LEIDEN – 2 October 2019
GEDCOM version 5.5.5 is the first new version of GEDCOM in twenty years.
GEDCOM 5.5.1 was introduced on 2 October 1999. Today, exactly twenty years later,
GEDCOM 5.5.5 is available from; the GEDCOM site is back.

Maintenance Release

GEDCOM 5.5.5 isn’t just another new version of GEDCOM. Previous versions of GEDCOM were
feature releases; new versions that introduced new features. GEDCOM 5.5.5 is a maintenance
release; it addresses issues with GEDCOM itself, both long-standing issues as well as those that
result from the twenty year hiatus.

GEDCOM 5.5.5 does not introduce any major new features. On the contrary, GEDCOM 5.5.5
removes dated, obsolete, deprecated and duplicate features to create a leaner and meaner GEDCOM
no longer burdened by features nobody needs.
High Quality GEDCOM
The introduction of the first GEDCOM version in twenty years is a major event, yet the version
number of the new version, merely 5.5.5 instead of 5.6 or 6.0, indicates a minor revision.
The best way to understand GEDCOM 5.5.5 is to think of GEDCOM 5.5.5 files as high quality
GEDCOM 5.5.1 files. GEDCOM 5.5.5 files are so compatible with GEDCOM 5.5.1 files, that many
existing genealogy applications will read GEDCOM 5.5.5 files without any problem.
It even is a deliberate feature of GEDCOM 5.5.5 (and GEDCOM 5.5.5 only) than you can manually
change the version number from 5.5.5 to 5.5.1 to have it imported by applications that do not
support GEDCOM 5.5.5 yet.
That manual version number change only works in that direction; you can downgrade a GEDCOM
5.5.5 file to a GEDCOM 5.5.1 file that way, but you cannot upgrade a GEDCOM 5.5.1 file to a
GEDCOM 5.5.5 file that way; most GEDCOM 5.5.1 files simply do not meet the higher quality
standards of GEDCOM 5.5.5.

Easier to Import
Developers will welcome technical changes that it make it easier to import GEDCOM files, such as
• Simplified GEDCOM grammar
• Clarification that tags are case-sensitive
• A well-defined version number format
• All GEDCOM identifiers must be alphanumerical now
• The LF/CR combination is no longer a legal line terminator
• no CONC or CONT in GEDCOM header
• The Byte Order Mark (BOM) is mandatory
• Clear & simple rules for dealing with white space
Simple CONC & CONT rules
• and many other simplifications
Significant Simplification
Despite not introducing any major features, the What’s New section of the GEDCOM 5.5.5
specification is about twenty pages long. GEDCOM 5.5.5 features such things as more accurate,
consistent and current terminology, new sections, and more bonus chapters, but the key change that
makes GEDCOM 5.5.5 a better GEDCOM is significant simplification.

One File per GEDCOM File
GEDCOM 5.5.1 allows a GEDCOM file to be split among multiple files, called volumes,
GEDCOM 5.5.5 demands the simplicity of a single file.
One GEDCOM Version per File
GEDCOM 5.5.1 demands supports for some GEDCOM 5.5 record in GEDCOM 5.5.1 files.
GEDCOM 5.5.5 does not allow such oddities. GEDCOM 5.5.5 demands that all records be
GEDCOM 5.5.5 records.

One Line Terminator per File
The GEDCOM 5.5.1 grammar allows each GEDCOM line to have a different line terminator. The
GEDCOM 5.5.5 grammar explicitly demands one line terminator per file.
One Encoding per GEDCOM File
GEDCOM 5.5.1 demands use of ANSEL in the GEDCOM header, even if that header specifies the
use of another encoding. GEDCOM 5.5.5 demands use of the specified encoding for the entire file.
One Character Set for GEDCOM
GEDCOM 5.5.5 no longer allows characters sets that may lose information. GEDCOM 5.5.5 is

One Submitter per GEDCOM File
GEDCOM 5.5.1 allows each individual and each family group to have its own submitter. This is a
complication that remains widely unsupported. GEDCOM 5.5.5 simplifies GEDCOM by codifying
existing practice, and demanding exactly one submitter per GEDCOM file.

