Gedcom bashing as a pastime has got to stop until it is made easier to update/enter data

+13 votes

Title updated to avoid misinterpretation of my question, which is  'Can it be made easier for people to upload their gedcom and present it in a decent way, whilst also making it easier for all to add information and sources?'

I know a lot of Wikitree users are anti-gedcoms, but gedcom bashing seems to get worse by the day.

Some of you may remember a couple of questions I posted recently.

These both had quite a few responses, but nobody 'in authority' commented or appeared to take any notice.

One of the responses mentioned another genealogy Wiki, so I took the opportunity of uploading a small gedcom there - surprise, surprise - no 'gedcom rubbish' at all.

Initial look - will need some tweaking, but will only take about a week or two to tidy up to my satisfation, but it is easily readable as it stands, and makes sense.
Place names not fully recognised (Church names etc). These are highlighted in red, so they stand out as something needing to be rectified, but the information is still there.

Estimated birth/marriage years written as 'Est 1700' are accepted (doesn't say 'date not recognised'), also recognizes 'double dating'
Alternate names are recognised (doesn't say too many names), British quarter dates accepted (doesn't say 'date not recognised).
Name, Birth, Baptism, Marriage, Death, Burial - all sourced individually, marriage sourced with both parties, events in proper order. Census information in correct order. Line breaks (a major bug bear) imported.
I have my own source list, adding new people I can link straightaway to these sources, or to general sources. Sources need tweaking, some of 'mysources' I will connect in to general sources, as and when time permits - no formulating sources/copying/pasting.

I can write a biography if I want to, but I don't have to (makes no sense to me to write a story about someone I have very little information about, other than the fact that they existed).
With Wikitree I am still sorting biographies out, almost 3 months since I uploaded my gedcom. I have nearly finished now, thank goodness.

These are possbly some of the reasons why so many people seem to upload their gedcom then ignore it at Wikitree - it's too difficult. This really does need sorting out ASAP.  I have stuck at this, but it has been quite difficult and very time consuming.

It won't stop people adding ancestry trees as sources, and won't make them write a biography, but it might encourage people to update their profiles if the process was easier.  I'm not sure how accurate their matching is - I came across 4 matches and they were matched/merged instantly prior to import, family connections were maintained.

Some of you would like gedcoms banned - fair enough, ban them, some useful connections will be lost.

If they are to stay, then please make it easier.  To be fair, this doesn't only apply to gedcom users, it would make it easier for everybody to enter and source profiles better.


in WikiTree Tech by Margaret Wilkinson G2G6 Mach 2 (20.2k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
I think this a valid statement worthy of discussion so I don't think a question is necessary.
'Can it be made easier for people to upload their gedcom and present it in a decent way, whilst also making it easier for all to add information and sources?'

Please be assured, Vincent, that I do not wish to ban gedcoms, I am sure you realised that before you posted your comment.  My wish is that gedcoms are easier to upload, make sense when uploaded, and recognise valid dates, sources, etc.  People can enter profiles without decent sources manually, as well as by gedcom, and frequently do so.  The main difference with gedcom is that it is easy to add many profiles at the click of a button, rather than manually, the end product is no good if the beginning is no good - make it easier for everyone.

The Wikitree is just a software program.  If you change one little thing it can affect other aspects of the software unintentionally.  I am sure it is realised that things could be better but these things have to be handled one step at a time, otherwise who knows what could happen.  I think it just takes a little patience and the kinks will be straightened out with time.

Hi Margaret, Thank you for your contributions to

Your comments spurred me to try a GedCom upload to (Is that the other Wiki program you compared to?)  It was a small batch of less than 50 early English ancestors with good sources.  All of them were excluded because they were all born before 1750.  1750 is a pretty late beginning date, but I decided to try and search for these individuals in the WeRelate database.  I couldn't find any of them from England.  

I did find one of the last generation I wanted to enter;  brother Joseph Smith m Lydia Huit.  I could theoretically work backwards from Joe to enter the 40 odd profiles by hand, but that is as time consuming on WeRelate as it is here on WikiTree.  I decided to add sources for Joe and Lydia because there were none. That took a couple of hours to add my free links to the WeRelate source records and make my edits to three profiles.  It would probably be similar on WikiTree time-wise, maybe less.

The advantage to using WikiTree, as I see it now, is that we can upload a gedcom with pre-1750 data.  This little exercise has clarified for me why we need to keep WikiTree as GedCom friendly as possible.  We definitely need ways to minimize duplications, but just picking an arbitrary cut-off date like everything pre-1750 is not the way to go either.  My early English line will probably never be on WeRelate because I am not interested in manually entering it, and I do not believe it is already there.  

