Details about Reunion 11*
Current Version: 11
Supported OS: Mac
Mobile Apps: iPad/iPhone (ReunionTouch)
Price: $99 (limited demo or time-limited trial available), $7.99 (ReunionTouch)
Publisher: Leister Productions
GenSoftReviews: 4.12 stars out of 5
How to Import a GEDCOM File into Reunion
Importing a GEDCOM is fairly straightforward, so I won’t go through the detailed steps. Reunion has a guide to “Moving your tree from Family Tree Maker to Reunion” on their website. I’ll just highlight a few key points.
1. The simplest way to import a GEDCOM is to drag and drop the file icon onto the Reunion icon located in your Applications folder or the Dock (even easier).
2. Go through the next few steps. You may be prompted to enter your license code if you haven’t opened Reunion yet. If you’re just trying out Reunion, note that GEDCOM import does not work in demo mode. You must request a trial license from Reunion mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, letting them know you want to try out the GEDCOM import feature. The trial license will be valid for 7 days. GEDCOM export does not work in either the demo or trial.
3. After you choose a name and folder for your Reunion file, you’ll be presented with some pre-import options (Fig 1). Leave the character set as UTF-8. Reunion has a nice feature to flag records by a specific criterion, but you probably don’t need it at this point. You could also set an automatic source on all imported records, but I doubt if it’s needed here. The “Strip extra commas from place fields” is for place names that use commas as placeholders for blank elements, such as a city, county, or state. If you deliberately use commas like this, then do NOT check this box. Note the “cref: 2” in the figure. I assume this means I have 2 media attached to citations, which I know to be a fact. Pay attention to this, because Reunion does not import media attached to citations (more below in the Cons section).
4. Click the Optional Fields tab (Fig 2). Here you can see all the types of person and family fields Reunion will import, except for the mandatory ones like Name and Sex. If you don’t want some of them, uncheck the appropriate box; you might as well uncheck _PHOTO because the field will be blank anyway (see Cons). Note that Reunion imports custom fields (and some standard fields) with “*New” at the beginning of the field name. You’ll be able to modify the description later.
5. Carefully go through each list and look at whether each field is an Event or a Fact; while I was able to change my custom fields, I could not change any of Reunion’s built-in fields.
+ Includes a few useful standard GEDCOM fields, like Ancestor Interest and Descendant Interest. Family Tree Maker does not have these.
+ Imports FTM’s illegal ALIA tag and descriptions, but see Cons.
+ Imports custom fields so that the user doesn’t have to add them manually.
+ All fields using the EVEN tag are imported. In the Events List, they are nicely shown using the correct TYPE (Arrival, Common Law Marriage, Departure, Degree, Probate Date, SSN Issued), but see Cons.
+ It’s easy to find a person using the search box or the sidebar to the left from any View (see Fig 3).
+ Allows granular control over Event and Fact specifications, although the ability to change the GEDCOM tag for standard fields should be disabled; it should be allowed only for user-defined events and facts.
+ Flag and Mark features, robust Find feature, web page reports; see First Impressions for more details.
– Does not produce an import log listing errors or data that were not imported. This is unacceptable. The only way to know what data were not imported would be to export a GEDCOM from Reunion immediately and compare it with your original file using something like the DiffMerge app (this is a good practice anyway). This isn’t even possible using the limited time license, since the file export function is disabled.
– Imports some standard GEDCOM 5.5 tags as new (custom) fields: CAST, CHRA, DSCR, EDUC, FACT, MARB, MARC, MARS, OCCU, PROB, PROP, REFN on families, and WILL. Some of these may be infrequently used, but others like WILL are surprising. It imported EDUC and OCCU as a new fields, even though it already has them as a built-in fields, probably because my fields were events and Reunion’s are facts. A genealogy app should be able to import all GEDCOM 5.5 and 5.5.1 tags. Even though the latter is still marked a draft, it is the latest standard. After all, it has tags for email, fax, and web address, supports the UTF-8 character set, and did away with BLOBs for embedded multimedia objects. If an app supports any of these, it supports 5.5.1 whether it marks its files as such or not.
– Imports Annulment as a note rather than an event, even though ANUL is a valid GEDCOM tag and a Reunion family field.
– Imports alternate names as Misc. Notes. This is not ideal. They should be listed on the Name tab of the Edit Person screen. Presumably when a Reunion file is exported to GEDCOM, these Misc. Notes will be exported using the NOTE tag rather than the NAME tag. This represents a loss of information.
