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Gretna Green and Marriage Records

Gretna Green and Marriage Records

Gretna Green is a term you need to know if you are searching for marriage records. In this video professional genealogist J. Mark Lowe joins me to discuss Gretna Green: what it means, why it matters, and how Gretna Greens may have affected your ability to find your ancestors’ marriage records.

This is part 1 of a 2 part series with Mark Lowe on marriage records. Next week, Mark will walk us through a case study for finding marriage records relating to a Gretna Green in the United States.

Show Notes

(This transcription was edited for clarity)

About Professional Genealogist J. Mark Lowe

You can contact Mark through the Kentucky – Tennessee Research Associates

Mark: I’m getting old enough now that I could forget some of that. I really started realistically started when I was about seven years old. Not doing the same kind of work, not professionally, that sort of thing. But I got interested.
Lisa:
We have so much in common. And I think one of the biggest things, of course, is genealogy. And I think most folks watching probably have seen you at some point, tell everybody how long you’ve been doing genealogy. When did all this start for you?

I lost my paternal grandmother. And so, with her loss, there were questions that I needed answers to. And I would ask my dad, and he knew lots of stuff. But he didn’t know everything I wanted to know, including, where everybody was married or that sort of thing. And I had an interest in that. He took me to an aunt, I had a couple of aunts who were in the DAR and there were interested a little bit, and he took me to visit one of those who took me to the county court clerk’s office up in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Mr. Oval Motley was the clerk at that point. He was willing to work with a seven-year-old. He took me into the bowels of the courthouse and let me unfold marriage records and he made me explain to him, and he would ask “now do you understand this?” He and I transcribed – remember those great big pencils that we used in first and second grade, those great big ones the size of your thumb? – he had me transcribe whatever I was looking at, and then I would tell him what it meant. Or if I didn’t know, he would explain it to me. Now, I still had a seven-year-old mind, and I was loving it! I was learning it. And he said to me, “Do you see where the story goes?” And he said, “the story of your family and every other family who passed through this area are in these records.” And he said, “so if you learn how to listen to that story, you can hear what happened to them then.” I was hooked!

Lisa: I can imagine. What a great experience! How wonderful that he spoke to a seven-year-old like that and didn’t underestimate your interest or your capability.

You’ve got me beat by a year because I think I was eight years old when I first became interested in family history. I always tell people I was the only kid in grade school using her allowance to buy death certificates! But my grandmother hadn’t passed. But like the gentleman that you met at the courthouse when I asked her during a visit over the summer vacation, “Who are these people in your in your scrapbooks? I don’t recognize them. Why do you have strangers? You’re my grandma!” and she said, “that’s my family!” She stopped everything and sat down with me and answered questions and wrote things down. It’s that love and attention of an adult who’s willing to talk to you about it, right? I mean, what a difference that makes our kid!

Mark: It really doesn’t. In fact, my grandmother, when she was living, was someone who would give you attention. I would make up homework because I was not yet in school when she would come and stay with us. She would help my older brothers and sisters with homework. And so, I would say “you know, Mama Lowe I have homework too!” And she would do what you say and we would go through something, whatever I made up to go through, and I think that was why there was such a loss in part of that. And so, I think doing the research often about her family, those folks that I’d heard her talk about, helped me feel like she was there again. Telling me those stories.

Lisa: Yes. You get to uncover another connection, and another connection, and another connection to those beloved relatives that we knew. I still feel that way. When I find people I say to my Grandma, “I got one!” It’s exciting to know that we have that ongoing connection.

So, you called her mama Lowe?

Mark: Mama Lowe, yes. She was my dad’s mom. And my other grandmother was just Granny.

What Does Gretna Green Mean?

(06:29) Lisa: Let’s talk about marriage records. I know that you teach a lot on this subject and kind of blend it in with this concept of Gretna Green. I’ve heard of Gretna Green.  There’s a place in Scotland. But you really help explain to people how this applies even to those of us in the US, and other countries. Let’s start off with talking about Gretna Green as a real place, and as an idea.

Mark: Exactly. There really is a place called Gretna Green. And as you mentioned, it is in Scotland. And the reason that it became famous is that England’s marriage laws were more rigid. Many couples found out that they could just cross the border over into Scotland, and they could get married much quicker, much easier without the same restrictions. It became so well known as people shared it with one another then they went to this little community called Gretna Green.

