Modern Software Experience


OpenGen & BetterGEDCOM

  1. OpenGen

grassroots GEDCOM gang

BetterGEDCOM Logo

FamilySearch Blogger Day

The Build a BetterGEDCOM Project was started late in 2010. At the time, its founders were unaware of the existence of OpenGen. Later, the two organisations had some talks about collaboration and merger, but continued independently.

Once again, FamilySearch's lack of activitiy regarding GEDCOM standardisation was the catalyst. On 2010 October 21, FamilySearch organised a PR event for American bloggers they call the FamilySearch Blogger Day. During this event, FamilySearch spokesperson Gordon Clarke unequivocally stated that GEDCOM was no longer maintained, and only being used to upload data to New FamilySearch (NFS, now known as FamilySearch Family Tree). He went on to claim that GEDCOM is no longer necessary, because NFS has an API.

That claim was utterly ludicrious. At the time, NFS was still in alpha. Today, it is merely in a very limited private beta, and a public beta has not even been announced yet. The simple fact is that NFS is not available.
Even it were available, it still would not be a data transfer solution. Users want to transfer data from one program to another, without having to hand that data to a third party.

It is because of OpenGen and BetterGEDCOM that FamilySearch has come to understand that that a file format standard is still needed. They are now creating GEDCOM X and expecting the genealogy industry to adopt it.


Well-known genealogy blogger DearMYRTLE chronicled the creation of BetterGEDCOM in two blog posts, Build a BetterGEDCOM and Build a BetterGEDCOM goes LIVE. The second of those blog posts includes the BetterGEDCOM press release. BetterGEDCOM was founded by genealogy bloggers upset by FamilySearch's attitude. The press release describes BetterGEDCOM as a grass roots initiative to improve data exchange among genealogists, but do not think that the founders lacked ambition; genealogy blogger Russ Worthington was quoted as saying that BetterGEDCOM will seek ISO recognition or recognition by other international standards bodies.


The press release was the official announcement of the BetterGEDCOM wiki, and it mentions all four project founders. The BetterGEDCOM Project was started by Pat Richley-Erickson (DearMYRTLE), Greg Lamberson, Russ Worthington and a genealogy blogger only known as GeneJ. DearMYRTLE frequently blogs about BetterGEDCOM.

The BetterGEDCOM home is a wiki, where anyone can sign up to join the discussion.
Weekly virtual meetings are held using GotoWebinar. Like OpenGen, BetterGEDCOM suffers from the problem that many people are interested, but few are willing to actively participate and contribute. Still, each week about about half a dozen people join the meeting.

BetterGEDCOM is an informal organisation. It does not have a leader. The meetings do have a moderator, but not always the same one. Several of the founders have left BetterGEDCOM, but the BetterGEDCOM project continues.
For BetterGEDCOM, the wiki is the organisation.

BetterGEDCOM has never lacked activity, but it is fair to say that it lacked focus. The wiki pages cover everything from data model to genealogical research process. Participants agree that something needs to be done about GEDCOM, but have a hard time agreeing what's most important or where to start.



After the first year, a small group of BetterGEDCOM regulars decided that they wanted a formal organisation. A key thought behind that wish is that many vendors are more comfortable with a formal organisation than they are with a wiki group. The BetterGEDCOM project Developing the Organisation resulted in the Family History Information Standards Organisation (FHISO). The 2012 Feb 1 press release describes the change thus:

In the fall of 2010, a group of dedicated technologists and users formed the Build a BetterGEDCOM Project to improve data exchange standards and to facilitate sharing between researchers. This grassroots effort has grown into a dynamic, open forum for the exchange of ideas, and a substantial body of work has been produced. In order to realise the project goals, a more structured, organised environment was needed. FHISO will provide this environment.

FHISO will continue to aim for a Better GEDCOM.

BetterGEDCOM still exists. BetterGEDCOM is now a FHISO project. FHISO will continue to aim for a Better GEDCOM.