Monday, February 7, 2011

Do Genealogy Template Sources Survive When Passed Through GEDCOM?

I've shown in these posts over the past few weeks that Source Citations created by Source Templates (using Evidence! Explained guidelines), when exported from a GEDCOM file, do not survive as source templates when they are imported into another software program:

FTM2011 Source Citations in RootsMagic 4 - Mangled?
FTM 2011 Source Citations in Legacy Family Tree 7 - Mangled?
How did the RootsMagic 4 Source Citations Look in Legacy Family Tree 7?

I haven't reported it, but I've tested the import of Legacy Family Tree 7 template sources (using GEDCOM) into Family Tree Maker 2011 and RootsMagic 4, and of RootsMagic 4 (using GEDCOM) into Family Tree Maker 2011/.

In all these cases, the sources are imported as "Free-form" sources, and the hard work of users who created quality source citations using the source templates in the software program are lost. 

I haven't tested importing a Legacy Family Tree 7 native file into Family Tree Maker 2011, or a RootsMagic 4 native file into Legacy Family Tree 7, which the programs say can be done.  Will the source citations include the source template fields and the formatting?  I don't know.

The conclusion I've found - at least with these three programs - is that:

Using a GEDCOM file to export data from one program and import it into another program will result in the loss of all Source Template information.  The resulting source templates are "Free-form" after the program interprets the GEDCOM data that is provided.  In the process, some programs do not put information in the correct Free-form source template field.

Last week, Bruce Buzbee of RootsMagic asked me in a Facebook message if I had exported a GEDCOM file from each program, then imported that GEDCOM file back into the program, and if the source template formatting survives the export/import process.  After all, this is what many researchers would do when providing a GEDCOM file to another researcher, since you often don't know what software program the other researcher uses, or it is often different.

I decided to try it with Family Tree Maker 2011, Legacy Family Tree 7, and RootsMagic 4.

1)  Here's the Source Citation image from Family Tree Maker 2011 (from a GEDCOM created by FTM 2011):

The form above is the "Free-form" Source template, not the "Book: Basic Format (Print Publication)" template that the source citation was created from in Family Tree Maker 2011.  So it looks like Family Tree Maker 2011 is a FAIL for this test.

2)  Here's the Source Citation image from Legacy Family Tree 7 (from a GEDCOM created by LFT 7):

The form above is the "Free-form" Source template, not the "Books: Book Authored : Authored by an Agency: Basic Format" template that the source citation was created from in Legacy Family Tree 7.  So it looks like Legacy Family Tree 7 is a FAIL for this test.

3)  Here's the Source Citation image from RootsMagic 3 (from a GEDCOM created by RM 4):

The form above is the "Book: Basic Format" template that the source citation was created from in RootsMagic 4, not a "Free-form" source template.  So it looks like RootsMagic 4 is a PASS for this test.

The conclusion here, for me, is that:

If you want to preserve Sources created by Source Templates in one program, then RootsMagic is the only one of these three programs that retains the template fields and formatting when exported using a GEDCOM file and imported into the same program.  Of course, importing a file with the same native file (e.g., a Family Tree Maker file in native format sent to a person with Family Tree Maker) retains the source template fields and formatting.

I want to look at one more set of tests - how do the GEDCOMs import into an Ancestry Member Tree?  Are the source templates fields and formatting retained?

The Seaver Source Citation Saga continues... bored yet?  [hmmm, probably back on the first post...] 


Ronfergy said...

I am not totally certain that this is a fair test. As I think you know, I am one of Legacy's Beta testers, and have played around a lot with the sourcing. I also am a 'lumper' i.e. I make extensive use of the Source Details and minimum use of the Master Sources, such that all my 1901 English census results from, say Findmypast, have the same Master Source.

My reservation is whether the criteria should be the preservation of the original format, or the production of the same report/website output after import/export. In fact using GEDCOM 5.5 for the export/import the output was the same as the original, except that the citation date had been lost - perhaps understandably as, arguably, it should now be the date of the import (although it was not changed). I had no style information in my sources, so was unable to test this.

Nevertheless, I stand by my previous comment that, in my view, the problem lies with the inability of the GEDCOM format to support current practices.

Anonymous said...

This is not only a fair test, but it is an excellent test. GEDCOM has enough "guts" in it for any program to be able to to export its sources to GEDCOM and import them again perfectly.

It is to RootsMagic credit that it does so. What that means is that any other program, with sufficient "smarts", should be able to input a RootsMagic GEDCOM and recreate its sources.

Unfortunately, the other two programs don't have enough "smarts" to write enough to GEDCOM or read their own writings back in well enough to reproduce their own sources.

Randy, maybe you can inspect the GEDCOM to see if Legacy and FTM2011 at least wrote the entire source information needed to GEDCOM. Then it can be determined if it is their output or input that is lacking.

Connie said...

Legacy 7 will write the entire SourceWriter source citation to GEDCOM; there is nothing missing. But it will be scrambled when reimported into Legacy in the same way as it is scrambled when imported into another program.

Steve said...

Randy - great series of posts. I have found the same problems moving between RM4 and LFT. Did you try the RM4 experiment with a GEDCOM created by RM4 and imported back into RM4? The RM message boards have posts detailing the differences users have found between RM3 and RM4. You may not get the same results...

TreeTraverser said...

Technically, RootsMagic 4 should not pass your test. Although RM4 can process its own GEDCOM file, it can do so only because it uses information it knows internally, which is NOT found in the GEDCOM file itself.

A third-party application still cannot reconstruct all standard source templates based solely on an RM4 GEDCOM file, even if the application understands the RM4-specific format.

Can RM4 successfully read its own GEDCOM? Yes. Can other applications successfully read it? No. It depends on the intent of your test. To me, a GEDCOM file should be designed to be shared among other applications, and not just between copies of the same application.