The marriage registers for those are available. So, if you actually have family who went to the Gretna Green in Scotland, the records are a database that’s available, both on FamilySearch and Ancestry. You can search those.

It became famous for an anvil, like a blacksmith anvil there. Often the story would go that they would go there to say they wanted to get married. The smithy was kind of a central place in the community. (Image Source: New Britain herald. [microfilm reel], July 10, 1924, Image 10.)

Gretna Green in the newspaper

(Image Source: New Britain herald. [microfilm reel], July 10, 1924, Image 10.)

It was just a place that was close to get to, was not far away, where folks could just cross the border, go to Gretna Green. They would get married at that location, and then return home. It became kind of synonymous with the idea of going somewhere else to get married.

As we know, in the States, there’s been lots of “famous” areas where people wanted to get married, not always just because of marriage laws. Like often that would be going to Niagara Falls. A lot of folks went to Niagara Falls either on their honeymoon, or in many days earlier to get married It became a destination. And so, the Gretna Greens are not those necessarily romantic locations, but where perhaps the laws were easier. In fact, let’s look at some of those reasons.

Reasons Why People Married at a “Gretna Green”

  1. Age Requirements

(09:54) I think the biggest reason that many of our ancestors married somewhere besides where they lived was because of age requirements. That still applies today. That was the case in the first one I went to find in my family. There was a courthouse where I thought they would have gotten married. That’s where they lived. But there was no marriage record from my grandparents there. There could have been age requirements.

  1. Waiting Period

In some states, there’s a waiting period. So even though we could go get a license, it might be two, three, sometimes five days, sometimes a week, before the couple could actually get married. And for many folks, that was just too long.

  1. Medical Test Requirements

In the 20th century in particular we began to add some medical test requirements for marriage. And in many states today, there still is a blood test or various requirements, and that delays the marriage. Even today, in this county, several years ago, Tennessee required a blood test, and there was a lab that was set up just across from the courthouse where you could get your blood test done in one day. And so, we became kind of a Gretna Green for even other counties, because you could come here and

 get your blood test and get married in the same day. That wasn’t true in other places. So that’s another reason.

  1. Costs

Sometimes it’s the cost of the license, or specific restrictions to clauses. Sometimes, besides age, there would be where you would have to have the proof of good conduct. Somebody had to actually, in some states, say that they knew you and that you would stand up for a good marriage and that you were of good conduct and that sort of thing. And in some cases, that would have prevented folks from going to a particular area.

  1. Alcohol and Party Restrictions

Certainly, near state lines and that sort of thing, people would want to have a party at their wedding. Perhaps they lived in a dry county. I grew up in a dry county. If you wanted to have alcohol or a party, then you would go somewhere else to get married.

  1. Train Transportation

For many folks going away is an important situation. They might hop on the train, or certainly, the whole idea of ‘oh, we want to get married somewhere special’, they would do that. So, I mentioned Niagara Falls. One of the other big areas where people went, if it was a destination wedding was Mammoth Cave. They wanted to go down in the cave. And particularly after the Civil War, 1870s and 1880s, there were many folks who would come down to Kentucky to do that. They would have on a fancy dress, but they would cover it with some kind of coveralls so they could crawl into the cave. Then they would get married and try to take some pictures. And so that would be a reason.

Lisa: It sounds like something kind of becomes a Gretna Green when word gets out that there’s an advantage to going there versus going here. I think about all the old movies in which they would go to Reno to get a divorce. That’s kind of the opposite Gretna Green, isn’t it?

Mark: It is, but it’s the same. It’s exactly the same thing. Same concept. People would get excited and would tell the information. So yes, yes, you can go there and a get a divorce quickly – same thing. And it’s amazing how the word got out about certain squires or JPs (Justice of the Peace). If you watched Andy Griffith growing up, people would come to him as the JP and get married.

Researchers like you and I, we’ve looked at these records, and we think “Wait, the record would have to be created in that place. And in some areas, it was he ease at which a JP could create a license where you didn’t have to go to the county seat. You could get married in that area with that JP. You could do everything right there. That certainly would have sped up the situation of having to go to a big city and wait in the long line and wait to be seen and go through the information. That’s certainly the reasons that they existed. and still exist today. They still do exist.