One Place Name Format
GEDCOM 5.5.1 has a feature that allows a GEDCOM file to define its own place name format, and
even use multiple, different place name formats in the same file. It remains widely unsupported; the
one application that tried to support it makes it mess of your place names.
GEDCOM 5.5.5 simplifies GEDCOM an increases compatibility between applications by removing
this feature, and simply supporting the one place name format all users know; jurisdictional levels,
ordered small to large, separated by a comma and a space.
One Way of Doing Things: One Record per Thing
GEDCOM 5.5.1 has various records that duplicate functionality already provided by other records.
GEDCOM 5.5.5 gets rid of the duplicates. The What’s New section has a table showing which
record to use instead.

One Way of Doing Things: One Record Format
Some records have both an old, deprecated unstructured format and a newer, preferred structured
format. GEDCOM 5.5.5 finishes the transitions started in GEDCOM 5.5.1 and earlier by
demanding the preferred structured format.
Improved Data Transfer

One Multimedia Record Per File, One File Per Multimedia Record
GEDCOM 5.5.1 allows a single multimedia record to link to multiple files, but only a few
application support that. So, if you export from one of these applications to another, links may be
lost. GEDCOM 5.5.5 simplifies GEDCOM and ends this data loss by demanding one multimedia
record per file, one file per multimedia record.

One Set of Religious Records-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
GEDCOM used to have one set of Church of Jesus Christ records until FamilySearch introduced separate records for The Church of Jesus Christ events; they added a Baptism record, while GEDCOM already had a baptism record. Some genealogy applications support these duplicate events, most do not, so if you transfer your data from one to the other, you are practically sure to lose that data. GEDCOM 5.5.5 simplifies GEDCOM and makes sure these religious events aren’t lost by returning to one set of religious records for all religions.

One Character Set: Unicode
GEDCOM 5.5.1 allows ASCII, ANSEL and Unicode. What’s more, in practice many vendors still
use code pages such as Windows ANSI, while they’ve never been legal.
During the past two decades, the genealogy industry has switched to Unicode, and allowing export
to anything but Unicode is allowing loss of characters. GEDCOM 5.5.5 prevents such loss by
demanding Unicode.
Simple CONC & CONT rules
One aspect of GEDCOM that has presented problems for users is the use of CONC & CONT
records, because some applications do not handle these correctly. The GEDCOM 5.5.1 Annotated
Edition provided simple guidelines for handling CONC & CONT correctly.
GEDCOM 5.5.5 provides the simplest CONC & CONT rules ever, making it near impossible to
mess up.

A welcome benefit of all the simplifications and tightened rules is that import of GEDCOM 5.5.5
files should be noticeably faster than import of GEDCOM 5.5.1 files.
New Features
GEDCOM 5.5.5 is mostly an improved and simplified GEDCOM 5.5.1, but the creators did sneak
in a few new features that did not require any new syntax.
Same-Sex Marriage
GEDCOM 5.5.5 explicitly supports same-sex marriage. On a first reading of GEDCOM 5.5.1, the
specification seems to prohibit same-sex marriage, but many vendors already figured out that
GEDCOM 5.5.1 actually supports same-sex marriage without any GEDCOM extensions. The
GEDCOM 5.5.5 specification clarifies that what they are doing conforms to the existing
GEDCOM 5.5.5 explicitly explains how to support relationships other than marriage, and provides
a list of relationships to use. This significantly increases cross-product compatibility.
Intersex and Not Recorded
GEDCOM 5.5.5 adds two new sex values: X for Intersex, and N for Not Recorded.
GEDCOM 5.5.5 explicitly allows what many applications were already allowing: a date without a

Centenarian Support
GEDCOM 5.5.1 allows recording someone’s age at an event, but its AGE_AT_EVENT definition
restricts the number of years to only two digits. GEDCOM 5.5.5 allows three digits.

