Thursday, January 20, 2011

Source Citation Templates and GEDCOM Files - Oh My!

I've blogged about my experiences taking Family Tree Maker 2011 source citations created by source templates, exporting a GEDCOM file, and importing the GEDCOM file into RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree 7 in:

Source Citations Created in Family Tree Maker 2011 - some examples
FTM2011 Source Citations in RootsMagic 4 - Mangled?
FTM 2011 Source Citations in Legacy Family Tree 7 - Mangled?

For example, a book citation created using a Family Tree Maker 2011 source template looks like this:

Robert S. Wakefield (editor), Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume 13: Family of William White (Boston, Mass.: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997), page 6. Carlsbad Georgina Cole Library, Carlsbad California, USA, (1250 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad, California, USA).

After exporting the FTM2011 GEDCOM file, and importing it into RootsMagic 4, the RootsMagic source citation looks like this:

Robert S. Wakefield (editor), Wakefield (editor), Robert S., Mayflower Families Through FiveGenerations (Name: Boston, Mass.: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997;), page 6.

And importing the FTM2011 GEDCOM file into Legacy Family Tree 7, the source citation looks like this:

Robert S. Wakefield (editor), Wakefield (editor), Robert S., Mayflower Families Through Five Generations (Name: Boston, Mass.: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997;), page 6.

You can easily see the differences.  When a GEDCOM file is created, the elements in the FTM 2011 source citation template get different tags - AUTH for Author, TITL for Title, the PUBL for Publisher, REPO for Repository, etc.  Additional information in the source template seems to get put into a NOTE tag.  The FTM 2011 source template for Books has an author's Last Name field and an author's First Name field, plus an Other Authors field, and all of that gets put into the AUTH field in the GEDCOM file.  Why does it get duplicated when it is imported into the other programs?

When RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree 7 import the GEDCOM file, the information in the file gets put into specific source citation fields also, but not into a source template.  The result is as shown above.

I suspect that if I export a GEDCOM from RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree 7, with well-crafterd source citations created by Evidence! Explained quality templates, and import it into the other programs, that the same thing will happen.  I will try to do that sometime soon, but have to go create source template citations in those programs to export to the others. 

My purpose in doing this was to show that, despite the best efforts of each software program, and of the researcher trying to create Evidence! Explained quality source citations, the use of the current GEDCOM export/import capability mangles almost all of the citations created when they are read into another software program. 

This points up one of the reasons that a group of researchers and software developers have started the Build a BetterGEDCOM Wiki site.  If you are interested in helping this effort, please sign up at the site.

There is a BetterGEDCOM blog also, and Russ Worthington has done similar tests on sources and locations on the blog.

Several people have commented on my earlier posts, and these are useful and illuminating:

RootsMagic said:

"If you look at the sources in the GEDCOM file created by FTM, I'm guessing you will see that FTM doesn't export the templated sources, but puts the sources in the TITL, AUTH, and PUBL fields. That is what RootsMagic ends up having to read from the GEDCOM file."

Russ said:

"From my test results, FTM exported the Template information BUT it didn't remove the AUTH tag. I can't see that information in the Family Tree Maker Source / Citation screen. It was there, because it was in the screen that Randy started with. I have moved the Source format to the Template format. The Template format should have, unless I missed a step somewhere, remove that AUTH tag information.

Just went back into Family Tree Maker and the AUTH information is not there. BUT, it is in the GEDCOM."

Tree Traverser said:

"It is partly a GEDCOM issue because source templates are non-standard and therefore they are proprietary to each software vendor. But, even if a vendor exports their proprietary format via GEDCOM, a third-party application may still not be able to reconstruct the source information. For instance RootsMagic exports its source templates, but a third-party application cannot currently reconstruct those sources even if it understands that proprietary format. Until the technology matures, I recommend using a citation generator like, then pasting the results as a free-form source in your genealogy program.

"Perhaps vendors will keep the ease of use factor in their source template implementations, but ultimately generate and store the "free-form" source citation for eventual export. Hopefully, one could modify the information stored in the template, and the free-form source would be updated automatically."

Ron Ferguson said:

"There has been quite a lot of discussion about this question in the Legacy User Group. The consensus view is that the GEDCOM is not able to translate Legacy's formatted Source Writer sources corrected, and I suspect this is probably true for FTM's formatted sources as well.  Yet another reason for either an updated GEDCOM standard or something new altogether. However, given the multitude of templates which Legacy has (I do not know FTM, so cannot comment) I cannot really see how this might be achieved."

lkessler said:

"Is Legacy able to restore its sources properly if it reads a GEDCOM that it creates? If so, then the potential is there for any program to read them. But most programs don't go to the effort to do so. If Legacy can read its own sources, kudos to them. They are not the problem. Other programs can read them if the put the effort in to do so. If Legacy can't read their own sources, then Legacy is at fault, so don't blame the other programs. Same goes for all programs.

"Yes, BetterGEDCOM's goal is to make it easier for all programs to transfer this data. But until that happens, the transfer is still possible if with two well-meaning programs."

My thanks to the commenters - this is a complex subject.  There are significant problems with sharing data between software programs using GEDCOM, but it's better than not having any method to do it.  Each program creator has unique code and capabilities, but unless a researcher sticks with one genealogy program, there are problems.

UPDATED: 1:30 p.m.  Edited some text formatting, added a phrase to the paragraph starting with "My purpose in doing this..." and added the disclosure below.

Disclosure:   I received gratis copies of Family Tree Maker 2011, RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree 7 from the software companies in the past. I try very hard to be objective in my comments about all genealogy software, subscription sites and websites.

1 comment:

Susan Clark said...

Sigh. I've followed these posts carefully hoping against hope you would find a formula that worked. This is one of the chief reasons I have pared down my database to a pedigree file and am putting sources into the notes.

The free-form source may be the best solution for now - which rather defeats the point of all those ESM templates. I can live without conforming to her standards precisely (never have been too good at conforming) if I could provide consistent, descriptive citations that survive the GEDCOM translations.