Lisa: Well, I imagine if a town or a city wanted to encourage people to come and kind of bring their filing fees with them, they would create a scenario where it’s really easy and they get that word out.

Mark: Sounds like a tourism opportunity! Yeah, come and get married here! We’ll make it work.

By the way, if you go look for that, you’re going to find that that exists, certainly. There are wedding chapels around the corner in certain cities just waiting for the opportunity.

Understanding Context: Marriage Statistics

(15:07) My grandparents would have gotten married right after World War I.  I could see that they were married. But depending on the time period and where you are, if you’re in the States, there are records of agencies, around the world in virtually every country. For example, a book of marriage statistics. There’s one compiled by the Bureau of the Census. We’re used to looking at their populations counts and that sort of thing. But they also put out a marriage and divorce report, probably starting in the 1860s and continuing through today, actually. They are available on Google Books.

I’ve used the marriage statistics report. They don’t always have the marriage statistics report in every annual report. They’re also available on Hathitrust. This is the 1922 Report: Marriage and Divorce, Bureau of Census.

In it you can see counties where the marriage rate is higher than the state marriage rate. So, for example, if you were looking at West Virginia, Brooke County has a marriage rate higher than every other county in West Virginia. The next thing to do is pull a map up of that time period. If you look at Brook County, West Virginia it has that little lip that fits up between Ohio, and Pennsylvania. So, Brooke county is in West Virginia, and lays right between Ohio to its west, and Pennsylvania to the east. Ohio’s laws in Pennsylvania laws were more stringent than West Virginia’s law. So, Brooke County, was a popular destination. Number one, it’s close. And so many couples from Pennsylvania and Ohio, and sometimes folks who married somebody from Ohio, would meet in West Virginia, and have the marriage.

This statistical data kind of helps you predict an idea. If you have somebody and you can’t find their marriage record, you could start looking at the law in that time period and see which counties had a higher rate nearby.

I think that the next step is to take that one step further. Besides the statistics, try to figure out what was the cause. Hathitrust has lot of years listed of the Bureau of the Census Special Reports Marriage and Divorce. You can actually look based on the time period that you’re looking for.

If you’re interested in the laws for other countries, they’re often included in some of this book of the US Census, because it’s showing us what’s the comparable laws in France or Germany or Spain. They’re in the same book. So, you don’t have to go look necessarily outside. Sometimes you can actually use the same tools for that. So let me give an example.

In the 1909 edition I pulled up the requirements for Kentucky and Tennessee. When I’m looking at my grandparents who were living in Kentucky, I wonder why would they possibly go somewhere else to get married? This is the age before a parental consent is required. In Kentucky, you had to be 21. In Tennessee at that point, you only had to be 16. That’s five years, a significant difference right there, don’t you think? You can imagine that there would have been a lot of people who thought, wait a minute, we’re eighteen, and we want to get married. We’ve got to have parental consent? If that were the case, if  your parents were all for that situation, then you could still do that. But if there was some question, then in Tennessee that wasn’t required at 16. In fact, before 1899 it mentions that that was put into place, that you had to be 16. Before that there wasn’t a specific written consent age. So that could have been the situation.

Those of us who research in Kentucky, for example, we understand the process that people who lived in the northern part of Kentucky crossed over to Indiana, because there was the lower age there. And the folks on the southern border, which is Tennessee, they crossed over into the northern Tennessee counties and got married, because it would have been easier.

With that in mind, you want to look at the laws that are in place. One of my favorite places to do that to quickly looking up the laws and statutes for the various states is one of the great summaries. Cornell law school has Marriage Laws of the Fifty States.

They’ve got it by state, and it helps you see the changes over time. It will tell you what the current marriage law is, but it will also help you see the changes in the past decades. I think that’s helpful for us to know. What was the law in place when your great aunt and uncle got married, and you’re trying to find where they were married? So that’s a great tool.

Lisa: Absolutely.

You specialize in your professional research, but many people who do it as a hobby don’t necessarily specialize. The advantage in specializing as a professional genealogist is that you really get to know all that context of an area. But that’s a strategy that all of us can use. We don’t have to be doing client work to take the time to get these kinds of resources. This is brilliant.

