Frequently asked questions

What is a GEDCOM?

GEDCOM is an acronym that stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunication. Technically, GEDCOM is a systematic format for transferring genealogical information between different computer programs. In other words, GEDCOM is intended to be a standard "language" that allows you to move your genealogical data from one computer program to another. Almost every genealogical computer program is equipped to import and export GEDCOM files. Colloquially, we refer to a file containing genealogical information written in the GEDCOM format as a "GEDCOM". See Wikipedia:Gedcom.

How should I prepare my data for GEDCOM upload?

It is tempting to just push the button and upload your GEDCOM. However, you will have a more rewarding experience at WeRelate if you follow these suggestions.

  1. Privatizing your Gedcom. Most genealogy software packages have a privatizing function. This function removes living data from your GEDCOM. It's a good idea to privatize your GEDCOM before uploading it to WeRelate. WeRelate also has a privatization function, which identifies people born within the last 110 years if the death and burial date and place fields are empty.
  2. Clean up data Run a duplicates report and eliminate duplicates. This will save you time going through the match/merge process. It is also a good idea to check for common errors such as spouses being alive at the same time, children being born during the parents' life times, etc.
  3. Remove sensitive data. Information posted on WeRelate is published and open to the public. Remove family email addresses and other personal information stored in your GEDCOM that you don't want to publish.
  4. Clean up your sources. Rename or remove such sources as "SMITH.GED" or "JONES.FTM." Using the master source editing capability of your genealogy software, change each of these to be more descriptive, such as "Personal Research as shared by John Smith 12 October 2008." When you upload your GEDCOM, you will have the opportunity to match your sources to WeRelate's community source pages. You may wish to review source naming conventions at Naming sources to understand how those sources are named and make it easier to match your sources.
  5. Clean up place names. Review place name conventions for WeRelate at Naming places. Pedigree mapping requires conforming place names.

What about living people listed in my GEDCOM?

It is against the law in many jurisdictions to publish data about living people without their consent. WeRelate assumes that people with birth dates in the last 110 years without any thing in the death or burial date or place fields are living. People without birth dates are generally assumed to be dead. Because WeRelate removes all information from living people except the gender and surname, the page created would be empty and named something like "Living Smith". Thus we have adopted a policy of excluding living people from gedcom imports.

How do I use a GEDCOM file on WeRelate?

If you have ever used another genealogy application to record information about your family tree, uploading a GEDCOM file is the easiest way to transfer that information to WeRelate. To do this, you must first export a GEDCOM file from your genealogy application, which you can then import to WeRelate.

How do I create/export a GEDCOM file?

Every genealogy application has a way of creating a GEDCOM file. Launch your genealogy application and in the File menu, look for a menu item like Export or Export File. Save the file with a name and in a directory that you'll be able to find again, since you'll be asked to enter it again when you upload the file to WeRelate.
Click on the links below for instructions for specific genealogy applications:

How do I upload my GEDCOM file to WeRelate?

Click on the Add tab at the top of the page, then on the Import GEDCOM link. Click on the Browse button to select the GEDCOM file that you just exported, select a tree to import it into, and click on the Import GEDCOM button.

What happens to living people in my GEDCOM?

In order to preserve the privacy of living individuals, it is the policy at WeRelate that wiki pages not be created for living individuals, or if they are, that the pages include only surname, gender, and the families to which the individual is related (as a spouse or child). It is your responsibility as a contributor to make sure the living people in your GEDCOM are either excluded from import or marked as "living".

One way to do this is to filter out living people from your GEDCOM before uploading it to WeRelate. Another way is to mark living people as "Living" when you review them during the GEDCOM upload process. As a service, WeRelate uses the following rules to guess which people in your GEDCOM are living. You should review and correct any incorrect guesses.

  1. Everyone born over 110 years ago, married over 90 years ago, or with death or burial information is marked dead.
  2. Everyone else born less than 110 years ago or married less than 90 years ago, or whose birth or marriage or death date is the word "living" or "private", is marked living.
  3. Everyone without birth, marriage, or death dates who is related to a father, mother, spouse, child, or sibling who was born recently, or whose parents were married recently, is marked living.
  4. Everyone without birth, marriage, or death dates who is the child or spouse of a living person is marked living.
  5. Everyone else is marked dead.