– Fails to import the following GEDCOM 5.5.1 tags properly: ADDR, EMAIL, PHON, and WWW. Instead of importing them into separate fields as it should, Reunion dumps them all into a Memo attached to the corresponding fact. Judging from the built in Help file, it appears that Reunion supports GEDCOM versions 4.0 or 5.5 but not 5.5.1, even though it’s the standard in fact. Reunion can export GEDCOM files with the UTF-8 character set, meaning it’s really a hybrid of 5.5 and 5.5.1.
– Fails to import all PAGE tags in source citations; of the four citations each on the two sources in my GEDCOM, it imported 0 citations on one source and 4 on the other, even though it imported the citation text (DATA.TEXT) for both sources. This is a major loss of information and completely unacceptable. Additionally, Reunion dumped all source notes, citation text, citation notes, and citation quality justification information (but not quality ratings) for all citations into one free-form text field for the corresponding source—this is also unacceptable.
– Fails to import quality ratings (tag QUAY) attached to citations.
– Prior to the most recent update (11.08), Reunion did not import citation notes or media. Leister Pro has implemented a partial fix for media and notes but has said nothing about quality ratings. Their workaround for media and notes is to move them from citations to the sources they correspond to. In the process, citations with media seem to get duplicated. I suspect this would be unacceptable to many users, as it is to me. Reunion should allow attaching media, notes, and quality ratings directly to citations, as permitted by the GEDCOM standard. There could be many citations and media for a source record, and when citations are duplicated so each one can have its own media, it becomes much more difficult to see how sources and media are used, as well as to modify citations at a later date. Taking my own text file as an example, whereas before I had two sources with four citations each, I now have six sources and citations (the difference is accounted for by the fact that two citations did not have media).
– Fails to import media attached to
events/facts. The Reunion Help file explicitly states that it does not allow media to be attached directly to events/facts; they can only be attached to people and sources. This is an unnecessary limitation which will be a real problem for former FTM users. The GEDCOM standard (even 5.5) allows media to be linked to events/facts, so Reunion should support this, too. Update: Reunion 11 now imports media that are attached to events (but not facts).
– Includes some events, facts, and notes that are custom fields but fails to precede their GEDCOM tags with an underscore (_) as required by the GEDCOM standard. Even better would be if Reunion used the EVEN or FACT tags with custom fields. Users who employ any of these fields risk losing the data they contain: Cause of Death, Citizenship, Civil Union, Degree, Description, Domestic Partnership, Employment, Eye color, Hair color, Skin color, Height, Weight, Hobbies, Honors, Initiatory, Land Purchase, Married Name, Religious Name, Namesake, Race, Separation, and Unmarried. In some of these cases, Reunion has a custom field even though there’s a standard GEDCOM tag already.
– For events, combines the field detail (from the top level of the GEDCOM tag, which in turn came from the FTM description field) with any event note into the Memo field. This is unacceptable. There needs to be a Description or Detail field that is separate from the Memo field for use with attribute-type fields only (i.e., those fields specified in the standard that may have a date, place, and/or detail). The Reunion Memo field is exported to a single NOTE tag, so Reunion can’t separate the detail from the note once they’re combined. Also of concern is that Reunion imports illegal event details (data other than Y from the FTM fact description box on events for which a date or place is specified but for which the standard doesn’t allow any other detail, such as the birth field) into the Memo field. This is laudable to prevent data loss, and fortunately Reunion exports the Memo as a note, but it still would be better to have separate detail and Memo/note fields, just as FTM and many other apps do. Update 9 Jan 2016: One of our readers discovered an interesting wrinkle to Reunion’s importation of illegal event descriptions. She couldn’t figure out why Reunion seemed to import only part of the marriage descriptions in her file, so she sent it to me to examine. Here’s an example from her file:
1 MARR St. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church. Brother Wenzel is a witness 2 CONC to the marriage. 2 DATE 07 FEB 1876 2 PLAC Albern, South Bohemia, Czech Republic
Fig 4 shows how the event appears at Ancestry.com, so she was mystified why Reunion was importing only “to the marriage” into the memo for the marriage event. But comparing it to the entry in the GEDCOM, we can see that “St. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church. Brother Wenzel is a witness” is an illegal event description. I’m surprised Reunion even imported the CONC tag, as I can’t see that it’s allowed as part of an event detail.
– For facts: also combines the field detail with any fact note into the Text field. This is unacceptable. There needs to be a Description or Detail field that is separate from the Text field for use with fact-type fields, as explained above.