Mark: Yeah, because that is the question sometimes. I think that’s the one area that we can help sometimes is that people will say, “where do you where do you find that?” Well, it’s because you’ve already found it before. I think it’s when we share “hey, wait, this is a resource I would use” wherever I was. And I think I shared kind of three places there that would help you quickly, without getting into anything complicated.

And by the way, it would mention in the Census Bureau summary of laws, it would mention, if it required blood tests at a certain time period, what the tests were, it would indicate if there were special bonds. So, in regard to all those other reasons that folks might have gone to another location, those are in some of these summaries. So it’s not just an age thing. It’s got lots of other reasons. So again, it helps to know where to look, absolutely.

More Reasons to Go Looking for a Gretna Green Marriage

(23:45) In the case of my grandparents, I couldn’t ask her at that point, you know “where did y’all get married?” But sometimes there are clues that will cause you to look for a Gretna Green marriage.

I did look in the newspaper, but it just indicated their marriage. It did not indicate where they went to get married. I did find that in some other folks that I’ve looked for. In the newspaper account, it indicated that they went to a certain place or perhaps it was solemnized with the justice of the peace. Maybe the name was included. So, I would always do those newspaper searches.

Another reason to look for a Gretna Green marriage is rumors. They are often the best possibility. Somebody might say, “I think they ran off to so-and-so”. Occasionally that does pan out that people went pretty far to get married.

I always want to make sure that I’m looking in the right county. I love using the tool called the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries at the Newberry Library in Chicago. If I had grandparents who married in 1860 in a certain county, I want to know what the county boundary was at that time because maybe the current county didn’t exist yet. Maybe they were living in a different county at that time, and that’s where the marriage is. So, it’s always wise to make sure we’re looking at the same information and consistent across time.

atlas of historical county boundaries

The atlas of historical county boundaries

Learn more about the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries in these two articles:

Lisa: I know that a lot of beginners in genealogy don’t always realize that you don’t always go to the current county seat for genealogy records. That what you were just showing there with that Atlas of Historical County Boundaries interactive map was the ability to be able to pick a point in time and see where the boundaries were at that time, because that’s where you would then search today. And it’s one of those things that until somebody tells you, you don’t really know when you’re new in genealogy. That’s a great tool.

Case Study: Finding Records for a Gretna Green Marriage

This is part 1 of a 2-part series with Mark Lowe on marriage records. Next time, Mark will walk us through a case study for finding marriage records relating to a Gretna Green in the United States.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members. (Learn more and join Premium Membership here.)

 

All About GEDCOM

All About GEDCOM

The GEDCOM digital file format is essential to genealogy. My expert guest from FamilySearch explains what a GEDCOM is, how to use it, and the most recent changes. He’ll also answer some of the most common GEDCOM questions. 

Show Notes

If you’ve been watching my videos for a while, then you probably know that I really recommend that you have a complete copy of your family tree on your own computer. But what if you’ve been building your family tree totally online up to this point?

The good news is that you can export your family tree as a GEDCOM file. But what exactly is a GEDCOM file?

Gordon Clarke,  the GEDCOM Developer Relations Manager at the free genealogy website FamilySearch.org joins me to answer that question and provide the latest information about the GEDCOM.

What is a GEDCOM?

(00:54) Lisa: What is a GEDCOM?

(01:14) Gordon: GEDCOM is actually an acronym for:

GEnealogical
Data
COMmunication.

It’s a type of file with specific rules that allows digital family history products to exchange information. It’s been around so long that all the software companies can read and export it.

Say for example that you have a particular family tree program you’ve been working in but there are some features in another application that you like to try out. You want to try it out with a computer file that the program can read. All of the popular genealogy programs allows you to write a GEDCOM file and then you can read it in and review your information and add to it. That is what a GEDCOM is for.

It’s a specific file type that was works with most family history applications. It’s a text-based file, though it has special constraints to it. It was designed to be easily adaptable and compatible with importing and exporting. So, as long as the developers of both products adhere to GEDCOM specifications, you shouldn’t have a trouble downloading from one and uploading to the other.

You can learn more at GEDCOM.info.

What GEDCOM stands for

Lisa: It sounds like each genealogy software database and website probably have their own proprietary file type, right? So, this is one everybody sort of agrees on that can extract the genealogy data set right. Is that right?

