Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Revised Help Center

The website has evolved into a complex collection of different resources. How and why you might want to use these resources depends on your experience and interest in genealogy and family history. Once you register and begin using the website, you are confronted with a confusing list of personalized topics including a list of contributions made by your relatives if you happen to have relatives using the website. You only recourse to learning more about the content of the website is to begin looking through the various menu items. 

The website contains a number of resources. These resources include the following main areas of interest:

1. The FamilySearch Family Tree

2. Billions of digitized genealogical records available in different locations on the website as listed in the Search tab at the top of each page: Records, Images, Family Tree, Genealogies, Catalog, Books, and the Research Wiki. Some of these resources act as finding aids and do not contain actual records. For example, the Catalog, the Records (Historical Record Collections) and the Research Wiki will provide links to the actual records but do not contain the content of any of the records. 

3. The Memories section of the website that contains user contributed photos, documents, stories, and audio files. 

4. A section on volunteering for an ongoing Indexing Project that has its own website and instructions. 

5. An Activities section that seems aimed at creating interest in learning to participate in family history but with no real structured instruction about how to do the actual work of finding your ancestors and relatives. 

There are also sections of the website that are directed at ordinances done in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are only visible if you are registered as a member. 

Instructions for using the website that are scattered around the website with no clear links to any central location. Most of the helpful information is found in the Research Wiki. There is no place on the website where you can see a list of all of the resources available. The usual place for this type of finding aid is in a site map. However, the site map for the website is not specific enough to find many of the existing pages on the website. Here is a screenshot of the site map.

You may be surprised at some of the pages you can find through the site map that you may have never known existed. 

Now, we have a "New" Help menu. What does this Help menu help you do or find? The answer is no much especially if you have a specific question about where to find something on the website. 

Here is the dropdown help menu. 

If you want to contact FamilySearch, you can click on the link for "Contact Us" and get a long list of international telephone numbers. If you do call the one of support numbers, they will create a case number for you inquiry. Previous to the current revision, you could then check back on a list of your previous and current inquiries to see if there now answers to your questions. This option and list has entirely disappeared. 

If you click on the Help Center link, you get the following web page. 

This page requires a significant amount of further exploration. Searches will provide you with long lists of suggested topics. This has always been the case when searching for help about a particular topic. In short, the new Help Center is not an improvement in the user's ability to find help but merely a revision of the interface with new icons. Here are all the search topics

More icons does not equate to more help. 

The real issue with large websites such as is that there is no real way to link all of the resources in a centralized way. If you need examples of huge websites that are impossible to use, all you need to do is look at a few of the websites put up by the United States Federal Government, such as the website. 

You might want to start a help center for one of these websites with a question: What do you want to do? and then start categorizing the responses. Right now, the new Help Center on the website is not an improvement and the loss of an list of previous inquiries is a serious step backwards. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Understanding the status all of the records on the FamilySearch website


There are multiple categories of records hosted on the website and you may be surprised to find out what you have been missing. As this post is being written there are over 8.7 billion records on the website (hereinafter "the website). There are about 4.51 billion digital images published. See Company Facts

Here is a list of the categories with a comment about their availability. 

1. The basic collection of searchable records on the website  are contained in the Historical Record Collections. 

This collection has digitized records that are cataloged and indexed. Not all the individual record collections are completely indexed. You can view a list of the published collections by clicking on the link under the "Find a Collection" section on this web page. Some of the collections are still marked as "Browse Images" which means that none of the records in the collection are yet indexed. Even collections that show a number of records are possibly not fully indexed. You need to look at the total number of records in the collection and compare total to the number listed on the last updated list. Here is a screenshot of the list sorted by last update. 

If you click on a particular image link, you will see the catalog entry for that collection. You can tell if all of the records have been indexed by comparing the number of records in the list with the total number of records listed in the catalog entry. 

2. I have already pointed out that some of the records in the Historical Record Collections are not indexed but the number of indexed records is only a small percentage of all the records on the website. It is also important to understand that the indexing process does not always include all of the information and names on the record. A large number of records on the website appear only in the Catalog. 

The catalog does not contained a link to all of the records on the website. Many of the records on the website that are digitized but not indexed are cataloged and listed in the catalog. These records may have their own index but otherwise are only searchable page-by-page. The records are primarily organized geographically and then by category. 

If you do a name search on the website, you are only searching the indexed records; a very small set of the entire collections of records. 

3. The website contains a huge collection of digitized books that are fully searchable. Currently, there are 509,768 digital books on the website. This number continues to increase as more books are digitized. The books are searchable from the Books section of the Search menu. 

