Friday, August 17, 2012

What are FamilySearch's Intentions for GEDCOM X?

Ryan Heaton, writing on the GEDCOM X blog, is gradually lifting the veil about GEDCOM X development.  These GEDCOM X blog posts since June 2012 are informative (be sure to click links within the posts):

*  05 June 2012 -- Specs, Diagrams, and Illustrations - provides links to specification documents and models

*  05 June 2012 -- The GEDCOM 5.5 to GEDCOM X Conversion Tool - offers a way to read a GEDCOM 5.5 file and create a GEDCOM X file

*  06 June 2012 -- The GEDCOM X Recipe Book - introduces the recipe book used to address a specific question about how the GEDCOM X model is to be used in a specific use case. 

*  03 July 2012 -- The File Format - Jeers and Cheers - responds to comments about the GEDCOM X file format and language, including Tamura Jones's post GEDCOM X Converter (but Ryan didn't mention it).

*  14 August 2012 -- Requirements - there is no Requirements document yet, but Ryan thinks that the overarching requirement should be "GEDCOM X must be able to accommodate FamilySearch's Platform API."

*  15 August 2012 -- Whence FHISO? - discussion of FamilySearch's commitment to (not much) and plans for (not many yet - wait!) FHISO.  

Tamura Jones wrote GEDCOM X: FamilySearch First on 15 August 2012, on his Modern Software Experience blog,  which analyzes the Requirements post.  Tamura's conclusions include:

*  The GEDCOM X site makes it clear that GEDCOM X is the new FamilySearch standard.  It replaces the GEDCOM file format and the NFS API, and is the FamilySearch Family Tree API.

*  FamilySearch is promising backward compatibility...What should worry all vendors, not just the FamilySearch partners, is that the stated requirement directly contradicts previous FamilySearch statements about the nature of the GEDCOM X project.

*  FamilySearch claims that GEDCOM X is an open community standard for the industry...GEDCOM X isn't a community standard. GEDCOM X is a proprietary FamilySearch standard for FamilySearch products. The GEDCOM X blog just confirmed that.

Read all of Tamura's post - there is a lot more there.  I really appreciate Tamura's analysis and opinions. 

So what should the genealogy community do?   

*  Wait for FamilySearch to complete the GEDCOM X data models, file format and FS Family Tree API, and hope that the genealogy software providers and online family tree providers can adapt to it? 

*  Wait for FHISO to develop and complete a new and "better" GEDCOM data model and file format (better than GEDCOM 5.5) and hope that the genealogy software providers and online family tree providers can adapt to it, and that FamilySearch can modify their GEDCOM 5.5 to  to GEDCOM X conversion tool?

*  Some other action plan?  

Unfortunately, almost all of the users of genealogy software programs and online family trees (including FamilySearch Family Tree) don't have the knowledge or expertise to address these issues - and I know that I don't.  Almost all of us have to rely on the good intentions of the software and tree providers to make this work.

My opinion?  It looks to me that FamilySearch is developing GEDCOM X to be a FamilySearch Family Tree API, will try to make it backward compatible, and has the attitude of "We've done it, here it is, we're going to use it, adopt it if you can, use it if you want to."

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

UPDATED 3 p.m.:  Edited a bit, added a link to Tamura's Converter post.


Cousin Russ said...


And the GEDCOM saga continues.

I have a suggestion for your readers.

Make contact with your genealogy database management providers and suggest that they join the FHISO effort.

From all that I have read, that is the "platform" that will develop an International Standard for us to share our research.

We already know that,, and WikiTree are at the table. I am sorry if I missed any other company, but those are the three that I remember. There are also other Developers part of the FHISO organisation.

GEDCOM-X may be out before FHISO has a deliverable standard, but the scope of FHISO is broader, more robust, and International in scope.

is a good place to start.

Thank you,


Greg said...

This sounds like a good suggestion Russ, but I wonder your association with FHISO. Is this a biased view as a member of FHISO or a ....

GeneJ said...

Thank you Randy, and thank you Russ.

I hope folks who read "Whence FHISO?" will then read, or read again, "Why FHISO?"

I'm among the international group of volunteers working on FHISO. This independent group is actively communicating with vendors and genealogical organizations all over the world about FHISO. From time to time, we are asked to explain the difference between FHISO and FamilySearch's effort on GEDCOMX. To that end, there were a couple of things in Ryan Heaton's posts this week that are helpful.

(1) Ryan wrote, "[W]e need to figure out how to best work together to get the work done." [a]

Ryan's talking to all of us. The way forward for our diverse community IS along the path of multi-stakeholder governance already followed by most business sectors. It is a brightly lit path--see the Why FHISO? document (link above).

[2] "[All] of the requirements for the [GEDCOMX] project can be summarized into a single statement: GEDCOM X must be able to accommodate FamilySearch's Platform API."[b]

While that might be disappointing, was it ever reasonable to assume the proprietary development effort of one vendor, in this case, FamilySearch, would have fairly considered everyone's needs/every competitive interest?

From Why FHISO? Section there, "The Family History Information Standards Organisation ( was created to develop international standards based on the principles of diversity and due process. Standards developed by the organization will better meet the different and competitive needs of all service providers, program developers and users--globally."

Equally important, from the same section, "Developers will be able to adopt a single [FHISO] standard with the confidence that their product meets expressed community requirements."

In FHISO's case, identifying needs begins with the first step in the development cycle ("Identify Needs") each requirement eis documented from the start.

Elaborating on what Russ said. It's time. Some of us have been waiting at least 16 years. Let's do it. --GenJ

[a] "Whence FHISO?"
[b] "GEDCOMX Requirements"

GeneJ said...

@ Greg,

In case Russ doesn't spot your question.

FHISO will be owned by the community, it's an independent platform where otherwise competitive interests gather to engage in the democratic process.

Short and sweet, you, Randy, Russ--all of us--have a stake, but we are not alone. In order for the work to begin in earnest, FHISO needs broad based support from the leaders in the community. That means we need vendors, genealogical organisations and computer user groups to support this multi-stakeholder, democratic platform.

A small group of independent volunteers (and their supporters) are working to communicate with these global leaders and to outreach to folks like you. The volunteers names are listed on the FHISO home page.

More than a supporter, Russ has had personal experience with other groups that want to see the multi-stakeholder platform happen. Up close and personal, I believe Russ knows the difference FHISO will make. --GeneJ (whose "e" key has been uncooperative all day. Sigh.)