Gordon: Right, and there are differences between the proprietary program and GEDCOM. There are some products out there that only support GEDCOM. So that’s their proprietary format.

Why Use a GEDCOM?

(03:45) Lisa: So why should we use one a GEDCOM. When would we find ourselves wishing we had this universal file?

Gordon: Family history is more of a record keeping whether it’s photos and stories and genealogical data. People like to keep it and have control over it. So, GEDCOM is I like the word “personal”. You can personally control it. It’s just a .GED file, so any operating system can handle copying and emailing it. So, for personal control, preservation and sharing of genealogical data. It’s the most universally accepted format.

I would think for your backup purposes because it’s so universal, make sure that the program that you’re using has the ability to save your data in GEDCOM. Then you can decide whether you put it in your thumb drive or removable drive or you put it up in the cloud, you can decide how to preserve it. Think of it more as your personal file over this important information.

(05:31) Lisa: I like that idea. I’m probably not alone in that I once had somebody give me a little floppy disk and it had the whole family tree that this person had been working on. Unfortunately, it was a proprietary file, and it was a program that no longer exists. I’m helpless to be able to use it. So, a GEDCOME can really solve that issue.

Do All Family Tree Programs Support GEDCOM?

(06:00) You kind of touched on this, but I just want to just double check. Can all family tree programs and websites export the GEDCOM? Are you familiar with anything that don’t?

Gordon: I would say all of the popular programs and websites make it possible to import GEDCOM, and most of them allow for exports. There are some exceptions to that rule. If you’re going to spend your time using a program, look to see if it’s GEDCOM compatible.

To help even more so standardize the industry, the software providers commit to implementing the newest version of GEDCOM. Much of that is backward compatible. We presented those that have or will be planning to implement the newest version of GEDCOM at Rootstech. You can search at Rootstech for “GEDCOM” and see the videos of what’s been rolled out and what’s coming.

Who Owns and Controls GEDCOM?

(07:41) Lisa: Is there one particular group or authority or somebody who’s in charge of deciding what the GEDCOM is and how it works? Or is that a role that FamilySearch is playing?

Gordon: It is a role that Family Search has been playing. FamilySearch is the software development, education marketing, support arm of the department called The Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So sometimes because of marketing reasons, people think that we’re different. Family Search is totally run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

From a historical standpoint, the original specification was created and released in 1984. All subsequent versions have been copyrighted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Now, in the last three years, as a like a product manager, I took on the responsibility for working on the new version, version 7 of GEDCOM. But it’s always been an effort of FamilySearch as the outreach arm for the Family History Department.

What we did differently in this last version is we solicited all the key players and software companies. It was much more of a collaborative effort to go through the changes, things to keep, things to just get rid of. It took about two years working with many people. Now the version is what is called a public GitHub repository. As we worked toward version 7, it was to prepare it for a starting point. The decision process is still a steering committee sponsored by FamilySearch, but the input and the communication on changes is open to all software developers. You can learn about all that because it’s hosted at GEDCOM.io. So GEDCOME.info is kind of like the general public, and GEDCOM.io is more for technical software developers.

GEDCOM Features

(10:38) Lisa: What are some of the features of GEDCOM 7? What are some of the things that you consider when you’re continuing to develop the GEDCOM?

Gordon: The process that we worked on was, I think to eliminate ambiguity, there could be different software providers that would interpret the file specifications a little bit differently. We wanted to clean up the specifications so that there would be much more, not 100%, but a much better compatibility between the people that were reading it and writing it. So, we worked very tediously on eliminating the ambiguity.

I would think that the biggest thing is, it’s become more of a storage format of photos, and records and data. Let me read something, “FamilySearch GEDCOM version 7 incorporates the added ability to include photos, and other files when users download a FamilySearch GEDCOM 7 file from a supportive family tree product.”

Your local photos can be bundled in a special file that we called GEDZIP. It’s a GEDCOM file that is a zip package. That means that anybody that unzips that package will get the GEDCOM file and all the external files associated with it and have everything be readable. It’s a packaging technique to put everything together, which really adds to this idea of a personal preservation and sharing. Now you can package everything together and preserve it and share everything that’s important to you with others.

In addition to this zipped packaging capability, notes have been expanded for more versatile use and styling of text. When you add notes, whether it’s a relationship or a location, you can actually stylize those notes now and use bold and italic.

