GEDCOM File Issues

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Martha McSherry

Mar 11, 2024, 12:45:51 PMMar 11
to GEDitCOM II Discussions
Hello!  I am relatively new here although I'm not new to tree building.  I've done most of my work on Ancestry when it became apparent to me that there might be a glitch somewhere between the app and my data.  if I exported a GEDCOM from Ancestry, I was not able to import it back into Ancestry.  I was able to open the Ancestry GEDCOM file with GEDitCOM so that was a relief.  When I transition from Ancestry to GEDitCOM, there are lots of errors but it seems to work anyway.

Now I want to use ArkivDigital because of my extensive Swedish heritage.  I was able to open an older Ancestry GEDCOM which I had 'washed' through GEDitCOM but I am not able to open a more recent one with about 400 more people.  

I successfully used John's instructions to divide off my paternal grandfather's branch and I'm hoping someone might have more thoughts on my Ancestry to GEDitCOM to ArkivDigital conversion.  There are about 4000 people in this tree.

Thanks for any suggestions you might have!

Jay Fletcher

Mar 11, 2024, 8:49:26 PMMar 11
to GEDitCOM II Discussions
Hi Martha,

Welcome to the GEDitCOM community. I'm glad that GEDitCOM is helping you clean up your family tree.

I recently switched to using GEDitCOM as my master family tree database software. I had been using MacFamilyTree, but I got tired of having to clean up the non-GEDCOM standard artifacts created by this (and many other) software. I also have family trees stored on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Geni, WikiTree, and other places, but the GEDCOM file I manage with GEDitCOM II is the master. When I export a GEDCOM file from GEDitCOM, it can be easily imported anywhere else, but the opposite is not true (as you have found). I have not found another program or website that truly adheres to the GEDCOM 5.5 standard.

Not only is my data stored in a well documented and universal format, I can also ensure that my sources are formatted correctly and uniformly. GEDitCOM also helps me ensure that my places are uniformly formatted, and the Place Advisor provides GPS coordinates and historical information about all of the places in my tree.

I would not go back to using a website like Ancestry or ArkivDigital to maintain my tree. I consider websites like these to be sources of information, but I store it all in one place and in the correct format with GEDitCOM II. It's not as easy as clicking a button to accept a new "hint," but it makes quality control much easier in the long run.

I hope you will consider using GEDitCOM the way that I and many others here have to maintain your GEDCOM database.


Jay Fletcher

Mar 11, 2024, 10:39:09 PMMar 11
to GEDitCOM II Discussions
BTW, I was able to import a GEDCOM with about 4400 people from MacFamilyFree into GEDitCOM II.

If you can post more information about the errors you get trying to import your GEDCOM, it would be easier to advise you how to proceed.

John Nairn

Mar 12, 2024, 2:10:47 PMMar 12

Hi Martha,


I think Jay gave some good advice ( and liked his reasons). It should be rather hard to stump GEDitCOM II with a GEDCOM file. It will accept almost anything. Even if the data is invalid, it will read and store so you can clean it up in GEDitCOM II. I think the only requirements are:


  1. A plain text file (adding extension .ged make it easier to open). Normally the first non-blank line of the file is “0 HEAD” (but if no header, GEDitCOM II will create one for you)
  2. Each subsequent line numbered as required in GEDCOM standard by level numbers where the number on each line is less than or equal to previous line plus 1. For example, a line numbered 2 can be followed by a line with 0, 1, 2, or 3 but anything higher than 3 is an error. Mis-ordered lines are still read, but flagged as errors.
  3. Each line should have a GEDCOM tag word and a value. GEDitCOM II will read any tags and values. Lines with no tag or text are flagged as errors.