Industry Experts
GEDCOM 5.5.5 has been created by an international group of industry experts, many of whom also
contributed to the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Annotated Edition released last year, which effectively replaced
the original GEDCOM 5.5.1 specification.
The GEDCOM 5.5.5 specification was edited by renowned genealogy technologist Tamura Jones,
working together with GEDCOM experts Bob Coret (Genealogy Online, Open Archives), Diedrich
Hesmer (Our Family Book, GEDCOM Service Programs), Andrew Hoyle (Chronoplex My Family
Tree, Chronoplex GEDCOM Validator), Kari Kujansuu (Genealogy Society of Finland’s, Louis Kessler (Behold, GEDCOM File Finder, Double Match Triangulator), Stanley
Mitchell (ezGED Viewer) and Nigel Munro Parker (GED-inline GEDCOM validator).
MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet bought and donated the domain.
A Better GEDCOM with Annotations
GEDCOM 5.5.5 is a much better GEDCOM than GEDCOM 5.5.1, but does not fix two decades of
overdue maintenance with a single release. The GEDCOM 5.5.5 specification is based on the
GEDCOM 5.5.1 Annotated Edition, and keeps the annotations for issues not addressed by this

The GEDCOM 5.5.5 specification is available today from The website
offers a GEDCOM FAQ for end users, but is largely aimed at developers. It offers GEDCOM 5.5.5,
the current specification, as well as GEDCOM 5.5.1, the previous specification, and the Second
Revision of the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Annotated Edition. These specifications are complemented by an
overview of GEDCOM validators, and a few GEDCOM 5.5.5 sample files to help developers get
started with the new standard.

Have Your DNA Test Results Changed Your Life Forever?

Have you recently discovered through a DNA test that someone you assumed to be your parent was actually not your biological parent?

A major cable network is looking nationwide for people who are on the cusp of starting an investigation after finding out this life-changing information.

Or email us at or call us at 818-666-3606 for more information. 

Must be 18+. / U.S. only.

Pittman Casting
Burbank, CA 91505

#ProjectGenealogy Launches October 4th

#ProjectGenealogy Launches
October 4th

Kick-off Family History Month by celebrating the migrations of our ancestors via a stimulating YouTube video Series.

Spearheaded by Jarrett Ross, the Geneavlogger, and Matt Baker, of UsefulCharts, the ambitious #ProjectGenealogy collaboration features seven genealogy YouTube channels and their hosts showcasing the migration of people around the world.

Grab your favorite beverage and savor 1½ hours with your favorite beverage and enjoy the video journey. Learn the history behind various migrations, discover how to research their journey and which records to explore, and ultimately, follow the tips for writing about your ancestor’s journey. 

  1. 5 Tips For Writing About Your Immigrant Ancestor - Family History Fanatics (
  2. How Dutch Jewish Migration Led to the 8 Hour Work Day - GeneaVlogger (
  3. My Family Tree: 3 Migration Stories - Useful Charts (
  4. German Migration to Missouri - Auntie Jen's Family Trees - (
  5. Did Your Ancestor Move West for FREE Land? | Homestead Act of 1862 - Boundless Genealogy (
  6. 19th Century Migration to America & The Railroads Westward Expansion - Genealogy TV - (
  7. How To Trace Ancestors On the Move - Lisa Lisson (

All migration themed videos go live on each creator’s channel at 2 PM Eastern (GMT-4 ) on Friday, October 4. To ease you through your journey, start the YouTube video journey via this playlist: 

You can further enhance the #ProjectGenealogy experience by:
  • thanking each creator in the comments section of their video,
  • asking questions or sharing further insights in the comments section,
  • sharing the videos with your genealogy societies and online communities using the hashtag  #projectgenealogy.