– The default field type for the following fields is Fact when it should be Event, as allowed by the GEDCOM standard: Description, Education, Nationality, Occupation, Religion, and Soc. Sec. #. There really is hardly any need for separate event and fact categories, because according to the GEDCOM standard, the only fields or structures that may not have event details are Name and Sex. If you think about it, almost every fact can have a date and/or place associated with it, except perhaps for eye and skin color. Hair color changes over time; is anyone likely to record the dates of those changes? No, but it’s possible. I use FTM to record my kids’ heights on certain dates; Reunion doesn’t allow that with it’s built-in field.
– _PHOTO (link to primary photo) was listed as being imported as a note, but the note was blank. It probably doesn’t matter, since it’s just a media link in the form of @M###@, which probably isn’t very useful anyway.
– Miscellaneous events in the Edit Person View are preceded by “Misc. Event,” which takes up unnecessary space, instead of just listing the event type, like “Arrival” or “Departure.
– Counterintuitively, Events on the Edit Person screen are not sortable by the headings; you must click the Sort Events button, and even then they can only be sorted by date in ascending order. Facts can’t be sorted at all.
– The File menu disappears when the Edit Person View is open. Perhaps there’s a good reason for this having to do with Reunion’s internals, but it seems like strange behavior.
– When a family tree is exported to a GEDCOM file, Free-Form Text in source citations is exported using the incorrect structure. While both the DATA and TEXT tags should be used, Reunion uses only the TEXT tag and is missing the DATA tag.
– Character Sets: Reunion provides the option of the character sets Macintosh, Windows, or MS-DOS, which are not valid options in GEDCOM 5.5 or 5.5.1. In fact, GEDCOM 5.5.1 specifically states, “Systems using code pages to support diacritical characters, such as the windows ANSI 1252 code page, must convert all characters above character code 0x7F to its ANSEL representation for that code page” (p. 77). These options should be removed from Reunion, since it already offers the option of ANSEL (as well as UTF-8 and Unicode). (Added 9 Apr 2016)
Fixes and Workarounds
I mentioned above that you can change the field name for custom fields, which Reunion imports with “*New” at the beginning of the name. To change the field name, do this:
1. Open Reunion > Preferences and click on Fields.
2. Find the Event or Fact name you want to change, double click on it, and rename it to what you want (Fig 5). You can also change the other details about the field, but if you do, make sure you keep the underscore at the beginning of the GEDCOM tag, and make the tag unique. Remember that it’s preferable to to use the Misc. Event + Type structure to specify user-defined fields.
You can use the same steps to fix Reunion’s illegal GEDCOM tags. A genealogy app should comply with the GEDCOM 5.5 standard at least, and the 5.5.1 standard at best. It should work without the need to massage your data before or after you import a GEDCOM file. Workarounds shouldn’t be necessary. But here’s a suggestion for the problem of missing media and notes on citations, as well as missing citations themselves and the combining of citations in one free-form text field: you could create a separate source for each citation in FTM before you export your GEDCOM, with any media or note attached directly to the source rather than the citations. But that seems like a lot of unnecessary time and effort to me. I would rather spend my time doing genealogy than workarounds just because an app publisher isn’t willing to follow the GEDCOM standard.
- I’ve been using Reunion off and on since version 8, and I have never cared for the look. It appears even more dated to me now. The colors are too drab and washed out. Obviously that is just my taste.
- But there were many things I liked about Reunion, and they’re still there: the Flags and Mark features, which enable you to flag or mark records based on specific criteria; the Find feature is much more robust than the Find or Filter feature in FTM, allowing you to search on nearly every field and save these searches as Presets; there’s also a nice set of Presets built in, such as people without parents; the results of searches can also be saved; there are quite a few reports, including the ability to create web pages. I’ll review Reunion’s features in more depth in a future update.
- Reunion has a web search feature enabling you to search multiple websites simultaneously for name, birth, and death. Each search is opened in a separate browser tab. There’s no fine grain control in Reunion over what to search, unlike FTM where you can at least change the data inputs. Also, if you find information that you want to include in your tree, there’s no easy way to transfer it. Unlike FTM, which has built-in integration with Ancestry.com, with Reunion you must copy and paste the information you want, along with the source and citation, going back and forth between your browser and Reunion. Even FTM has a built in web browser with clipping that enables you to more easily copy and paste information from websites other than Ancestry.
- Getting to the Edit Person view is not intuitive. Either the person must be one of the couples in the Family View, and then you click on their profile, or you can right- (control-) click on any profile in the Family View or People List and select Edit Person.
- One annoyance is that if you press the Escape key when you are on a field in the Edit Person view or the Preferences, you will back out of that screen into the family view. The expected behavior was to escape out of the field.
- Some windows, like the various preference windows, can be resized only to a certain extent and can’t take full advantage of available display size.
- The citation detail box is too small.
- Although there’s a way to list all sources in a family tree, here’s no easy way to see how source citations are used, as there is in FTM.
- The built-in Reunion Help file is fairly good; I’ve always been able to find what I need. The help on the Leister Pro is much less robust, although there are some tutorial videos. Leister Pro also runs a community forum called Reunion Talk where users can post questions about how to use Reunion and get answers from other users or Leister Pro employees. I must point out that if you post anything that Leister Pro views as critical of or negative about their product, even if done in a constructive and courteous manner, Leister Pro will delete the comment. Ben Sayer even wrote about this in “Censorship on ReunionTalk Forum?” In those comments, Ben expressed the desire to be able to attach media to events and citations, as discussed above. I twice posted a similar comment to a different thread, and both times my comment was deleted without anyone informing me what was wrong with my comment. I archived my comment here (comment #19 by riegelstamm). Leister Pro owns ReunionTalk and can manage it as they see fit, but if they want to maintain good relations with their users, they shouldn’t delete comments they don’t like without contacting the users, acknowledging the feedback, and committing to making improvements when appropriate.
In sum, Reunion has some serious problems with the way it imports, stores, and presumably exports data. For some inexplicable reason, it doesn’t follow the GEDCOM 5.5 standard that it claims to support, let alone the actual 5.5.1 standard. This causes unnecessary extra effort for users when they import their data, and if they ever try to export their data, they will most certainly lose some of it. These problems have existed since at least Reunion 8, and they’re part of the reason I left Reunion. Leister Pro has made some interface changes over the years, but the underlying way data is imported and exported does not appear to have changed. It’s gotten to the point that some other applications, including FTM, offer a special Reunion GEDCOM import option (Fig 6). There’s just no reason for this. The GEDCOM standard exists for a very good reason: to enable the exchange of genealogical data between systems. While it’s not perfect, it still works, but only if software developers follow it. Another reason I left Reunion is that there’s no integration with websites like FamilySearch or MyHeritage. Leister Pro has said they’d be willing to look into integrating with Ancestry if the latter open up their API, and I hope they do. At $99, Reunion 11 is one of the most expensive genealogy apps on the market; for that price, I expect an app that both meets GEDCOM standards and offers premium features, such as better web searching and integration with sites like FamilySearch.
GEDCOM 5.5.1 Test: Reunion fails the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Test. It labels files exported using UTF-8 encoding as version 5.5; UFT-8 wasn’t allowed in 5.5.
Note on my test GEDCOM file: This is a small file containing 7 people, 3 marriages (including 1 to a non-existent spouse), 1 adoption, 2 media files, and 2 sources (including one using a template). However, I used every available field in FTM, including at least 1 of every kind of note field.
30 Dec 2015: Included my test results of importing a GEDCOM file and my first impressions of Reunion. Also, the App-to-GEDCOM Crosswalk has been updated.
9 Jan 2016: Expanded the paragraph on illegal event descriptions.
15 Jan 2016: Thanks to reader Roger for pointing out that GEDCOM 5.5 allowed either the BLOB method or the link method for exporting multimedia files. But if a GEDCOM contains any 5.5.1 tags, supports the UTF-8 character set, or uses cross-references in multimedia records, it’s a 5.5.1 file whether it’s marked 5.5 or not.
16 Jan 2016: Updated the information about media that are attached to citations, events and notes that are attached to citations, and how Free-Form Text in citations is exported.
9 Apr 2016: Added a point about character sets.
29 Apr 2016: Added a statement about the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Test.
The Family Tree Software Alternatives Series
Part 1: How to Scrub Your Data
Part 2: How to Get Your Tree out of FTM
Part 3: RootsMagic 7
Part 4: Reunion 11
Part 5: MacFamilyTree 7
Part 6: Family Tree Builder 8
Part 7: Heredis 2015
Part 8: Gramps 4
Part 9: iFamily for Mac
Part 10: GEDitCOM II
Part 11: Legacy Family Tree 8
Part 12: Ancestral Quest 14
Part 13: Family Historian 6
Part 14: Should You Stick with Family Tree Maker?
Part 15: Brother’s Keeper 7
How Well Does Ancestry.com Handle GEDCOM?
Family Tree Maker to GEDCOM to Other Apps Crosswalk
The Perils of Following the GEDCOM Standard
Why All Genealogy Apps Should Support GEDCOM 5.5.1
*Information current as of the date of this post