Login to participate
Register   Lost ID/password?
Louis Kessler's Behold Blog » Blog Entry           prev Prev   Next next

From Ancient GEDCOM to Prehistoric GEDCOM - Sun, 17 Aug 2014

A few hours ago, I posted an article wondering if I may have found the world’s oldest GEDCOM file. Tamura Jones in response emailed me one that he thought may be older.


Instead of beginning with a 0 HEAD record as all GEDCOMs do, this file begins with a 0HH record (no space between the 0 and the HH). It is followed by lines with a single number, a two character tag and a value. The tag for INDI records is II and the tag for FAM records is FI. The file ends with a 0ND record. It definitely looks like it might be the creature that preceded the GEDCOM file I had earlier found.

Then when I looked at the data in this file, I was even more surprised. It proves to be a file created by Phillip Brown’s Family History System which is especially apparent because Phillip’s own data is in the sample file.

It just so happens that Family History System was the first genealogy program I ever purchased back in 1993. I loved its Relative Report which was the inspiration for my Everything Report in Behold. But I never did use it for my own genealogy because its data input was not to my liking. A few years later I got Reunion for Windows for my data entry.

I no longer have the Family History System program on my current computer (it was a DOS-based program) … BUT … I still happened to have the Family History System user manual in hardcopy form! To my surprise, the manual not only talks about the Export/Import Utility, but it provides a full six page description of the Transfer Dataset Format. At the beginning of that, it says:

“The TRANSFER datasets used in the Export/Import processes of the Family History System Extension were designed using the original guidelines developed by the LDS Genealogical Department for representing genealogical information in standard character format. The name that is being used to describe this format is GEDCOM (for GEnealogical Data COMmunication format). The format that was used in the GEDCOM implementation of the LDS Personal Ancestor File (PAF) 2.0 software differed significantly from this original description.”

Since PAF 2.0 used GEDCOM 2.0, which we believe is the file I had found earlier today, FHS must have been exporting using GEDCOM 1.0.

There is an Import/Export utility that was also supplied with the FHS. The documentation there stated:

“The format of the transfer dataset follows closely the original GEDCOM format proposed by the LDS Genealogical Dept. and advocated by the quarterly journal, “Genealogical Computing”. … The formats of the transfer datasets implemented by releases 2.0 and 2.1 of the Personal Ancestor File (PAF) software distributed by the LDS Family History Dept. differed from the original guidelines and so are not compatible with the format used by this program. A separate FHS export/import program, compatible with the PAF software is now a part of the basic set of programs.”

In other words, FHS exported/imported GEDCOM 1.0 via it’s built-in transfer program. It used a separate export/import program for GEDCOM 2.0 (PAF 2.0) and GEDCOM 3.0 (PAF 2.1). So the file that Tamura showed me was indeed GEDCOM 1.0 as produced by Family History System. 

Will I support GEDCOM 1.0 in Behold? Well I could. But I doubt if anyone has any files of that format lying around that they really need to extract the data from. Let me know if you do.

p.s. I started subscribing to Genealogical Computing in 1992 – Volume 12. By then, GEDCOM was already up to version 5.0. I have all the issues from 1992 until they stopped publishing in 2005. It’s a fantastic historical documentation about early genealogy software. Does anyone out there have copies of volumes 1 to 11?

No Comments Yet

Leave a Comment

You must login to comment.

Login to participate
Register   Lost ID/password?