4. A significant part of the digital records on the website are use restricted in some way. For example, some of the digitized books are subject to copyright or publication limitations and cannot be viewed online. Other records may only be viewed while using a computer in a Family History Center. Here is the link to the explanation of why some of the records are restricted. See "Why are there access restrictions on Historical Records?"

5. The effort made by FamilySearch to digitize records around the world is ongoing. However, the number of digital images being created is far outstripping the effort needed to catalog and index all the records. At the beginning of this post, there is a screenshot of the Images search page of the website. There are millions of digital images that have been collected in this section that are not indexed or cataloged. You can search for these images by country. Here is a screenshot of the list for Argentina for an example. 

These records are only searchable individually, page-by-page. As new images are digitized the collection of these records increases day by day and week by week. As the records are cataloged, they move into the catalog and are then available in that way. 

I might add here at the end that there are more records in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library in Provo, Utah that are not on the website at all. Persistent researchers may find a gold mine of unindexed records that are not in the catalog either. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

As genealogists, what should we do about place names?


For some time now, has been encouraging users to "standardize" place names. This effort has been moderately successful and is continuing to evolve. The suggested standard place names rely on a large database of worldwide names. More recently, FamilySearch has been adding a time-frame to the suggested standard entries. Here is an example of a person with entries that are marked as "Missing Standardized Birthplace" and "Missing Standardized Christening Place."

  • Birth
    Deal, Kent, England 
  • Here we have some information; a date and a place. The first question is whether or not the place exists and even if it does exist, did it exist at the time listed? A quick check online using Wikipedia shows the following entry for Deal, Kent, England.,_Kent 

  • Unlike places in the United States, there is usually not problem of the place not existing far into the past. In this case, Deal was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The town is identified as in the District of Dover, the Shire County of Kent, in the South East Region, and of course, in England. Putting the place into the United Kingdom in 1764 is problematical. Here is a short quote from article, "The UK & Great Britain – What’s the Difference?"
So when was the UK established? Although some people argue that the UK was formed in 1707 by the Act of Union between England, Wales and Scotland, the name United Kingdom wasn’t adopted until 1801 when Ireland was brought into the union.

In this case, it would seem that England is sufficient although it would not necessarily be "wrong" to add United Kingdom to the entry. So why is this particular entry marked as not standard? 

By clicking on the edit link on the entry, FamilySearch provides a way to see a list of standardized places associated with this entry. 

Here is the standardized list. 

I realize that I copied Deal, Kent, England Parish, 1067 to 1801 twice. 

It would seem to be clear that some distinction had to be made between the parish and the town. Actually, when you go to the sources that are already listed for this entry, the place name is different. 

It turns out that looking for the parish church creates a new level of problems for determining the location of the event. Here is a screenshot from Google Maps showing the churches in Deal.

Further research indicates that there are three parish churches in Deal: "Upper Deal St Leonard is the Ancient Parish church of Deal. From this parish were formed Deal St George, Kent and Deal St Andrew, Kent." See Deal, Kent Genealogy So we have more research to do. But at this point, we can probably say that the person was baptized in the town of Deal but cannot say for certain where the baptism took place. This is important because if we are to do more research into the family, we would need to know more than just the town. In fact, without more research, we would be forced to search the records of all the churches that show up on the map above. You might also note that the three churches, St. Andrew's, St. George's, and St. Leonard's are all quite close to each other. 

Of course, you say. Look at the original record. Hmm. The problem is that the baptismal record is a transcription or extraction of the original record and the original record of over 1000 pages is taken from the Bishop's Transcripts. If this doesn't mean anything to you, you probably got lost a while ago. Let's just say that I went through the thousand page document and found the record but the website crashed when I tried to download the page containing the information. I did the search again. Here is the record. 

Here is the citation from the record.
Catalog Record
Item Number
Film/Digital Note
Archdeacon's transcripts, 1570-1731; Bishop's transcripts, 1612-1732, 1813-1831 Item 1 Bishop's transcripts: Baptisms, marriages and burials 1612-1732 (missing: 1613/4, 1614/5, 1619/20-1627/8, 1640/1-1661/2, 1665/6, 1682/3, 1692/3-1730/1)
Bishop's transcripts for Deal Item 2 Baptisms, marriages and burials, 1564-1800 (missing: 1565/6-1567/8, 1572/3-1575/6, 1579/80-1582/3, 1584/5-1587/8, 1589/90-1592/3, 1596/7-1610/1, 1613/4, 1621/2, 1627/8, 1640/1-1660/1, 1688/9, 1689/90, 1690/1, 1694/5

Guess what? The record simply references the parish church of Deal. So what do we do with the place the event occurred? 

