Genealogy work is complicated.

It’s nice that we have computers to help us manage complex work, but that puts a big responsibility on software developers to create the right tools to do the job well.

In the past, genealogical software was primarily used to manage somebody’s family tree. In order to share those conclusions with their family or to the data to a another computer, the conclusions had to be saved to a disk. GEDCOM was the name of the standard way to save that data to disk.

The world has shifted. Computers are being used more broadly across all aspects of the genealogical research process. With the arrival of the Internet and the World Wide Web, genealogists are using computers to:

  • Make records available online as digital artifacts
  • Extract and annotate online artifacts so as to make them searchable
  • Search for records and other genealogical information
  • Make conclusions based on sound evidence found in records
  • Support conclusions by accurately citing the sources of the evidence
  • Identify contradictory evidence and alternate theories
  • Share and collaborate on genealogy work

The GEDCOM X project encompasses a set of specifications, libraries, and tools that can be used to exchange the data for these kinds of activities.

A Long Time Coming

A lot of things have evolved with genealogical technology since the original GEDCOM format was provided. Genealogical applications aren’t just about making conclusions anymore. Indeed, a much more sound research philosophy focuses more on records and evidence than it does on making conclusions. Furthermore, with the advent of powerful search engines, software as a service (SaaS) offerings, and social networking applications, the legacy GEDCOM model just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Up through 2010, FamilySearch had been busy with other important things, like online access to their huge collection of records. But around 2010 a lot of notable events–including the sprouting of some impressive standardization efforts–came together to raise the priority of a new GEDCOM. By the end of RootsTech 2011, it became clear that the community needed something new.

Project Scope

The goal of GEDCOM X is to define an open data model and an open serialization format for exchanging the genealogical data essential to the genealogical research process.

Nobody’s going to blame you if you think that sounds a lot like legacy GEDCOM. The difference between GEDCOM X and legacy GEDCOM isn’t so much in the project scope as much as it is in the capacity to achieve the same goals with the latest tools and technologies.

A ferryboat may have goals similar to those of a ten-lane cable-stayed bridge, but the latter has significantly greater potential and capacity.

Built to Last

One of the primary design considerations of GEDCOM X is to meet the needs of the latest trends in software development. GEDCOM X is built from it’s foundation to support the agile needs and growing demands of developers for a wide variety of products, including desktop record managers, online data providers, web-based search engines and mobile applications.

Models, Formats, and Extensions

The GEDCOM X Conceptual Model defines the genealogical data types with their associated properties. Specific serialization formats (e.g. XML, JSON) are defined to describe how the data is written to a file or exchanged over the Internet. You may also be interested in learning more about how GEDCOM X is being extended to provide for additional use cases, such as Web service APIs, field-based record data extracted from digital images, and citation fields and citation templates.

Here for the Long Term

GEDCOM X is designed for the long-term. Through solid design principles and engagement with the community, GEDCOM X hopes to become a well-established mechanism for providing a rich and collaborative environment for the noble work of genealogical research.