Many tools and sample files were created to help with self-testing. It’s based upon the Apache license, which is more of a technical slant on things, but to software developers, that means it’s an open software license. There’s a public GitHub repository that you go to github.com/familysearch so that you can request and watch ongoing changes in a more of a public environment, though Family Search is still the stewards and has the final say on decisions.

So that’s what’s new. It’s more open to the public. It’s been cleaned up with some important new features.

But backward compatibility for 90% of the GEDCOMs that are out there (and the last one was 5.5.1) is still possible. But it won’t go back to 3.0, 2.0. That’s where that’s where some of the incompatibilities are, is because people are using versions that are 20 years old. And things have changed a lot in the last 25 years. We have a clean, fresh start, and a new community working on continuous improvements. But there won’t be changes because the standards shouldn’t change much. This new version 7 is going to be pretty much the same for a while everybody gets on board.

Do GEDCOMs Include Image Files of Attached Records?

(15:21) Lisa: You mentioned photographs. Would that include image files? Would that include if we downloaded an image of a genealogical record which might be a .JPEG file? Would those come along with the GEDCOM?

Gordon: Yes, absolutely. All the elements of GEDCOM have definition of how to use them. And what’s called the multimedia link, the multimedia link means you can link to local files, JPEGs, PDFs, you know, whatever they are. And if you don’t want to put it all together, you can link to files that are in the cloud, and it will remember where they are. If you package them together in a GEDZIP file, and then you unpackage it, you’ll be able to access the local image files and the local records there.

So, this idea of putting it all together, I mean, bandwidth is much better than it used to be. But still, for people that have hundreds of thousands of images. This is not the best format for that. So they can work out a strategy taking into account the cloud service they use, and which photos they will keep locally on their computer. So, they can keep track of everything, both in the cloud and on their local drive. And that can all be referenced in this new version of GEDCOM.

Is There Data Loss When Exporting a GEDCOM?

(16:59) Lisa: Excellent.

So one of the questions I’ve heard from people is that they are concerned about loss data loss. If they’re importing or exporting, maybe going back and forth, is there a chance that you’re going to lose things or even introduce an error of some type?

Gordon: This is kind of the issue of the work on version 7. One of the biggest issues is not only new features, but to get a new standard to kind of clean the slate. If you get stuff into the new GEDCOM version 7 the likelihood of data losses is greatly reduced. So, we’re encouraging the adoption and use of GEDCOM 7 because it’s less likely to cause any data loss or errors.

Family Search and industry experts have worked for two years to remove ambiguities, simplify the definitions and samples in order to eliminate the possibility of data loss and errors when transferring between programs. In the long run, not only does it include more media, but the whole goal is to improve the consistency, the compatibility and minimize or even eliminate data loss. So, what you will start being seeing is the question “is GEDCOM 7 compatible?” Because GEDCOM 7, when we were working on something that was 20 years old, is going to be more compatible in the future. We have a body to watch out for it. Your data will migrate to the new version without data loss. But looking at down the road, staying with the version 7 or higher will assure a sure better preservation of what you have.

Learn More About GEDCOM at Rootstech

(19:17) Lisa: I think you mentioned or alluded to that there were some announcements at Rootstech 2022.

Gordon: Yes, go to the sessions and type in “GEDCOM” and you will get three opportunities. One is a session called GEDCOM 7 Launched and Rolling Strong. Another session will be FamilySearch GEDCOM 7 What’s Next? And the answer is teamwork.

There’s two pre-recorded videos about the What’s New in GEDCOM 7 and then how the industry’s going to join together in working on it in the future. In in one of the sessions, the first one, there actually is a slide that shows all the companies that have committed to it. But all the majority of the companies have said, both in the cloud and desktop and laptop, and some have said when they’re going to release it. And one company I think, is announcing their release at Rootstech of the new GEDCOM version 7.

Future Updates and Changes to GEDCOM

(20:44) Lisa: That’s great to see. Anything I didn’t ask you or that you think people should really be aware of as they move forwarding and keeping up to date with GEDCOM 7?

Gordon: Again, with a standard, we don’t want to change too much too fast, because they wanted to get solid as a new transfer format.