People who have been marked "Living" and who have not been excluded from import will have wiki pages created for them that contain only the person's surname, gender, and the families to which they belong (as a spouse or child). We create these pages only when needed to connect the "root" person to the tree. Please do not remove the exclude markers on other living people.

I uploaded my GEDCOM, but a distant cousin appears in the Family Tree Explorer window. Where is the rest of my family tree?

Your desktop genealogy application (PAF, Family Tree Maker, Legacy, etc.) does not designate a root person when you export a GEDCOM. We assume that the first person in your GEDCOM file is the root of the tree. This assumption is correct most of the time, but sometimes it's not. If we made the wrong person the root of the tree in the Family Tree Explorer, you'll need to click on the Index button about two inches below the top of the Family Tree Explorer window. It is second from the right, the one with the black parallel lines next to the three family tree buttons. Click the person you want to be the root person, then click on the bullseye button. (The bullseye button is the one with a green dot and a green circle over a pedigree icon, farthest left under the file menu item in the Family Tree Explorer window.) This makes the selected person the new root of your tree.

When I upload a GEDCOM, why is some of my information not in the fields I expect?

In rare circumstances, information in a GEDCOM file does not fit into the structured fields in WeRelate. In this case it is included in a descriptive note about the person or event. All included information is preserved when importing a GEDCOM to WeRelate.

When I upload a GEDCOM, what happens to my images?

Images aren't included in GEDCOM files. You'll need to upload the images manually. WeRelate will eventually develop a way to make it easier to upload some or all of the images referenced in your GEDCOM file. Remember to obey all copyright laws and never post any copyrighted image on WeRelate. Click here for more copyright information.

Can I create a GEDCOM on WeRelate to export to another application?

Yes. Select Trees from the MyRelate menu, then click on the export link next to the tree you want to export. You can also download GEDCOM's that you uploaded earlier in case you need to restore them to your computer.

Can I update my tree by re-uploading an updated GEDCOM?

In the future we will add a "re-upload" feature that will make this kind of update more feasible. In the meantime, if you want to re-upload your GEDCOM, you'll need to first delete your current tree (select Trees from the MyRelate menu and click on the delete link next to the tree you want to delete). Then create a new tree and import your GEDCOM file into it. Note that using this approach, pages in your tree that others have started watching will not be deleted and will need to be merged with your newly-created pages later. We expect to have this issue resolved by the end of this year.

How does the information in my GEDCOM appear as wiki pages?

The system creates a Person page for each person in your gedcom (unless the person is marked excluded in gedcom review), a Family page is created for each family (unless marked excluded in gedcom review), and a MySource page is created for each source (unless linked to a Source page in gedcom review). If the gedcom has any repositories (generally rare), the repository name and address are added to the MySource pages that link to that repository.

Source citations in the gedcom become source citations on the Person and Family pages. Notes in the gedcom become notes on the Person and Family pages if they are attached to a specific name, event, or source citation in the gedcom; if the note isn't attached to anything specific in the gedcom then it is added to the big History text box. Images in the GEDCOM are ignored, because GEDCOM stores images as just a filename, which is useless when you're online.

Events and facts in the gedcom become events and facts on the Person and Family pages. LDS events are ignored. If the event/fact doesn't correspond to one of our 50+ event/fact types, it is assigned a type of Other.

Married names and religious names in the gedcom are added appropriately. AKA names become Alternate names. Some gedcom's store name parts (given, surname, prefix, suffix) all together in a single field. When this happens the system looks for slashes (//) or ALL-CAPS to identify the surname. If that fails, uses a list of common name prefixes and suffixes to identify the prefixes and suffixes, and then assumes that the surname is the last word in the field.

The above rules handle everything in the official GEDCOM standard, but some desktop genealogy programs store additional information that is not part of the standard. Anything in a GEDCOM that does not have a corresponding field in WeRelate is added to the big History text box.

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