Kitty, please don't think I dislike Wikitree, I love it.  I just wish it could be a tad easier to work with (for gedcom users and others who prefer to enter names/sources manually).  It has been a very steep learning curve, one which apparently lots of people are not prepared to undergo.

I don't remember seeing anything about a cut-off date of 1750 for entries at WeRelate.  My earliest entry was 1711, several others between then and 1750.  Did you actually try to upload the gedcom, or just got as far as the 'matching' stage?

Entering decent info at WeRelate is, as you say, as time consuming as here at Wikitree - it was primarily the gedcom I was comparing - all the basic information about main events (birth, baptism, marriage, death, burial) is there, in correct order, already sourced, easily readable.

The other comment you make, about so few people there from England, applies here at Wikitree as well.  It is still predominantly a US site - I can find very few of my ancestors at either site (less problems with merges), but as the sites increase, hopefully the English profiles will increase at both sites.

I for one will probably not be uploading another gedcom here, it has taken too much time away from research  -  as Lana quite rightly says -  'That's where most of us spend our time...on the research'.

I will continue to improve/maintain my profiles, and take an active part.


The basic question with gedcoms should be like at customs - did you pack this bag yourself?

If you've built your own tree, you shouldn't have to type it in again.

But people upload gedcoms containing thousands of people who they know nothing about whatsoever.  They've built those trees just by gedcomming other people's stuff off Ancestry and stitching it together.  They've done nothing to check that "data".  They've never even looked at most of it.  Usually it's got impossible dates in it, confused places, quite often fictitious people.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but there are many reasons why many people in America and England have built bogus trees.  And the internet is a wonderful tool for spreading them.  Question is, whether WikiTree can hold the line or whether somebody else will have to start again.

Kitty, I've just found the 1750 reference at WeRelate, it can be circumnavigated by entering family members born after that date.  Sounds reasonable to me.  I've had another check, my earliest person had an estimated birth year of 1689, his daughter was born 1710/11, her youngest son was born 1742.

It is only the next generation that are born after 1750, so I've got 3 generations born before 1750.  Were you just entering generations before Joseph Smith and Lydia Huit.?

In which case why not try again,  a few generations further down, match inevitable duplicates as you go.


Warning messages

The Early column is checked for people born 1750 or earlier. Early people are excluded from GEDCOM import. Instead, you'll need to create wiki pages for them by hand. (WeRelate already has wiki pages for many early ancestors; we're providing GEDCOM import to help people create pages for their closer ancestors.)

You might notice that some people born before 1750 are not excluded. The reason is that we don't break up GEDCOM families. If anyone in a family is born 1750 or later, then everyone in the family is imported.

Margaret, I tried to take a closer look at the GEDCOM you imported but the original file was deleted. What system did you export from?
Chris, My original gedcom was rejected as there were too many people without birth dates.  I'm glad it was rejected, it was bigger than my eventual gedcom, I would probably be tidying it up for some years to come.

The next one, which I am working on at present, is Tuthill wiki.ged, uploaded on 29 May this year.

This was exported from Legacy family tree, Gedcom 5.5.1


3 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer
The other answers here make me think people are reading your post in a different way.  I see two types of GEDCOM bashing going on here:

1. When a GEDCOM is the only source provided on a profile. I don't think that's what you're writing about. But some of the responses seem to be about this.

2.  When we are faced with the horrendous formatting results that uploading a GEDCOM here creates. I think this is what you're writing about.

I stopped uploading GEDCOMs here for this very reason. The system wikitree has for converting GEDCOM text here is awful. And as you've pointed out, at least one other wiki site has a system for converting a GEDCOM into a nicely formatted profile page that doesn't require anywhere near the editing that is required here. So we know it can be done. That other site does have limits on types of profiles.  They don't for example allow profiles for living people. And I believe they do have a stricter "how far back" cut off date than wikitree but I don't think it's as recent as 1750. And that's just for GEDCOMs. It's probably in place to address the flood of bad profiles that we all abhore.

I believe that GEDCOM uploading is an essential feature of a genealogy wiki. As is a matching, deduping feature. Wikitree has both but I can't use or encourage use of that tool until the translation to profile text is made better. When leadership here expresses willingness/readiness to take this on, I stand ready to help. But as at least one other here has said, it will be a huge task requiring, probably, a major redesign of the underlying database and there may be resource reasons why such a change will not be made a priority.

