Use of GEDCOM standard for names

+5 votes
The widely used GEDCOM standard is great for genealogists. Data is easily backed up or loaded into other tools - great for producing reports, etc.

GEDCOM files exported from WikiTree appear to contain non-standard tags, MIDN and PGVN.  These tags are unrecognised and ignored by GRAMPS, Family Tree Builder and Ancestris, leaving a high number of records with vital data missing.

GRAMPS drops all the data that cannot be imported into a note file but with 520 exported records (and rising) it is unthinkable to manually find and fix every broken record, especially as this is a process I will repeat often if WikiTree is my master source.

Is it possible to add a little bit of code to the export process to put the name fields back in to the GEDCOM 5.5 standard?
in Genealogy Help by Chris Orme G2G6 Mach 2 (22.6k points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
Best answer
Hi Chris,

I'm not sure about these specific tags, but we've worked hard to meet the GEDCOM 5.5 standards.

The amount of text in a NOTE isn't something we can fix, since the text of a page is such an important part of how WikiTree works. But we can make sure we're using all the correct name tags, and proper extensions that supplement them.

Do you want to dig into an example and show how it's exported and the incorrect tag usage?

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
selected by Keith Baker

Hi Chris,

Thank you so much for your very quick response to my question and I do appreciate your hard work!

My specific question here is about the middle name and preferred name data.

I exported a GEDCOM from WikiTree earlier today and imported it to GRAMPS 3.4.2-1 and Family Tree Builder 6.0.0.  In both cases all middle name and preferred name data was missing.  For example [[Wilson-11117|Clifford Augustus (Gus) Wilson]] was loaded into both programs as simply "Clifford Wilson". The middle name, Augustus, and preferred name, Gus,  were both lost.

Whilst Family Tree Builder totally lost the data, GRAMPS stored the following in a person note:

Records not imported into INDI (individual) Gramps ID I0091:

Line ignored as not understood     Line  7130: 2 _PGVN Gus
Line ignored as not understood     Line  7131: 2 _MIDN Augustus

I have looked up PGVN and MIDN in the GEDCOM 5.5  standard at and at and can find no reference to either tag.

As I am not an expert, I may be missing something (apologies if so) but it appears the data cannot be loaded because of non-standard tags.

This is separate to any issue about what is stored in the text area on WikiTree as these data are held in unique fields.

I hope this is helpful.  Do let me know if you need any more information.


Hi Chris,

Any tag with an underscore means it's a custom extended tag. So, it's proper GEDCOM format but it's not a standard tag. There is no standard tag for middle name or preferred first name.

We could just stick it all in the first name. That would be better for you. The problem is that it would be worse for some people using other systems, systems that do interpret the middle name and preferred first name fields (although they're "custom" we didn't make them up).

It's hard to know what the best option for the largest amount of people will be.

The best option of all would be to offer an option. Let you choose how you want the export. Though, realistically, I don't see that going to the top of our priority list. There are lots of things we're working on. :-|

By the way, the single most common complaint about GEDCOM imports on WikiTree is that middle names became part of the first name.

People complain constantly that on their other system a person had a first name and middle name, but after being imported to WikiTree it all ended up in the first name. That's, of course, because their system just put it all into one field.

We've set up our import so that whatever variety of middle name tag is used, we can interpret it. I wish other systems would do the same, but that's up to them.
Having a choice on export would be really nice. :) I've been playing around with RootsMagic, and it also doesn't have a middle name field, so I lose all the middle names.
Hi again, Chris,

Thank you so much for your reply, that is really helpful.  At least I understand your dilema now!

Do you, by any chance, know which systems import the custom name tags?

I think quite a few genealogy programs create custom tags, for various things.  We need some clever person with a bit of time to write a nice opensource GEDCOM translation program!

Lianne, I honestly can't understand why a good system like RootsMagic wouldn't account for middle name fields. All they would have to do is recognize that some GEDCOMs have them and append the data to their first name field. That's better than us not preserving the fact that a middle is a middle name.

Offering an option would be good, and I'll put it on the mile-long to-do list, but it's not as good as you might think. You and Chris will know what the option means. Many users will just be confused by it.
I think the prefered solution would be to add support for middle and prefered names in GRAMPS. That way, data (or metadata) is not getting lost by ignoring or combining those fields with other fields.
I'm still seeing the same warnings. Has there been any change on either side? Any possibility to add that options page soon?
Hello, here is my request while you're working on this. While wikitree does not have an optimal way of handling non-roman alternative names, I've understood the "other" fields are used for them. For instance, my first name in a non-roman alphabet is in the field "other nickname(s)" and my last name in a non-roman alphabet is in the field "other last name(s)".

Now, in the GEDCOM options page, it would be great if I could specify, I'd like to export my other fields as my name. Perhaps in the options page have a template string. You could default it to something like: "%1 %2" where:

%1 is first name

%2 is last name

%3 is preferred name

%4 is other nick name

%5 is middle name

%6 is current last name

%7 is other last name

but then you can add or replace the default string. For instance say I want the middle name included, I could change the name template to "%1 %5 %2". Or say if I just want my non-roman name exported instead, my template string would become "%4 %7"

This would be very exciting. Suddenly I'd be able to refactor my family tree in Gramps by doing an export with a different name template. And none of the names would get lost in the export (if I did not want them to be)

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