WikiTree Announces Fourth Annual "Source-a-Thon"

Registration opened today for WikiTree’s fourth annual “Source-a-Thon,” a 72-hour genealogical sourcing marathon. The event is scheduled for the first weekend in Family History Month (October), starting on the morning of Friday, October 4, and ending on the morning of Monday, October 7.
Family trees often start as oral histories. Events are retold as they are remembered by those who experienced them. These memories are incorporated into family trees and handed down through the generations. The genealogists who collaborate on WikiTree seek to preserve these family histories forever as part of a single family tree that everyone can access for free.
Unfortunately, oral histories and handed-down trees sometimes include mistakes. Conflicts arise when the trees are put together into a single family tree. The only objective way to resolve these conflicts is to refer to original source documents, such as birth, marriage, and death records.
To celebrate Family History Month, WikiTree members from all over the world will be working together around the clock for three days on profiles that don’t currently have any source citations. 
This is the fourth annual marathon event. Of the 2018 Source-a-Thon, participant Neil Perry wrote, “I have to say, I really enjoyed it, and the fact that over 72,000 new sources were added to the tree is amazing! … everyone's a winner.”
To support this event, individuals and organizations from around the genealogy community are donating prizes to be awarded at random. Over $3,500 in prizes have been donated so far, including DNA tests and full memberships from MyHeritage and Ancestry, as well as valuable prizes from Fold3,, Legacy Tree Genealogists, Family ChartMasters, RootsTech and more. Prizes are still being added. If you would like to donate a prize, contact
To be eligible for the random prize drawings, participants must register in advance and get a “race number.” Registration is now open. See for further details.
WikiTreeThe Free Family Tree has been growing since 2008. Community members privately collaborate with close family members on modern family history and publicly collaborate with other genealogists on deep ancestry. Since all the private and public profiles are connected on the same system this process is helping to grow a single, worldwide family tree that will eventually connect us all and thereby make it free and easy for anyone to discover their roots. See

NGS and FGS Announce Intent to Merge

P.O. Box 200940 
Austin, TX  787620-0941 
Phone: (888) 347-1500 Fax: (866) 347-1350 


August 21, 2019 – Washington, D.C.  
In a historic move, the boards of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced today their intent to merge. The two organizations, both non-profit leaders in the dynamic genealogy industry, will form one consolidated group that will continue to operate as the National Genealogical Society. Both boards approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) earlier this week, and jointly announced the news at the Opening Session of the FGS Family History Conference in Washington, D.C. this morning. 

Leaders of both organizations believe this merger will serve the genealogy community by improving support of both individual members and societies in the pursuit of genealogical excellence. 

The organizational structure of NGS will be modified to increase functions that support genealogical societies and family organizations. Digitization projects of genealogical importance such as the War of 1812 pensions will continue. The two organizations will continue to operate independently while all details of the merger are completed, no later than October 1, 2020. 

Faye Stallings, President of FGS, said: “We are excited about this opportunity to combine with a premier organization that has been in operation since 1903. This will allow for improved and expanded services to help support societies.” Ben Spratling, President of the NGS, commented, “We look forward to continuing the strong legacy of FGS as a ‘gathering point’ for family historians and societies all across the nation.” 

About FGS 
FGS was founded in 1976 and empowers the genealogical and family history community, especially its societies and organizations, by advocating for the preservation of records and providing resources that enable genealogical organizations to succeed in pursuing their missions. FGS launched the Preserve the Pensions project in 2010 and raised more than $3 million to digitize and make freely available the pension files from the War of 1812. Fundraising was completed for that project in 2016 and the digitization continues. FGS was also the driving force behind the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors project alongside the National Parks Service. To learn more visit 

Contact:Federation of Genealogical Societies PO Box 200940 Austin, TX 78720-0940 Phone: +1 (888) 347-1500 

Mark Olsen 
Phone: +1 (801) 687-0599 Email: