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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog

UTP 10 - Day 0 - Sat, 13 Feb 2016

#UTPCruise - Cheryl and I arrived in Auckland after 24 hours of travelling leaving -22C temps for +25C and the extra sunshine of the longer days that come with summer.

Auckland in a cosmopolitan city of 1.5 million people, making up one-third the population of New Zealand. The world has homogenized to the point that Auckland is a modern large city like most others with skyscrapers and freeways and recognizable stores and restaurant chains found elsewhere, so you’re never too far away from a Starbucks. It is a beautiful city with grand architecture, old and new, a vibrant downtown with lots of young people, with lots of growth, construction and reconstruction taking place.

Last night, Cheryl and I attended an Unlock the Past pre-cruise dinner at the Historic Tony’s Steakhouse. If followed the Auckland land seminar held that day at the Auckland Library.

Thirteen of us gathered last night at Tony’s Steakhouse including Judy Russell and Paul Blake who were the two speakers for the seminar, Geoff and Marg Doherty and Eric and Rosemary Kopittke and Helen Smith, who will be speakers on the cruise, Alan Phillips, the man in charge, and three ladies who were the organizers from the Library. There were group pictures taken which I’ll link to from here once someone posts one.

Tonys Steakhouse in Auckland

Today we board the Celebrity Solstice for the start of what is likely the longest (19 day) genealogy conference ever held with more lectures (72) that one person can attend than any other. I expect it will be a wonderful intimate gathering with lots of time for everyone to get to know everyone else very well.

I will be attempting to blog and even live tweet occasionally during the conference/cruise. I can’t guarantee how much, as it’s dependent on the quality of the wifi on board and my available free time. I am computerless and laptopless and paperless, using only my phone for this trip. My phone app for blog posting is not anything as nice as Live Writer, so blogging will be a bit more challenging. But we’ll see how it goes.

And Now … GEDCOM 3.0! - Mon, 8 Feb 2016

Brian Madsen came through and it was worth the wait. This is the earliest GEDCOM standard yet that has been rediscovered.


Regarding the copyright, I did have an email conversation with Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist in November 2014 about it. Her opinion to me was:

“the Church … distributed its work widely at the time, asking people to use what it was developing. It can’t now stuff the genii back into the bottle just because it isn’t currently continuing work on this. If anything, the fact that it can’t hope to profit in any way from ongoing development adds to the argument that any use of the document today — any copying or reposting — should be considered fair use. “

(and I’m really looking forward to spending time with Judy on our upcoming Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise – which is only a week away!)

The most interesting part of the standard to me was it allowing the use of short tags or their long tag names.

Some quotes from the standard:

“These documents have been written for computer programmers, user specialists, department management, and system developers in the Family History Department of The Church of Latter-day Saints. These documents expand upon “Genealogical Data Communication: GEDCOM – A Data Format Standard” (last published in version 2.4 on 23 December 1985).”

“DISCLAIMER – GEDCOM is still quite new, and has not been exposed to demanding applications over an extended period. Refinements and enhancements will probably be needed during the next few years, which will affect implementation.”

It had a Source Record format!!!!!!!! Why was this ever removed?????


and a second example:


and a third example:


This is what I’ve been reconstituting in Behold’s Source Details section. I’ve been arguing over the past few years on BetterGEDCOM and FHISO (especially with Tom Wetmore) that this is what’s needed in a new GEDCOM standard (and not persona). Isn’t it ironic that it was in one of the early standards. I ask again, why was it taken out? It could have become the universal method of transferring sources without the need to create conclusions from them.

If you’ve followed long enough to read this far, you deserve to now get to the standard document itself, as supplied by Brian Madsen: GEDCOM 3.0 (7.3 MB)

GEDCOM 5.0 Rediscovered - Sat, 6 Feb 2016

Further adventures in the attempt to rediscover the long lost early GEDCOM standards have once again come up with something significant.

You may or may not remember that just over a year ago, I started this venture:

  1. Newly Rediscovered: GEDCOM 4.0 (and a bonus!)
  2. More GEDCOM Archaelogical Discoveries

Well, I never did get the copies of GEDCOM 3.0 or 5.0 from Brian Madsen. I did email him back a couple of times without a response, so I decided not to bother him any more.

But a couple of weeks ago, I had noticed that there is still activity on the mailing list for LINES-L, which was a mailing list for Tom Wetmore’s LifeLines program. That mailing list has been around for a long time, and I realized the people on the list would have been technical genealogical old-timers, people who might have seen some of those early GEDCOM standards.

So a week ago I posted a query on the LINES-L list. I got a response from Peter Glassenbury of New Zealand who sent me GEDCOM 5.0, and is the person to be credited as the “retriever” of this relic.

What he sent me was this text file of GEDCOM 5.0. I’m sure Tamura Jones will add this to his FamilySearch GEDCOM Specifications page so that it will be available to everyone.

A comparison of this version 5.0 text file with the versoin 5.3 text file is very interesting. You can see that the GEDCOM was evolving from version to version:


There was a 5.1 and 5.2 (both were drafts) in-between 5.0 and 5.3 (which were also both drafts). Obtaining 5.1 and 5.2 would allow seeing the changes in smaller steps and that would make the conceptual differences between versions more understandable. Anyone who works on a future replacement of GEDCOM should study these concepts so to understand the well-thought out reasoning why some constructs were added and others were removed from each version.

We’re still looking for the following GEDCOM versions:

1.0 (1984)
2.0 (Dec 1985) PAF 2.0
2.3 Draft (7 August 1985) with PAF 2.0 GEDCOM implementation
2.4 Draft (13 December 1985) with PAF2.0 GEDCOM implementation
2.1 (Feb 1987) GEDCOM for PAF 2.1
3.0 Standard (9 October 1987)
PAF 2.0 and 2.1 implementation of 3.0 (8 June 1988)
4.1 Draft
4.2 Draft (25 January 1990)
5.1 Draft (18 September 1992)
5.2 Draft (2 June 1993)

If anyone has any of the above, we would really appreciate if you could scan them and contribute them for the main purpose of preservation of the history of GEDCOM and to allow the study of the development of GEDCOM.