Obviously, using a standardized place name is not awfully helpful in this situation but given the details of the record, using the standardized place of the town is probably the right choice. But this exercise clearly illustrates the fact the standardized place names are only a bandage solution to real problem. We can only be as precise as the records. But as long as we have found a source 

The last question is would it help to use the place as the "Parish Church of Deal, Kent, England?"

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Are You A Genealogical Victim?


I got an interesting comment on one of my blog posts recently. It was posted by someone who remained anonymous. 

All these commercial geneology websites are inaccurate and an absolute waste of time. None of the family info on Heritage, Geni or Ancestry is accurate. They assume that people must be related if the surname is vaguely similar. I have found my own mother listed by some anonymous webmaster on all 3 sites as the daughter of two totally unrelated people. They all scavenge from each other. I have no intention of helping them correct the information as it is not theirs to buy or sell. I know for a fact that no member of my family provided any of the information let alone gave permission to put it up online. The material is incompetently scavenged from death notices and similar. The only interest of these companies is profit.

If you ignore the misspelled words and inaccurate quotes, you might get some insight into what is is to be a genealogy victim. As a long-time trial attorney, I became acutely aware of those people who suffered from victim syndrome or what is also known as victim mentality. There are three main beliefs of this malady. See "How to Identify and Deal with a Victim Mentality."

  • Bad things happen and will keep happening.
  • Other people or circumstances are to blame.
  • Any efforts to create change will fail, so there’s no point in trying.

During the past pandemic year, the news has been saturated with accounts of people who have bought into various "conspiracy theories." These people are suffering from victim mentality. They feel helpless in the face of a complex society and are constantly told that the reason things are so bad is because of some evil, external, force that they cannot or will not confront. Look at the claim above, because this individual finds some inaccurate information online about his or her mother, the person jumps to the assumption that this is caused by "some anonymous webmaster" who is intentionally spreading false information about this particular person's mother to make a profit. 

My first and fundamental question is how does this anonymous webmaster make any profit from having false information about this person's mother? From a genealogical standpoint, how does this person know for certain that the information about his or her mother is inaccurate? As genealogists, we see plenty of examples of people who find out that their "parents" are not their parents through DNA testing or even just through research. 

This person further has to buy into the idea that someone owns their ancestry and that there is some method whereby they have to give someone permission to post historical information. 

Part of the comment is correct. Most of the large online genealogy websites are operated for. profit. So are almost all of the large online retailers such as Costco, Walmart, and Amazon. What is interesting is that this commentator uses victimization as an excuse to blame someone and justify taking no action to correct something viewed as wrong.  But also, the commentator takes the time to protest and claim the right to accuse others of being responsible. 

It is also interesting that despite careful and systematic research some inaccurate, online information persists. But that is mainly due to the ease in making copies from one inaccurate source to another not through any intentional desire to misrepresent historical information. 

What could this person do to correct the information? Perhaps nothing. But it might be a good idea to correct the wrong information as it is found and notify those who posted the information for the reason that the information is not accurate. 


Friday, June 18, 2021

Let's Think About Records Preservation


The value of digitizing records cannot be overstated. However, if you do enough genealogical research, you will learn that there are still a huge number of genealogically valuable records that are not yet digitized. One good example of a record repository with huge number of records that are not digitized is the United States National Archives administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Here is a statement of the holdings of the U.S. National Archives from its own website, See

NARA keeps only those Federal records that are judged to have continuing value—about 2 to 5 percent of those generated in any given year. By now, they add up to a formidable number, diverse in form as well as in content. There are approximately 13.28 billion pages of textual records; 10 million maps, charts, and architectural and engineering drawings; 44.4 million still photographs, digital images, filmstrips, and graphics; 40 million aerial photographs; 563,000 reels of motion picture film; 992,000 video and sound recordings; and 1,323 terabytes of electronic data. All of these materials are preserved because they are important to the workings of Government, have long-term research worth, or provide information of value to citizens.

One thing I find interesting about this statement from the U.S. National Archives (NARA is the National Archives and Records Administration) is that the number of pages is approximate. The reason for this is simple, the U.S. National Archives does not count or store their documents by pages. They store the documents by the space the require in linear inches, feet, yard or in cubic feet or by the size of the container. 