I think the big areas that we’re working on for future versions is related quite a bit to internationalization. There are probably 20 different calendaring systems that are different than what we do in the U.S. To be able to respect those different calendars and to understand the translation between calendars is a big part of internationalizing GEDCOM.

The other part related to that is that there are some places in the world where how they define relationships between people is not typical to either the US or Western Europe. And so we are working on major upgrades and encourage people to come join with us. With naming conventions we may think given name, surname, but in reality, there’s other relationships that get into the name. If we even go to Africa their name is the first name may go back 10 generations, so their name is a memorization of all those names. So, improving on names is an important effort, the structure and relationships.

Another improvement is places. We think hierarchal and certain jurisdictions, but over time, and in different areas of the world, how you organize places is different. We need to address that in the GEDCOM specification.

Sources and Citations need to be upgraded for the genealogical community. And so, we certainly invite not only software developers, but genealogists to join our effort to improve sources and citations.

GEDCOM Hypothesis

One thing I’m really excited about is that we have a team that’s been working a year, and they’re probably working on it another year or two, on what we call hypothesis. This is so that you can share information without claiming it as a conclusion, and keep it separate from a conclusion. This encourages collaboration. So instead of arguing about I’m right, you’re wrong, we call it a hypothesis. Then we can have a discussion until there’s enough sources to prove it. This Hypothesis module I think is going to be really exciting. But that won’t be for a couple years or so until we actually release it.

Lisa: I think that’s a terrific idea because so often we are just battling with ourselves over what we think the answer is, and we want to track it while we’re doing it.

I’m curious: sometimes we go to a website, and you have to pick what language you speak. Perhaps if you’re searching for videos on YouTube you might say English. Is this something being considered? Is the goal no matter what that it’s only one type of file that serves every country or was there a consideration that you could select your country and then the GEDCOM would support your calendar and your geographic areas. I’m sure that was a discussion.

Gordon: Oh, absolutely. And, but what you’re talking about, just to be clear, is the specification to give all of the options and more to the software developer. The software developer can decide the language of the interface, and many of them are already doing this. So the actual presentation, if it’s Norwegian, or Danish, or whatever, it’s different according to the language that you place. What we’re looking according to your language of choice is that the orientations are names, relationships, and places jurisdictions, will be easy for the software developer to switch to by just changing that.

When we look at an international – how people look at information – it may be a different lens that they look through. So having the ability to give the software developers out of our future specs, to switch their interface, and switch around because they might be working in one part of the country because of their heritage, and then they might work in another and to be switched between it and to still have the data be the same, regardless of what national lens they’re looking through.

Lisa: It’s amazing that one little package contains so much and so much flexibility. That’s really terrific.

The Team Working on GEDCOM 7

(26:52) Gordon: I won’t drop names but in my immediate steering committee, that we meet with weekly, not only do I have three representations from within FamilySearch, but from the community, I like to call them doctors, they are doctors, they have their PhDs in computer science. Some are genealogists, they have their peers, one is even a linguistic professor. Another is an actual legal professional. It’s been wonderful to work with such experts, really, that are reasonable, and want to make things easy for the software developer. So, it’s quite a dilemma, instead of just making it right in the specification, but we’ve got to make it right and make it easier for the software developers to implement it. So that’s my thanks to all the people I’ve been able to work with.

GEDCOM Resources

(28:19) Lisa: Visit GEDCOM.io and GEDCOM.info.

Are they able to offer any volunteering opportunities? Do you need the help of people who are doing genealogy?

Gordon: Oh yes, you can volunteer in lots of different ways at GEDCOM.io.

Lisa: Thank you so much for taking time to explain GEDCOM.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members. (Learn more and join Premium Membership here.)

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 262

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 262

Podcast Show Notes: Genealogy Data Workflow

When you’re working on our genealogy, you’ve got data and records coming from all directions: websites, interviews, archives, downloadable documents, and more. Some of it you’re actively working on, some of it you need to save for later, and the rest has already been analyzed and is ready for archiving. This variety of data requires a variety of storage locations.

In this audio podcast episode I’m going to share with you my genealogy data workflow. We’ll talk about how it all fits together to ensure an uncluttered desk and the ability to instantly put my hands on what I need when I need it. 

 

Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 262

Watch the Original Video & Get the Show Notes

Elevenses with Lisa episode 71 show notes page.

 

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