 CONC he Year 1849
1 AUTH Systematic History Fund
1 PUBL Worcester, Mass: F.P. Rice, 1908.
1 REPO @R1@

0 @R1@ REPO
1 NAME New England Historic Genealogical Society
1 ADDR New England Historic Genealogical Society
2 CONT Boston, Massachusetts
2 _NAME New England Historic Genealogical Society
2 CITY Boston
2 STAE Massachusetts

Other programs have every opportunity to import and correctly format a citation from this information.

Eileen said...

From early exports and imports via GEDCOM, I was beginning to suspect that the export itself may be the issue. When I did a straight export from FTM to GED and imported it into any of my other software, I invariably lost all my media and garbled or lost my sources. In many cases, although a source list was present, none of the sources were linked to events.

As an experiment, I exported my FTM data in FTM 2009 format and imported it into TMG 7 (which is capable of importing FTM files directly). When I did that I had all my source links and mostly all my media. I then exported from TMG to GED and then, imported the GED file into RM4 and Legacy 7.5.

I had better sources and they were still linked to events and had all my media links.

So my currentl plan is to fix all the problems found by TMG (some media not found, some place names, etc)and use TMG as my bridge to the other programs but still maintain my data in FTM (at least so far--that may change).

Eileen said...

I misstated in my prior comment. When I imported the TMG GEDCOM into Legacy 7.5 everything transferred, including media but when I imported the same GEDCOM into RM4 none of the media tranferred.