What is left unsaid is that only a small percentage (a very small percentage) of all those records have been digitized. The vast majority of the records are available to researchers only on paper, microfilm, or microfiche while physically present in one of the national archives repository locations around the country. One egregious example of what can happen because of this lack of diligence in digitizing the National Archive's records was the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Of course, this occurred before digitization was possible but the records could have been microfilmed and copies stored in a separate location from where the fire occurred. 80% of the Army records of personnel discharged from November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 were destroyed and 75% of the records of Air Force personnel discharges from September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964. This likely means that my own father's military records were destroyed although I do have his own copy of the records. 

Now, with advent of digitization and the experience of losing so many military records, you would think that the U.S. National Archives would be diligently pursuing a plan to digitize all of their holdings. No such luck. As I have already mentioned, only an extremely small percentage of all that paper has been digitized. 

Now you may find a way to excuse the United States Government from digitizing all those records. After all we don't want all of us private citizens digging around in the inner workings found in the records of our own government, do we? What has happened is that the National Archives allows private organizations, both commercial and non-profit to digitize a small number of the historical records. If you want to see what is being digitized and what has been digitized and by whom the work is being done, you can see the National Archives page entitled, "Microfilm Publications and Original Records Digitized by Our Digitization Partners." On this page and its linked pages, you will see exactly how limited the project really is. You may also note that many of the projects are not started. 

The U.S. National Archives is not the only example of archives that are not making a serious effort to digitize their own records, it is merely the worst example. If you want a reality check about the online availability of documents, see if you can determine what percentage of your own state or national archive's records are online and searchable. 

Why then do genealogists think they have searched everywhere?

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The BYU Family History Library is now open to everyone


We are glad to be back in the Brigham Young University Family History Library. The BYU Family History Library is. part of the main Harold B. Lee University Library on campus. It is open during regular library hours. Here is a link to the Library Hours page: Because the library is part of the university, it is always a good idea to check for holidays and other times when the library may have different hours due to finals or between semesters. 

Missionary help with family history is available Monday-Thursday 10am-8pm and Friday 10am-6pm, Mountain Time. Only virtual help will be available until June 21st and then we will be providing help both virtually and in-person at the same times. It is likely that the availability for missionary help will increase as we have more missionaries to work. Currently we are not open on Sundays and the Sunday virtual classes will continue to be held. 

During the pandemic, all the missionaries have been working from home. Due to the pandemic, no new missionaries have been added and we need about 50 more missionaries to support a complete schedule. If you are interested in helping in library, please contact us through the BYU Family History Library website:

We will be having a welcome back party on Monday, June 21st, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Activities include:

  • BYU Family History Prize Wheel
  • Family History Escape Room
  • Runs every hour
  • Discovery Center Activities*
  • Famous Relatives Bingo*
  • Famous People Activity*
  • Historical Newspapers Display*
  • RootsTech Sessions in Classroom
  • Relatives Around Me Contest (12 PM)

The 2 most closely related people who don't know each other get a prize

*Come to the desk for candy if you complete this activity

Sunday, June 13, 2021

An Amazing Photo Repair from MyHeritage


This lovely photograph of my Grandmother and my Great-uncle has always been a challenge for me. I spent hours using Adobe Photoshop "repairing" the torn part of the photo. I hesitate to show my repair because it was not at all acceptable. Now, here comes the Repair feature from This is the repair that took all of about 15 seconds. 

Granted, you might not have such fabulous results from your own photo, but considering the time I have spent trying to do the repair on my own. This is almost unbelievable. Also, the other issues with photo were also corrected. I doubt that the original photo was as good as this repaired one. Now, this is not the end of the project. Here is the same repaired photo after applies the enhancement option. 

Next, I could add colorization. 

All this from a badly torn photo. What do you think?

Friday, June 11, 2021

Find more information about the new FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0

The new website,, is the place to go for up-to-date information about FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0. The reality of introducing a new GEDCOM Standard is that it will take time for the developers of genealogical software and websites to implement the new standard. Meanwhile, the original versions of GEDCOM will still be usable and valid. You can see a comparison of the current Version 7.0 and previous versions on the GEDCOM Specifications page of the website. 

By the way, GEDCOM has nothing to do with the content of any genealogy file from any file format. It is merely a standard way for programs and websites to communicate and GEDCOM certainly has no part in whether or not the data is valid, accurate, or even real. Whatever the content of the original data file, GEDCOM is the way that the content can be transferred from one file or website format to another file or website format. As an example of the current usage. If I have a family tree on and I want to download the content of my file, I can search's website and see and article entitled, "Uploading and Downloading Trees." This article has the instructions for both uploading an existing GEDCOM file and downloading one. Other websites and programs have similar provisions. 

