Help:Before you import your GEDCOM



This help page is required reading for anyone uploading their GEDCOM file.

It will teach you as a new user how to upload new information, and how to match and update existing pages. Users will be required to pass a quiz on the contents of this page in order to upload their GEDCOMs. Once you successfully complete it, you will be permitted to upload your GEDCOM.[1]

GEDCOMs within WeRelate

WeRelate is different from many other on-line genealogy database sites because:

  • The WeRelate community is not just a free archive for your GEDCOM data file. With that in mind, WeRelate should not be used for merely storing your file in a "GEDCOM dump."
  • WeRelate is a community of members that relies on you to provide accurate data that is uploaded, stored, maintained, and presented in a standardized, yet flexible, format.
  • Once loaded, your data is merged into a shared public database, and you become part of a community. It's not just about you anymore.
  • All related people within your GEDCOM file, once uploaded, are interconnected through the Family Tree Explorer. WeRelate creates a separate web page for each person, each family, and each source in your file. You -- or anyone else -- can then add to, edit, modify, and personalize those pages with additional sources, images, narratives, and Internet links to external sites.


Uploading a GEDCOM is the process of bringing your data into WeRelate. While uploading your GEDCOM avoids the need of re-entering all your data manually, be aware that the process is not automatic, nor is it necessarily easy. Because of the nature of WeRelate's unified tree, the upload process attempts to identify whether or not an uploaded person represents an entirely new individual or whether the information matches an individual already present in WeRelate.

For example, the person you upload may include the identity of the spouse, while the version of that person that already exists in WeRelate may only include the identities of the parents. Or, one individual in the uploaded GEDCOM may include a birth date, while the matching individual in the WeRelate database may show only the death date. In such cases, the system is only able to make suggestions about whether or not there is a match. It is still up to the contributor to make the final assessment about whether persons about to be imported truly match (or don't) with individuals already found in WeRelate. When the data in your GEDCOM differs from data already present in WeRelate, you (as the contributor) must then decide whether or not the individuals actually are a match -- and if they are, which data is correct. You must do this by comparing and analyzing the sources given for each datum.

If this sounds complicated, . . . well, it is -- at first. Experience will make this process easier, and it will move faster. We recommend that new WeRelate users first manually enter a small number of people from their family tree into WeRelate (using the Add menu at the top of the page) before carrying out a GEDCOM upload. This is a good way to gain a better understanding of all the things that are taking place when a new person is added to the database, or is merged into an existing person. Then try doing a small GEDCOM upload of one or two dozen people to see how the process works before doing a major upload of your entire tree.

But the process is not finished when you have completed a successful GEDCOM upload! You will be entered as a watcher on the Persons and Family pages that you have added to or have changed. In the collaborative environment of WeRelate, other researchers eventually will discover those new pages and possibly add to them, or will initiate discussions on the associated Talk page. (Every page at WeRelate has a Talk page.) You will have many opportunities to help other researchers, and to be helped by them in your research as well. You'll find new sources of information that may apply to other people in your family tree, and perhaps even discover long-lost cousins in the process.

In the long run, your most important contribution will be your participation with others over time in establishing the consensus view of what those people really did and what they were really like.

Before you create your GEDCOM

Before you create your GEDCOM, WeRelate recommends that all uploaded information:

1. Be sufficiently researched - If you have not sufficiently researched the people included in your GEDCOM, we ask that you do so in your desktop or online genealogy program before creating a GEDCOM and uploading it to WeRelate. Research is the cornerstone of good genealogical practice and will eliminate much of the "family tradition" (i.e., "incorrect information") that is contained in many family genealogies.

2. Include reliable sources - If your data relies primarily upon information from other genealogical sites (such as Ancestry, OneWorldTree, RootsWeb, or WorldFamilyTree), and not upon primary records or other reliable sources, it may not be accepted. Why? Because much of the information contained in these other sites is considered unreliable by experienced genealogical researchers and will most likely conflict with other person and family information found on WeRelate. You can prove for yourself just how unreliable some of these sources are by doing a search, which in many cases will show multiple birth and death dates, multiple parents, overlapping spouses, etc. Since each person on WeRelate has a single page, it is important that your GEDCOM mostly agree with other information already present on WeRelate. Small differences can be researched and resolved later, providing that you have sources for any conflicting information. Collaboration with other WeRelate submitters is the key to this process.

3. Include dates for most persons - In order for the matching process to match persons already in the WeRelate database, they must contain either exact or approximated dates (from baptismal records, family bibles, local records, etc), or (at a minimuum) estimated dates based upon other events (marriage date, land records, wills, etc.). GEDCOMs without sufficient dates would be considered as poorly researched. (NOTE: "WFT estimated dates" do not meet the criteria given here, since they usually present dates spread over many decades -- "died 1800-1950" -- and do not use specific event dates for their estimates).