If you can open you file in a text editor (like Apple’s TextEdit) and it seems to follow these rules, you should be able to open it. If still having problems, send some details (or if you are willing send me the GEDCOM file off the list to


For example, consider this small GEDCOM file (one individual and no header)


0 @I1@ INDI

1 NAME Imported Individual

2 Nickname This Person


3 DATE 1923


1 UnknownTag Read This

Line with no number


GEDitCOM II opens this file fine. It creates a default header and submitter record (supposed to be in all GEDCOM files) and then flags this record as “corrupted.” The corruptions are that line “3 DATE 1923” is misordered because 3 and more than previous line (which is 1) plus 1. It also flags the last line as corrupted because it does not even have a number.


This record will be in the index window in a list of “Corrupted Records.” If you open the record and use menu command to “Show Source Editor” the two problem lines will be highlighted in red.


Notice that the lines “2 Nickname This Person” and “1 UnknownTag Read This” are not flagged as corrupted. They are meaningless GEDCOM lines because the tags (first word in the line) are neither a valid GEDCOM tag nor a valid custom GEDCOM tag beginning in an underscore. GEDitCOM II accepts and keeps them but they don’t provide any known information. If you delete the two read lines (to clear that record as corrupted) and then run a “Validate GEDCOM Data...” report it will report those two lines as invalid GEDCOM lines.




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Martha McSherry

Mar 12, 2024, 5:12:26 PMMar 12
Thank you both for your welcomes and replies!
I think I may have confused you with my saga but no worries.  I have not had any issues importing GEDCOM files into GEDitCOM.  It’s been a real life saver in that regard.

Where I had an issue was trying to load a GEDCOM file which I exported from GEDitCOM into ArchivDigital (AD).  I had others I had taken from Ancestry to GEDitCOM and then to AD so I knew it would work and the issue was likely my GEDCOM file.

I kept getting the AD error that I should check the report but I didn’t know where to look for the report so last night I sent an email to AD to that effect.  This morning, I had a nice email from someone telling me that IT had looked at my GEDCOM and the error was that I had someone in the 16th century married to himself.  I’ve encountered a number of interesting relationships but not this one.  I fixed it but have yet to resubmit it.  That is sort of representative of what “hints” can do for you if you don’t review them carefully.

I totally agree with keeping the tree in a neutral GEDitCOM file and using its exports to play with other applications.  That’s been my plan for awhile.  The problem is totally mine - I keep getting sucked back into Ancestry to add to my tree.  

For years, I had a stagnant tree on MacFamily Tree, filled with just enough information (collected by a relative) on my mother’s ancestry to allow me to join the DAR, which was never of interest to me.  Different story on my father’s side, whose parents emigrated from Sweden without leaving any trails.  Two years ago, with my father long gone, I took up the hunt and have found it fascinating.  

Thanks again,

On Mar 12, 2024, at 2:10 PM, John Nairn <> wrote:

John Nairn, Developer

Mar 12, 2024, 6:31:30 PMMar 12
to GEDitCOM II Discussions
Sounds like you are making progress. Note that running the Extensions->Find Records extension and choosing option to find "Errors in Family Lines" would probably find someone incorrectly listed as married to themselves. It is a complex python script that might need to install python 3.x (if not done already). The GEDitCOM II help on extensions explains the process. Apple used to provide python install for you, but now then make you do it yourself.


William G. Bates

Mar 13, 2024, 12:21:20 AMMar 13
to 'Nigel Garvey' via GEDitCOM II Discussions
This ‘married to oneself’ is an extremely common erro in ANCESTRY.COM. I have been do a couple of ‘one name’ projects and find this all to common and when I caution the person responsible for the file they cannot find it even though I told them exactly where it showed up on Ancestry.

What I would wonder if there is an app that that would detect these things because the fix would have to be manually performed. Maybe added to "Validate GEDCOM data” report.

I would guess all these errors on Ancestry to be the result of amateurs trying to simplify the complexity of documentary evidence without truely understanding what they are doing.

Incidentally, even though I have been working on Genealogy since ’97 I still consider mysel an amateur, just a slightly more advanced amateur by experience rather than education.

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