Preparing GEDCOM files for Publishing on the Web

Introduction

      Most genealogists create GEDCOM files to share their family history information with members of the family or more distant relatives. If your purpose in sharing the information you have researched or collected is to collaborate your research with others, you will want to provide as much information as you can about your sources and your research notes on the individuals you are sharing. You may want to exclude “private information”, like details on the lives of living individuals or personal notes. You may also want to get the person with whom you are sharing the information to agree not to pass it on to others, that way you can maintain some control of the data you provide. 

      When you publish the information for everyone to see, like on a web page, you should consider additional limitations on the information presented. To understand how to limit your GEDCOM file, you must first understand how the GEDCOM creation process works in your genealogy database program. Some programs allow you to limit the information on living individuals, be selective in the notes and sources that are included and filter the information in other ways. If your genealogy program does not provide the filtering of information on living indivuals, there are other programs that can do this after you have created your GEDCOM file. 

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Should I include my notes on the individuals?

      When deciding which notes, if any, to include, your program may allow you include all notes, selected (tagged) notes, or no notes in your compilation. Ask yourself if you have included research notes, personal notes, experiences, detailed personal information on some of the individuals or other sensitive items in your notes. If so, we recommend that all notes be excluded. If you give us a GEDCOM file to process for you we will remove all notes. 

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Should I include my sources and their notes?

      Source information published on web pages can take up a lot of room. We recommend that this not be included in your web pages, but that this information be provided in a seperate mailing of a customized GEDCOM file to the other individuals with whom you will collaborate your research efforts. If you give us a GEDCOM file to process for you we will remove all source information. 

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What information, if any, should be included on living individuals?

      On living individuals (usually those who were born less than 95 year ago and have no death date entered) we recommend that you include the names but no additional details. If you include any information on living individuals you should request their permission, preferrably in writing. A few may even object to having their names listed. If we process your GEDCOM file for you, we will remove the information on living individuals except their names, if you agree. 

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What about including LDS ordinance information?

      If you have been keeping track of LDS ordinance dates in your database, you may want to exclude that information from the GEDCOM file. Some people are offended by that information. If we process your GEDCOM file, we will remove LDS ordinance information. 

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Which individuals and families will be included?

      Once the filtering options have been selected, you should decide what information you want to present. Do you want to include all the individuals you have entered, focus on one particular ancestor and his/her descendants and ancestors, or limit it to the your or another individual’s ancestors? 

      If you choose an individual and his/her ancestors, you should understand who that includes. For example, one genealogy database program handles such a selection by including 1) all the spouses of each direct line ancestor, 2) the children of these direct line ancestors and 3) these children’s spouses and their children. That is, two generations forward in time from each pair of direct line ancestors is included. It also includes 4) the children of the direct line ancestors with their other spouses. Your program may use different criteria for the selection of ancestors. This is important so that you can determine which of the included individuals may still be living. 

      If you choose descendents you will need to determine how many generations to include to also limit the living individuals which you may need to handle. 

      If your genealogy program has the ability to include multiple parents (biological, adoptive, guardian, etc) for an individual, which one(s) will the GEDCOM file include? Which parents do you want to include? 

      If we process your GEDCOM file without any other instructions from you, we will begin with your immediate family and only process your ancestors and their families going forward for two generations from each ancestral link. We will present only the first set of parents that are included in your file. 

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A final thought

      Although there is much to consider when you publish, we will be happy to help you resolve the technical aspects of any of these considerations. 

      One of the things that you can expect from your efforts is that other genealogists will be able to search your data and determine if they have common ancestors with you. You may also find some individuals who have conflicting information which you should consider in your research. Being able to exchange information with other researchers will make all your efforts worth it.