In order to reduce the amount of clean-up necessary after you upload your GEDCOM file to WeRelate, the following are some steps to take before you create and upload your GEDCOM:

Living People

  • Although WeRelate has a policy of not permitting detailed data on living people within its trees because of its public access and out of respect for the privacy concerns of the living, there is no need to excise that data from your database before creating your GEDCOM file. Any identifying information on living persons within your GEDCOM, once uploaded to WeRelate, will be recognized during the screening and review process, and will be automatically edited out for all living individuals.
    • WeRelate follows a modification of the usual "Hundred-Year Rule." We assume that persons with birth dates in the last 110 years, and without any entry in the death or burial date or place fields, are still living. People without birth dates are generally assumed to be deceased.
    • If individuals in your database have "unknown" as their date of death (or anything else in the death or burial date or place fields, such as a "Y" inferring "Yes, deceased"), WeRelate will recognize that the person is deceased.
    • WeRelate does not create pages for living people unless the person is a direct ancestor of the "primary" person in the GEDCOM. You can override this by checking (or unchecking) the "Exclude" checkbox next to that person when you review your GEDCOM. However, it is inappropriate to include pages for living people without good reason and we urge you to leave the "Exclude" box checked in most cases..
    • If a page is created for a living person, WeRelate removes all information from the page except the gender and surname. Your final upload for a living person will therefore be a page titled "Living Smith," with nothing on it except for a name, gender, and the families that he/she belongs to.
  • Once again, regarding living people, there is no need to remove all persons still living from the GEDCOM export file created from your genealogy program. In fact, attempting to "privatize" your GEDCOM will basically strip the information from the person. WeRelate would then have no way to recognize this person as living and he/she would then have a page created as if deceased, and with no information.
(Real examples could be added to all of these.)

General Maintenance

There are some changes that may make your GEDCOM easier to upload, and make your data merge more seamlessly with the data that is already in WeRelate. You should consider whether the following changes are needed. (NOTE: It is very difficult to change a GEDCOM file directly. If you do not want to make any of the following changes to your private or offline family tree, you may wish to generate a GEDCOM extract, then use your genealogy software to import it into an empty family tree and make the changes there. When you are done, you can create a new GEDCOM from the altered copy of the dataset, and then upload that to WeRelate. This would preserve unchanged your offline data.)

  • Clean up data: Run a "duplicates" report in your genealogy program prior to creating a GEDCOM file and eliminate duplicate persons. This will save you time when you go through the match/merge process. It is also a good idea to check for common errors, such as being sure spouses are alive at the same time, or that children are as born during the parents' life times, etc. Some practices that might be useful in a private family tree, such as flagging ancestors or assigning them ID numbers, are not useful (and may even be misleading) in a unified public tree. These should be removed. (Most genealogy software allows you to exclude certain types of "tags" when you create a GEDCOM file.)
  • Remove sensitive data. Information posted on WeRelate is published and open to the public, and is searchable by Google and other search engines. You should remove postal and email addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, and other personal information attached to persons and sources in your private dataset that ought not to be published.
  • Adjust for audience. The data and information in your personal family tree may reflect your current or unfinished research, or reflect personal styles, or be written for a very focused audience such as immediate family members. When adding your data to WeRelate you should try to make in advance whatever changes are necessary to present your data in a way that will be meaningful and useful to a general audience that may have different genealogical focus or different access to sources than you. For example, estimated dates may not be as obvious to another person as they are to you, so it is a good idea to provide explanations of how the estimates were derived -- i.e., whether copied from a source, derived from a related date, or simply guessed at so as to have a working hypothesis. You should be very careful to indicate only what is known so as not to mislead other researchers. For example, make sure baptism dates are given as baptisms and not represented as birth dates. Be sure that dates of wills and probates are labeled as such and not presented as the actual death date. As a general rule, collaborative genealogy tends to demand a stricter proof standard than a private family tree which is only constrained by the needs of its owner; ideally, all facts you share should to be supported by reliable, verifiable sources (see Source References below).
  • Formatting. After much discussion among users, WeRelate has developed several conventions about how to format names (read here), dates (read here), places (read here), and sources (read here). Uploading your GEDCOM will be easier if you use similar formats. In any event, you should understand these conventions before you try to upload your GEDCOM. As in any other wiki, text notes are expected by WeRelate to be simple HTML-formatted text. If your notes use formatting specific to your genealogy program, or if you rely on artful spacing and placement of line breaks to display a certain layout, you may have to do some extra formatting to get the same result in WeRelate.

Source References

What happens to sources when you upload? "Master Sources" in your GEDCOM are converted to MySource pages during GEDCOM upload. Editing the MySource pages at WeRelate is equivalent to editing the "master source list" in your desktop genealogy program.

  • Within WeRelate there are personal (i.e., not widely or generally available) sources, which are identified as MySources, and there are community (generally available) sources, which are identified as Sources.
  • All of the sources within your genealogy program will be preserved in WeRelate as MySources once your GEDCOM is uploaded.
  • MySources will be displayed on your pages using the citation fields you specified in your genealogy program.
  • As an optional step, when you upload your GEDCOM, you may choose to indicate a matching "community" source to be used instead of a MySource. (See Note)
  • Remember: Pages can always be edited in the future to update sources. MySource pages can later be redirected to community Source pages.

In order to make this process work as easily as possible when you upload a GEDCOM, you need to clean up your sources:

  • Make sure that the names of your sources are as correct and exact as possible. For example, if you have a source simply called Savage, enter the entire author and title (James Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England). Specify publication information, especially if there are multiple editions, because this information will be displayed on your pages with the source citation.
  • For personal sources, such as research someone shared with you, make sure it has a meaningful title, such as "Personal Research as shared by John Smith, 12 October 2008," (not just "Email from Uncle John").
  • If you use a GEDCOM file created by another user, it is appropriate for other users at WeRelate to know where you obtained that information, that it was not created by you, or whether it was created from your own original research. And rather than just indicating "JONES.GED" as your source, be sure that you include information on its origin, such as the author and any helpful information such as the author's expertise in the area. This information will become part of the MySource page references for that GEDCOM file, and will permit future users to determine how to access and assess the information themselves. Please do not attempt to "clean-up" questionable or unreliable data by trying to make the source reference look legitimate (such as by removing the source labels on what some might consider "iffy data") unless that information is corroborated by other, more primary research.
  • Eliminate personal identifying information on living contacts: Many sources within your genealogy program database may include names, postal addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers of persons who have sent you their family data. Although that source reference may be an important "personal contact" to you, all information contained therein once uploaded to WeRelate as a potential MySource file will be accessible and viewable by the public. To protect personal or private information of distant contributors from email harvesters, spammers, and other commercial interests, references to those third-party addresses and phone numbers should be deleted or edited to reflect the primary contributor's email at WeRelate using Special:Email function.

If you are curious about how Source (as opposed to MySource) pages are used and titled, see [1], [2]. At present, there is no way to automatically merge your sources, but you can search for the correct source to use in lieu of a MySource as part of the upload process. In this case, it will be easiest if you have used the best possible author, title, and publication data in your information, but the format of your title does not affect that process. (One exception to this is census sources. Census Sources follow a standard pattern, being created by county, state (or province), and country for each year. It will be easiest to match your personal sources to Source pages if you have created one source per county per year.)

Create a GEDCOM

  • Instruction for creating a GEDCOM file: Every desktop or online genealogy program or application includes a method for 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 folder 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:

Uploading your GEDCOM to WeRelate

Begin the process of uploading your GEDCOM through the following steps:

  1. Select Add at the top menu bar.
  2. Select Import GEDCOMat the drop-down menu.

The following screen will be displayed.

It is important that you read and understand all the instructions listed on the Import GEDCOM screen prior to uploading your file.

In the fields provided, enter:

  1. The GEDCOM filename (or hit the Browse button to search for it on your computer).
  2. The tree to import your new uploaded file to (or select <New tree> if this is your first upload).
  3. If this is a new tree, then add the Tree name in the field provided.
  4. Click the "Import GEDCOM" button to begin the upload process.

After you upload

After you upload your GEDCOM, you will receive the following message within a few minutes on the Talk Page of your WeRelate account page:

Review your GEDCOM

Basically, this automated message reminds you that your contribution to WeRelate is helping create a Pando for genealogy, a metaphorical reference to the largest living organism in the world, a 47,000-tree clonal colony of Quaking Aspen trees located in Utah, all determined to be part of a single living organism and one massive underground root system. By combining the people from your tree with others into a single unified tree containing the best information from all contributors, and making this a free public resource, your contribution helps create a "Pando" for genealogy.

To aid in that lofty endeavor, the creators of WeRelate have designed screening tools to assist you in making your contribution the best quality resource it can be prior to adding it to the community tree. Your next step is to review what your pages will look like, review any possible warnings concerning the data, and combine (merge) persons and families in your GEDCOM with matching persons and families already on WeRelate. You will need to review your uploaded GEDCOM before the import process will be complete.

If your GEDCOM contains a substantial number of probable errors or multiple families, the screening process will ask that you resolve and correct the errors, or else delete the file and re-submit it without the errors before merging it with families already on WeRelate. If the GEDCOM is large, we suggest breaking it up into separate lines and importing them one at a time, which will make the review and correction process easier.

The tabbed review screen will present you with a 9-step process for reviewing your uploaded GEDCOM prior to importing it (merging it) into the WeRelate database. Instructions for these steps are detailed and in-depth at Help:Review GEDCOM. This page should be reviewed carefully prior to upload. The following are highlights of this process:

(1) Overview Tab

Covers the Next Steps in preparing your GEDCOM for import. It allows you to Return to WeRelate and finish the review at a later time, or to Remove your GEDCOM in case you change your mind about uploading your GEDCOM and want to remove it. This tab also allows you to change the Root person and displays your file's Statistics.

(2) People Tab

Click on a person in the list to see what the proposed wiki page will look like for that person. You can navigate around your tree by clicking on different people in the top half of the screen, or by clicking on the links in the wiki pages displayed in the bottom half of the screen. Each line (person) identifies Distance from the root person, Matched Page, methods to Exclude people you don't want imported and to Mark living people as living. (Remember: WeRelate pages created for living people include only their surname, gender, and family relationships.)

(3) Families Tab

In addition to wiki pages for individual persons, WeRelate also creates pages for families in order to link parents to children. Family pages can also include family events, biographies, sources, pictures, etc.

(4) Warnings Tab

The purpose of the warnings tab is to give you the opportunity to identify and (hopefully) to correct potential problems in your tree before the wiki pages are created. The Warnings Tab may not be skipped and GEDCOMs with too many uncorrected errors will not be accepted. Help:GEDCOM Warnings lists the possible conditions that can result in a warning being generated.

(5) Places Tab

Places referred to in your GEDCOM are automatically linked to places in the WeRelate database. The Matched Page column shows the place in WeRelate that your GEDCOM place will be matched with (linked to). If Matched Page is empty, is means the system was unable to find a match for the place in your GEDCOM. If you want to see which persons and families in your GEDCOM refer to a listed place, right-click on the place and select What references this place.

(6) Sources Tab

Sources in your GEDCOM file become MySources (personal sources) when your GEDCOM is imported. MySource pages are appropriate for sources that apply to only a few individuals or are not generally available, like an individual birth certificate or a family Bible, or to sources (like private family letters) that are not publicly accessible.

In addition to MySources, WeRelate also has Sources (community sources), which provide bibliographic and usage tips for generally available sources that apply to many individuals and are publicly accessible. These most commonly include published works and public (i.e., government) records. If you want to see which people and families in your GEDCOM refer to a listed source, right-click on the source and select What references this source.

(7) Family Matches Tab

This step is important! Take time to read the instructions below, and remember that you can always ask for help if you need it.

The goal of is to have a single page for each unique individual, with multiple researchers contributing to the same page. This makes collaboration much easier. To do this, you need to identify which families already appearing on WeRelate match the families in your GEDCOM. The Matching Families tab lists families in your GEDCOM which the system has tentatively identified with one or more possibly-matching families in WeRelate.

Click on a family to compare your GEDCOM family with the possible matching family or families at WeRelate. You have three options: Match (the single family), Match Related (match the family and related families up and down the tree), and Not a match (if the GEDCOM family does not match any of the families shown). New pages will be created for your GEDCOM family.

See Help:Merging pages for more information.

(8) Updates Tab

This tab is not currently used.

(9) Import Tab

At this point, if you have questions about the review process or would like one of the administrators to help review your GEDCOM, you have the option to click and leave a message. There are experienced users on WeRelate who will be able to answer any question you may have or help you to resolve any issue with your GEDCOM import. Please ask!

Once you have finished your review and marked your GEDCOM as Ready to Import, one of our administrators will review the GEDCOM and finalize the import. This usually happens within 24 hours. You will receive a message on your personal account's Talk Page when the new pages have been created from your GEDCOM. Large GEDCOMs, or those with a many warnings or with many family matches marked "Not a match," will be carefully reviewed by an administrator before they are imported.

Matching existing pages

Other Help Pages relating to the GEDCOM Upload Process

(Information, instructions, hints and FAQs from these files can be harvested to expand this topic.)

Further reading

References & Footnotes

  1. GEDCOM is an acronym that stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunication. Technically, GEDCOM is a standard, not a program. 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, or to exchange data between dissimilar programs without having to manually re-enter all the data on a keyboard. 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.