Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ryan Heaton: A New GEDCOM

“Legacy GEDCOM has done a great job,” said Ryan Heaton, “but it’s time to move on.”

imageRyan Heaton, senior software engineer at FamilySearch, presented two sessions describing a new GEDCOM standard. I was able to attend the first, “A New GEDCOM: Project Scope, Goals, and Governance.”

To be useful, a standard has to be adopted by a lot of different people. It must meet their needs.

A standard needs community collaboration, “a rich ecosystem.” Crowdsourcing plays an important role. The community needs to provide technical support to each others. The community needs to own the standard.

“Nobody is as smart as everybody.”

FamilySearch has been working on a new GEDCOM for the past year. The proposed name is GEDCOMX. “We’re not here to announce that the standard is here and ready to go.” That’s why we’re here talking about creating a project.

When you abstract a record, you in essence create a little tree. These evidence records (as I would call them) are applied to build a conclusion tree. From the conclusion tree, you need to be able to trace a conclusion back through the evidence records back to the actual artifacts. “That is the vision of GEDCOMX.”

I was not able to attend the second session, which was titled “A New GEDCOM: Tools, Syntax and Semantics.” The class description stated, “The GEDCOM standard is stale. What would a new GEDCOM look like in terms of its syntax and semantics? What tools would be made available to promote and apply it?”

Perhaps he will go into detail on a couple of comments Jay Verkler made in the keynote. Accordidng to Verkler, a new GEDCOM will include three things: 1. an exchange mechanism. 2. an API standard 3. a repository model.

Heaton went on to talk about some software development stuff. The rest of this article may not make any sense otherwise.

There is a project set up on GitHub, a popular tool for collaborative development. The results of the user documentation is on a website. The code is all available openly. Three websites are now public.

FamilySearch has not yet funded personnel to work much on this, so don’t expect too much while FamilySearch is ramping up.

“This project is not one that is going to fall by the wayside,” said Heaton. “We are really committed to this.”



  1. So is dead?

  2. He wins the 'most clichés per message' award. I hope the new GEDCOM will be described in declarative English.

    time to move on
    rich ecosystem
    own the standard
    Nobody is as smart as everybody
    evidence records
    conclusion tree
    actual artifacts
    That is the vision
    standard is stale
    promote and apply

    How about, instead, "We're going to update GEDCOM to let us put new stuff in."?


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