The main reason for creating a new GEDCOM version is that when I do download or upload my genealogical data from one website or program to another, I may lose valuable information if the two programs don't match. For example, one program may have a field for Godparents or baptismal witnesses. If the target program or website does not have these fields, there is no place for the data transfer to occur. However, GEDCOM should provide a place to accommodate these transfers. In effect, by providing a standard for transferring all of the different types of data, the GEDCOM Standard can influence the developers of genealogical websites or programs to provide fields for an expanding and more complete set of specific name, date, and location fields as well as make sure such information is not lost in a transfer. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Missionaries return to the Brigham Young University Family History Library


The Brigham Young University Family History Library, (BYU) the second largest family history library in the world, is reopening with its staff of missionaries and volunteers on June 21st, 2021. During the pandemic, the missionary/volunteers at the library have been working entirely online. For some time now, the library has been open to students and staff of the university, but the general public has remained excluded. The reopening of the library will have the missionary/volunteer support available Monday through Friday from 10:00 am until 8:00 pm. These hours will be expanded as new missionaries and volunteers are added. 

The missionary/volunteer staff of the library is composed both of official Church Service Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other individuals who serve as volunteers. Because the Family History Library is part of the Harold B. Lee Library of Brigham Young University, there is also a professional staff and student employees to help in the Library during the time it is open. The Harold B. Lee Library is usually open from 7:00 am until midnight Monday through Friday. The schedule of the Library changes with the academic calendar, holidays, and at other times during the year. Here is the link to the Library schedule:

The missionaries and volunteers at the BYU Family History Library are going to continue with their online support effort allowing people from all over the world to directly contact and receive support. Here is the BYU Family History Library's web page where you can get updated information about the Library's services. 

 You can see the link for live help in the upper right-hand corner of the page. 

The Salt Lake City Family History Library is Reopening Soon

Quoting from a blog post

Starting July 6, 2021, the Family History Library will begin a phased reopening, with limited hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Hours will be expanded from there, so be sure to check the Family History Library web page for the most current opening status and visitor information.

The expanded new web page for the Family History Library is located on the Website. See

Please read the entire blog post for the changes made during the closure. I will be visiting the Salt Lake City Family History LIbrary as soon as I am able after the opening. I am glad to hear they are adding more books. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Why there is a GEDCOM Standard and why we need a new Version 7.0

Yes, you guessed it, more history

Note: You may want to go back and read my first post about the release of FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0 (hereinafter GEDCOM Version 7.0) entitled, “Introducing FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0 a long-awaited upgrade.” It may help you have a better understanding about this post. 

The first rudimentary desktop or personal computers were “invented” (more correctly assembled) beginning in 1974 with the Altair 8800 which is usually acknowledged to have been the first commercially successful personal computer, see “IT History Society.”  In 1976, Apple Computer (now Apple) released the first Apple 1 desktop computer. Genealogists were some of the earliest “power” users of desktop computers, but it took some time before the first desktop computers had enough memory and storage to support sophisticated genealogy software. The IBM Personal Computer or PC debuted in 1981. In 1984, Apple released the first Macintosh computer.  One of the earliest genealogy software programs was Ancestral Quest. Ancestral Quest went on to become the basis for the Windows versions of Personal Ancestral File released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1984. The first Macintosh version of Personal Ancestral File was released in 1987. The competition began revolving around two operating systems when Microsoft released Windows 1.0 in 1985.

Now there was a problem that developed concurrently with this rapid development in computer technology. There were two main competing operating systems and yet no practical way to connect two computers together or exchange genealogical data between the competing systems. It became apparent almost immediately with the development of more sophisticated genealogy software that there needed to be a way to transfer the data from one computer to another, i.e., from one desktop computer to another and from one operating system to another such as from DOS/Windows to the Apple OS. In 1984, the Church released the first version of GEDCOM or GEnealogical Data Communication. From 1984 to 1996 different versions of the GEDCOM Standard paralleled the technological advances in computers. 

Fast forward to the present. The world of computers has become unimaginably more complicated that it was back in the 1980s, but we are still faced with the same basic problem: moving genealogical data from one operating system to another and from on software program to another. 

GEDCOM is not a program. It is a standard. What this means is that programmers who follow this standard or at least adapt their program or website to take advantage of this standard allow their users to share and exchange data with other programs or websites. The standard is a specification of the programming that will allow this interchange. 

Here is a quote from the FamilySearch GEDCOM website, explaining this concept in more detail. 