Until then, manual creation and editing takes about the same amount of time as the combination of auto-adding/comparing dupes + post-upload cleanup. Maybe faster actually.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (757k points)
selected by Berry Henderson
There's no doubt that WeRelate is better than WikiTree in some ways. Dallan is an awesome programmer and he was super generous in developing it.
It would be interesting to survey a random group of people who have imported GEDCOMs to see if they think it was worth it. (Eowyn, what would you think of doing this? I know you're probably too busy now but maybe that should go on your to-do list.)
Sure, I think that'd be great. It'd probably be something worth doing on a semi-regular basis just to get a feel for what people are thinking and potential improvements. I can work on this after I get back next week and survey a sampling of people who imported in the last two weeks to three months ago (ish).  I'm guessing there'd be differing opinons based on length of time and familiarity with WikiTree.
It was definitely worth me importing my gedcom, Chris, and most people, I think, will say it was worth importing theirs.

It is the time taken to present things properly that puts me off from uploading another one. That certainly doesn't bother some people, they just leave them as is, but it bothers me.

My interest is primarily family history/genealogy, not in mastering Wiki syntax, not in writing essays, not in formulating wiki readable sources.

Some of my profiles still appear quite 'raw', stilted, poorly formatted, I am learning as I go.  When I have been all the way round twice (a long story!), my intention is to improve direct ancestors profiles, others will probably stay untouched.

As Lana commented, most of us like to spend time on research - I have done very little in the last few months!

As long as you're surveying, I'd be interested in knowing what percentage of GEDCOM uploaders are dump and runs.  They upload and (I see a couple of us options):

a) they never complete the matching and therefore their GEDCOMs never get added

B ) they complete the matching and their GEDCOM is added but they don't stay much longer (dump and run)

c) they do b) but stick around and become active members.

If you can't do such analysis with tools, send me a list of the last years uploaders and I'll do some manual analysis.
+3 votes
GEDCOMS are accurate or not, depending on the research behind it.  That's where most of us spend our time...on the research.  There is absolutely NO WAY that I'm going to do all that research and THEN type them in one by one!  It's a GEDCOM or nothing.  THEN I can do some tweaking after that or adding when more information is found.

Bashing of GEDCOMs and is foolish.  The accuracy or lack of it is in the research only, and both GEDCOMs and are awesomely useful tools.

I agree this site could be far simpler to use, but the administrators do try to create something simpler all the time.  Our comments help let them know where the problems are.

Entering the dates so they are accepted drives me crazy for the same reasons they do you!
by Lana H G2G6 (8.3k points)

I agree with most of what you say.  Ancestry bashing is as prevalent as gedcom bashing!

I look at ancestry trees for clues, never enter them as definitive sources. If their source is another ancestry tree it can be annoying, but sometimes I can follow the links to the original tree  But the best trees there, as everywhere,(including here) provide good sources for their information.  Someone might have found a census record that I have been unable to find, others might show details/image of a birth certificate.

So could we perhaps have a week or more amnesty for both gedcoms and ancestry?

(Another question for you, Vincent wink)


I am slow, so starting from scratch or using a GEDCOM is a push for me: they both take about the same amount of time. Yes poor research gives one pause. Such as a profile that has as an only source a link to someone else’s work behind a pay wall.
0 votes
In my opinion one of the main reasons for large numbers of "raw" gedcom profiles is the learning curve associated with wikitree. You find the site, look around, like the idea, start importing gedcoms, find all these "orphaned" profiles and think, well I have an ancestor there, I'm not there yet importing that line of my family, but, hey, they are my ancestors, so I'll adopt them, and then it takes only one large branch of the family (in my case 3,000+), and you are over the 5,000 limit. By that time you may have discovered that you can contribute good information to some G2G questions and discussions, you may want to continue with some research, and even in my case, wanting to hang in there and complete these profiles, I'm currently sitting on a huge backlog of profiles needing clean-up because clean-up is slow. Not to forget new projects and/or categories just developed recently so that you have to go back and re-edit your profiles. And I assume some people will have given up going back to these profiles all together.

It seems to me that there are two questions that should be addressed: One: how can we gently, but still up-front, make it clear to newcomers that importing a gedcom is not the end of things but only the beginning - without scaring them away. And two: how can we address Margaret's issue, the technical side of making gedcom results more userfriendly.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (523k points)

Related questions

+2 votes
2 answers
111 views asked Oct 29, 2019 in WikiTree Help by Lois Tilton G2G6 Mach 8 (82.9k points)
+6 votes
0 answers
63 views asked Jun 2, 2014 in WikiTree Tech by K Theado G2G2 (2.2k points)
+12 votes
1 answer
0 votes
2 answers
125 views asked Apr 22, 2017 in WikiTree Tech by Björn Grothkast G2G Rookie (130 points)
+12 votes
1 answer
71 views asked Feb 20, 2014 in WikiTree Tech by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (255k points)
+7 votes
3 answers
260 views asked Mar 1, 2012 in WikiTree Tech by Sheri Bush G2G1 (1.7k points)
+4 votes
3 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright