Your Source and Citation Information Is In Danger

Today I finished methodically testing which source and citation information reliably survives GEDCOM import and export. It’s not a pretty picture! A mere five of fourteen key GEDCOM tags are safe across the nine leading genealogy software packages I tested.[1] Fortunately, the ones I previously identified as essential to source citations are among them.

Why You Should Care

The ability to move your family history data from one application to another is important. Even if you have no intention of changing software or sharing your research you ought to be concerned. It’s entirely possible that the person or people that inherit your research will choose a different package. They may load your data and probably won’t even know they lost anything in the transfer. Well, that fate needn’t be yours if you know where you can safely store information.

What You Can Do

This research is part of the work I’ve been doing to create the very first GenealogyTools ebook and video course: Practical Citation. After completing the course, you will be able to safely and confidently record sources, citations, and quality in your genealogy software without having to consult a book or quick sheet. Say “goodbye” to uncertainty about citation templates and formats.


[1] I tested Family Historian 5, Family Tree Maker 2012, Family Tree Maker for Mac 2, GEDitCOM II, Legacy 7.5, MacFamilyTree 6, Reunion 10, RootsMagic 5, and The Master Genealogist 7.


  1. Claire Bettag says

    How do we get more information abobut your course, Practical Citaiton? I see no links on the Web site.

    • Ben says

      Hi Claire. I’m putting it together right now so there’s no other information on the site yet. I’ll announce it on my mailing list so be sure to sign up so you don’t miss it.

      This is a good time to ask about anything you’re interested in as the content is not finalized. What would you like to know about it? —-Ben >@<

      • Claire Bettag says

        Just wanted to know the details…how many lessons, what they involve, cost, how it’s done, etc., etc., etc.


        • Ben says

          Here are the major topics I’m planning to cover:

          * What source information to record in your genealogy software and how (including multimedia)
          * How and where to record citation information (including quality)
          * Converting your existing sources and citations without overloading or boring yourself
          * How to re-locate a source you previously cited using the Practical Citation method

          Am I missing anything you’d like included?

  2. Marc Irish says

    Hooray for Ben! This is so important and is an area I’ve struggled with for years.

    Will you present ideas on how to move everything, including source details.


    • Ben says

      Hi Mark. A systematic approach to converting your existing sources and citations will be included. It will be structured so that you can do the conversion a bit at a time if you wish. —-Ben >@<

  3. Louise L. Kingston says

    Yes! The source and detail conversion is important, assuming our kids, when they eventually get interested in our family’s histories, try to decipher and understand what we’ve so laboriously collected, and it’s credibility.

  4. Sheila says

    I can’t wait to see your citation system. We have needed a system that works and makes good sense for everyone.


  5. Maureen says

    Hi Ben,
    So, are you going to tell us which five work? Or do we have to wait for the class for that.
    sounds like an interesting class and I look forward to finding out more about it and when.
    Thank you for all you do! Maureen

  6. Kaye Mushalik says

    Looking forward to your course & ebook. I am very weak regarding citations, even with all your previous instructions!

  7. says


    You might want to look at this blog

    and it’s associated Wiki

    We posted a bunch of test results between genealogy program. That was a year and a half ago. Since then a new standards organisation was established, and has posted a statement joining this group.

    Family History Information Standards Organisation

    The issue is far bigger then Citations.


    • Ben says

      Thanks for sharing those links Russ. FWIW, I’m already a member of BetterGEDCOM.

      I agree. There’s an issue much bigger than citations. I’m not taking on that problem–those problems, really. A long time back I realized I can’t single-handedly improve the standard and get developers to adopt it.

      I’m focusing on what I can do. I’m helping family historians, just like you and me, to safely work around the problems so we can focus on uncovering and sharing treasured family stories. GEDCOM compliance by software developers is only one of the problems with citation today.

      —-Ben >@<

  8. Arandun says

    I can’t wait for your citation course! Just out of curiosity, are you planning to include something about how to cite personal artifacts/collections?

      • Arandun says

        Okay… this is seriously awesome. Any rough ETA at all– are we talking a couple weeks, months, next year… any ballpark estimate at all? I am getting ready to tackle reorganizing a mess of haphazard research, but if I can hold off until this course comes out, that might be a good idea… only reason I’m wondering 😉

  9. Warren White says

    Ben, this is a great idea, and one that has been ignored far too long. We are all painfully aware that the there is no ‘gedcom standard’ that reflects the variations across platforms and programs. What there is has not kept up to date with the increasing bells and whistles we insist upon in newer software. I wonder if the proposed gedcom X will do that, and will it be accepted by the software community.

    Are you suggesting that your class will teach us how to modify our existing citations to use the five of fourteen? I hope there will be a method of ‘batch’ changes so I don’t have to do it one-by-one.

    Way to go, Ben! This is really important.

    • Ben says

      Hi Warren. Yes, using the safe tags is part of the guidance I’ll provide. I have it on my list to look into automating conversion of existing source records. I don’t know whether or not it will be practical yet.

      There’s nothing saying you have to convert your existing sources and citations. It depends on how important the safety of that information is to you. 😉 You could just change your methods going forward.

      —-Ben >@<

  10. Sheila says

    I can’t wait for your citations as I am in the process of overhauling mine and still don’t like what I’m doing so have stopped until we have your lessons. Hurry, Hurry, Hurry!!! Please, Please, Please!!!


    • Ben says

      Hi Sheila. I’m working on the re-write now. I wasn’t happy with the previous version. I’m shooting for this weekend. —-Ben >@<

  11. Eileen Fullenwider says

    Ben, I would like to a ‘one page fits all’. I struggle with a place for sources and a place for citations. I use RootsMagic. I would just like one place to answer or fill in the blanks. I look forward to your sage advice., Thanx, Eileen

  12. Trevor says

    Hey Ben, How close are you to sharing your cool re-write with us cliff-edge-hanging devotees?

  13. Ben says

    All that remains are the examples and exercises sections. I think those will be finished today or tomorrow.

    It would be helpful to have a couple of you review it and provide feedback by Sunday evening. Keep in mind this is the Reunion 10 edition so you’ll need to be a user of that software. It will probably be around 30 pages. If you’re willing and able to be a reviewer, leave a comment here or use the contact form (the link is in the footer).

    Leaving time for updates based on feedback, I’m guessing it will be available for purchase by the end of next week. If it requires minimal changes it will be the beginning of next week. I’ll know more when I get feedback from reviewers.

  14. Ben says

    Check your email inbox for your special invitation! The first version is for Reunion 10. Family Tree Maker (2012 and FTMM2) will be next.

  15. Ben says

    I want to publicly acknowledge Grant, Marc, Russ, Trevor, and Warren for their input on the first drafts. Their insightful feedback was invaluable although it did cause a third re-write of the first half of the guide. 😉 The end result wouldn’t have been possible without them.

    Thank you gentlemen. I’ll contact you personally with your complimentary memberships and download instructions.

    —-Ben >@<

    • Ben says

      Invitation for discounted charter membership is limited to people on my email lists who have indicated an interest in Reunion.

      If you haven’t signed up you can do so now by filling in and submitting the form in the right sidebar. Be sure to check the box indicating your interest in Reunion. I’ll send the invitation to anyone who signs up between now and the 100 member cap being reached.

      If you’re signed up and haven’t received an invitation check your spam folder.

      • Kaye says

        Ben, I’ve been on your email list for several years. Haven’t received any invitation. Really interested in this!
        Thanks, Kaye

  16. suzivegemite says

    A big thanks to Ben, and of course Grant, Marc, Russ, Trevor and Warren. I’ve always put detailed citations into my family files because I know that the info is important BUT it has been the only part of family researching that I don’t enjoy. This will change all that. 😀

  17. O'Neill Maureen says

    Thank you for all of the work you have done. Looking forward to having some quiet time to read thru the documentation. Will you be doing some videos to accompany the Practical Citation guide?

    • Ben says

      Hi Maureen. I may make videos. It depends on feedback in the Practical Citation Community Forums. —-Ben >@<

  18. Ellen says

    I’ve just been pointed to this post, and it’s mid-August 2012, but I can’t find a link to your Practical Citation class anywhere but this post. Can you tell me how to find more information? Thanks!

  19. Jack Dolby says

    Is “Practical Citation” still going? No updates of late, forum contents links all 404… :(

    • Ben says

      Hi Jack.

      Yes, Practical Citation is still going; although, it’s been quiet lately as I’ve been working on the Family Tree Maker edition and was under a non-disclosure agreement.

      Can you give me an example of a link that’s not working for you? I’m able to see every page I’ve t@<

    • Ben says

      Hi Jack. Thanks for reporting this. There was a problem with the forum software; I just corrected it. —-Ben >@<

  20. says

    I am interested in this but one question I have before I fork over the money: is there forms that we can put into Reunion that would make entering the citation information easier? Like a form for the different census’ that we would just fill in the blanks?

    • Jack Dolby says

      Judy, Reunion provides the ability to easily add user-defined fields and then gather those together into a user-defined source type. Then every time you want to add a “Practical Citation”, you just select that source type and the window that opens has lines for each of the field types you have added to that source type. Ben’s documentation describes how to set up these fields and the resulting “Practical citation” source.

  21. Dr T says

    Have followed all the comments. Notice that you haven’t yet developed the course for FTMM2. Will you be upgrading this to FTMM3. That’s what I’m working with and, I must say, it is far better than the v2. Keep me posted. I’ve ticked the side bar.
    Dr T

    • Ben Sayer says

      Yes, there will be an FTMM3 edition. I’ve got to repeat all the testing invade they’ve fixed any of the issues I called out previously.

      • Angela Davison says

        Hi Ben

        If I purchase this for Reunion 10 but decide to change to FTMM3 will I have to buy the guide again.


        • Ben Sayer says

          Hi Angela.

          A copy of the guide comes with membership in the Practical Citation Community. If you join with Reunion 10 you will have access to the general forums and the Reunion 10 specific forums in the community. Should you switch to Family Tree Maker for Mac 3 you can extend your Practical Citation membership to include FTMM 3 for $23.50. That’s 50% off the full membership price.

          I’m working on the FTM versions of the guide now.

    • Ben Sayer says

      Hi Judy.

      I’m working on the FTM 2014 version now. The FTMM version will come shortly after that. I’ll let you know when it’s available. —-Ben >@<

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