FamilySearch GEDCOM is relevant to create a personal private backup of family tree information, maintaining local ownership and control. A FamilySearch GEDCOM file is a UTF-8 text file containing genealogical information about individuals, and also meta data linking these records together. The standard file extension used is a suffix “.ged” to indicate the file has been formatted using the FamilySearch GEDCOM specification. Hundreds of software products support the reading and writing of GEDCOM files. Individuals continue to share their files for collaboration, reports, charts, special analysis, and other innovative purposes. The FamilySearch GEDCOM file format allows users to preserve, collaborate, import, and export with different applications while maintaining control of the original copy. FamilySearch GEDCOM version 7.0 is the most recent update to GEDCOM.

What was the basic challenge of GEDCOM in 1996?

In March 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee laid out his vision for what would become the- web in a document called “Information Management: A Proposal”. In 1995, commercial use of the existing network between computer became unrestricted and essentially, the internet was born. With the advent of an open internet, (See Wikipedia: History of the internet) the World Wide Web exploded. Programmers had too much to do to worry about any limitations in the GEDCOM Standard and in any event, the GEDCOM Standard had advanced to the point that it was serviceable given the technology then available.

As time passed, the internet became more and more complex. Genealogy software began incorporating the ability to attach and store photos and digital documents to individual entries. In May of 1999, The Genealogical Society of Utah, the predecessor of FamilySearch, opened the website to the public. For those of us living through all this hyper-speed technological change, it became difficult to even begin to understand all of the products and devices that were being developed. 

Meanwhile, we started digitizing nearly everything having to do with the storage and use of genealogical records.

Scanning technology predates computers by many years. Scanners come from the wirephotos that were invented beginning in 1913 but scanning only really became possible for personal use in the 1970s and the first 300 dpi scanner was introduced by Microtek in 1985. Digital images took up a lot of computer storage space so sharing digital images only became possible when computer technology and memory storage technology became and practical reality for individual desktop computers. 

The challenge for GEDCOM was that as digital images were added to genealogy software, because of the limitations on data storage, it took some time for the technology to develop that would allow the transfer and store a large number of images. Meanwhile, the programmers and developers were trying to work out the details of storing billions of photos online. 

What happened to enable the development of the GEDCOM Standard 7.0

With all the tremendous technological changes, the basic issues were quite simple to understand; storage capacity, speed, and the cost of both. Where are we today compared to where we were in the past?

I am far from typical, of course, but whether you are technology-challenged or a power user, the technology is still available. Let’s see about some of the prices. 

In 1976 when the Apple I was introduced it cost $667. Adjusted for inflation, today it would cost $3,066.35. When I bought an Apple II computer in 1977, it cost $1,298 which comes out to $5,602.86 which is much more than I spent for a new 10-core iMac this past year. One more example, the Apple Macintosh was introduced in 1984 for a price of $2,495. Adjusted for inflation, that is the equivalent of $6,281.49. See U.S. Inflation Calculator.

I think the best illustration of the change involves a single digital photo. Back in 1981 a gigabyte of storage cost about $500,000. See “Hard Drive Cost Per Gigabyte.” I now routinely by 8 Terabyte hard drives that are now selling for under $200 or about $25 for a terabyte or 1000 gigabytes of storage. So, my actual cost of storing a gigabyte is $25 divided by 1000 or about $.03 per gigabyte. Oh, by the way, a 3.5” floppy disk could store 1.44 megabytes which is actually less than the memory size of one of my digital photos. 

The other main issue speed. Again, I am not anywhere near the average but here in Provo, Utah we have Google Fiber Internet and I have a very high-speed connection. 

Anyway, the issues are clear. It is now time to update the GEDCOM Standard to Version 7.0 with GEDZip and begin to take advantage of the high storage capacity and high speed and a relatively much lower cost for both. 

What will the GEDCOM Standard Version 7.0 do?

For the average genealogist using a relatively recently upgraded computer, the new GEDCOM Version 7.0 will only be available as the genealogy software companies and websites implement its use to enable the genealogists to use it.  First, it is a standard. That means that developers and programmers must decide to incorporate the standard in their software so that genealogists can exchange copies of the documents and images attached or reference in the software or websites they are using. 

Right now, if you were to subscribe to one of the major online genealogy family tree/database websites such as, you would be able to upload your basic genealogical data from your desktop software program using GEDCOM but that would not include any of your digital images including photos. You could upload your photos one by one, but then you would have to tag or attach them individually to your new family tree. 

The idea behind updating the GEDCOM Standard to Version 7.0 and adding the ability to support external images using GEDZip, a file compaction program, is that a genealogist can upload or exchange files that include all those records, documents, and photos already attached and with copies included. 

What else do I need to say? 

Actually, I need to say a lot and I will keep writing. Look for additional blog posts as the GEDCOM Standard 7.0 with GEDZip.

FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 is copyrighted.

© 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2019, and 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. A service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

General information can be found at

Helpful Sources

General Info:

Technical Specs, Tools and Guides:

Community:  GEDCOM General Google Group and GitHub Public GEDCOM Repository


Monday, June 7, 2021

Introducing FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0 a long-awaited upgrade


Some introductory comments

Before I get into the great news about the release of FamilySearch GEDCOM Versions 7.0 hereinafter “GEDCOM”, I need to give some personal and general history to put the new Version 7.0 into perspective. Also, I should mention right here at the beginning of this post the word GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data Communication. GEDCOM is also the name of a standard programming specification usually referred to as the “GEDCOM Standard or GEDCOM” created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and FamilySearch as the specifications of a file standard used for exchanging genealogical data between different desktop genealogical family tree software and websites. The GEDCOM Standard Specifications are designed to be used by programmers when modifying their own programs and websites to share information between different genealogy software and websites.

Official Release Statement from FamilySearch received via email
FamilySearch International is pleased to announce the release of FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 (Genealogical Data Communications). The latest version allows zip packaging capabilities for photos and files with genealogical information, plus new tools, and a public GitHub repository for ongoing maintenance. Technical information, specifications, tools, and guides can be found at

At RootsTech 2020, FamilySearch launched an effort to create a new version of GEDCOM based on the 5.5.1 version that would include: 1) new expressivity, flexibility, and compatibility; 2) zip packaging of associated images and other files with the related GEDCOM file; and 3) public access using a GitHub repository. Many industry software providers and key influencers participated, and the initiative concluded May 15, 2021, with the completion of this comprehensive effort.

FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 is the outcome of those efforts and includes the following new enhancements:

Zip packaging capabilities for photos and files have been added.
Notes have been expanded for more versatile use and styling of text.
Tools, sample files, sample code, and self-testing guides are included.
The GEDCOM specification and any code available from FamilySearch based on the specification is subject to the terms and conditions of the Apache License, Version 2.0.
Ambiguities in the GEDCOM Version 5.5.1 specification have been removed.
A public GitHub repository generates maintenance requests and on-going discussions about future features.

Users of FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 will be able to import files from older GEDCOM versions. However, users of older versions of GEDCOM will not be able to import from FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0.
Why am I involved with GEDCOM?

Beginning in 1982, I was the owner and operator of an Apple dealership in Mesa, Arizona. We sold a variety of computer models from different manufacturers, not just Apple. About that same time, I began my continuing interest in genealogical research. As a result of that interest, I became aware of the GEDCOM Standard shortly after Personal Ancestral File (PAF) 2.0 was released in April of 1986. At that time, the GEDCOM Standard had been available since 1984. Another version of GEDCOM for PAF 2.1 was released in February 1987. PAF 2.1 was also released for the Macintosh in 1987 with supported and early specification of GEDCOM 4.0. 

At the store, we soon realized that there was a need for help in transferring genealogy files between different computers. Due to our store’s combined expertise with the new home or personal computers and my interest in genealogy, my staff and I started learning how to use GEDCOM to transfer data between Apple computers and DOS computers such as the IBM PC and providing that expertise as a service to anyone who needed a file transfer. Because our store was only a few blocks away from the Mesa, Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also the Mesa Family History Center, there was a significant demand for our transfer services through word-of-mouth referrals. 

As results of this perceived need for help with file transfers, on a trip to Salt Lake City in about 1987, I went to the Church Office Building and found the department that was working on the GEDCOM Standard and obtained a printed copy of the GEDCOM Standard Specifications. Using the information from the Specifications, we were able to more successfully transfer information between the different operating systems and software programs using floppy disks and began doing so for anyone who needed help. This continued for many years until I went back to practicing law about 1998. However, because I still owned both Apple and PC computers, I continued to transfer data for anyone who needed help until the technology obviated the need. Remarkably, it has only been very recently that the need to extract a GEDCOM file from a floppy disk became very rare even through floppy disk storage was discontinued years ago. Obviously, the transfer process moved from floppy disks to hard disks and ultimately, online. 

Because of all this early experience and continued interest in GEDCOM and transferring files between different operating systems and computers, over the years, I have been actively involved in promoting computer data standards. About two years ago, I began working with a FamilySearch Committee on drafting an updated GEDCOM Standard. 

That brings me to the present. The GEDCOM Standard Specifications were last updated in 1996 with the introduction of Version 5.5. Now, after a lot of work by a lot of people we have a NEW version: GEDCOM Version 7.0. 

First, if you are wondering what all this means, here is my short description of the GEDCOM Standard

As my history above illustrates, different genealogy programs or websites have different file formats for storing data. If you are using one genealogy software program or website and you want to share your information (data) with someone who is using a different software program or website, you have a challenge. Unless you want to print out your data and let the other person manually enter the information into their own software program or website, you need a way to electronically transfer the data. The GEDCOM Standard was developed to help solve that problem. If the software program you are using supports the GEDCOM Standard, you can create a GEDCOM file and if the other person also has a software program that supports the GEDCOM Standard, they can upload the file data into their own software program or file. The key here is that most of the genealogy programs or websites available today support the GEDCOM Standard and can exchange data. Unless you are a computer programmer, what you need to know is that by downloading a GEDCOM file, anyone with a GEDCOM compatible software program or website can upload your information. 

Why did we wait so long to come up with a new version?

I don’t really know all of the answers to this question, but I do know that computer technology had to finally have the capacity and ease of use to transfer files containing media components such as photos and digitized documents, before it was practical to update the GEDCOM Standard. I also know that because of the internet, programmers were more focuses on making connections directly between websites than in upgrading the GEDCOM Standard which had been serviceable for many years. 

Why is GEDCOM referred to as a GEDCOM Standard?

In order to communicate between different websites and software programs it was first necessary to establish a common set of software programming standards that could be adopted by all the different software programs and websites. The GEDCOM Standard is a cooperative effort by developers and programmers to establish this common way of organizing the data for genealogy software that allows their data to be consistent with the GEDCOM Standard Specifications. 

What does this mean to the average user of genealogy software or websites?

With the introduction of GEDCOM Version 7.0 release candidate, the standard will now support the inclusion of media using a NEW utility called GEDZip. Previously, the older versions of the GEDCOM Standard did not have the ability to include, maintain, store, and share media files. With addition of the GEDZip utility, you can now link media from the Internet as well as from local files and include them with your GEDCOM Standard data files. What most users need to know is that more of their data will be able to be transferred from program to program and website to website, including their document images, photos, and other media items. 

Other valuable new features

In addition, there have been other standards added to the original 5.5 version of GEDCOM to include the new features. Some of these features are technical in nature. Here is a short explanation, in somewhat technical terms of the new features. 

New features add new semantic power to GEDCOM, allowing GEDCOM Version 7.0 release candidate to represent concepts Version 5.5 could not represent. All dates now have date phrases, including date ranges and periods. Identifier RIN, RFN, and AFN have been combined into a new EXID, which can now also be used to link to external databases and websites. All text payloads may contain line breaks. LANG payloads are now language tags. Many other positive changes can be reviewed in the ChangeLog in the main public repository.

Why am I involved in all this?

You may wonder why a retired trial attorney and business owner, who has a limited knowledge of programming, is involved and has been involved in the development of the GEDCOM Standard. That is a pretty good question, and my answer is partially why I included a short history about my involvement with GEDCOM. In addition to my legal background, I also have a B.S. Degree in Spanish and an M.A. Degree in Linguistics. I am also a professional photographer. I have been involved in genealogical research for more than 40 years. My role in the development was to provide information about historical use of the program and also to address issues concerning the concepts and impact of the program’s concepts on the genealogical community. I was a member of the final Steering Committee preparing for the release of the update. 

What does the average genealogy computer user need to do now?

Not much if anything. I you have ever used a genealogy program before and created a GEDCOM file, one of the committee members, Luther A. Tychonievich, an Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Virginia, has written a GEDCOM Translate program that will update the existing Version 5.5 GEDCOM files to the new version 7.0 release candidate.

In the future, you may sooner or later run into the need to create a GEDCOM file and it is possible that the program you are backing up will use GEDCOM Version 7.0. That will not make any visible difference to you when you follow the instructions from your genealogy program to create the GEDCOM file. Existing GEDCOM Files will also be able to be updated. 

That is enough for now. Look for more announcements, online support, classes, and presentations about GEDCOM Version 7.0 and GEDZip soon. I will be writing a lot more about GEDCOM Version 7.0 with GEDZip in the very near future.

FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 is copyrighted.

© 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2019, and 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. A service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

General information can be found at

Helpful Sources


Technical Specs, Tools and
Community:  GEDCOM General Google Group and GitHub Public GEDCOM Repository