eTAG – export Transcript As GEDCOM

Ok, tell me where I am going wrong:

The original vital records we have now were someone in officialdom at the time transcribing what others less educated said to them verbally.  The original communicators were sometimes illiterate thus unable to provide feedback on the transcription.  So we get spelling mistakes, etc.

Then when computer indexing comes around, we get another set of people trying to interpret the handwriting of yesteryear – again more mistakes.  So, when genealogy data providers (Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, etc.) now post their data on the Web, us consumers have to take things with a little pinch of salt.  Has what we are seeing in our web browser EVER been validated?

I recently came across someone purported to be born in “Bishopsgate Whethat”.  Google Maps provided no clue as to this seemingly bygone location.  Some days later I worked out it was actually “Bishopsgate Without” meaning the Northern part of the street of Bishopsgate in London that was outwith the London Wall.  Not sure when “without” became “outwith”.  Anyhow, the point I am making is that each iteration of human transcription has the potential to introduce more errors.

This is why, being new to online genealogy research, that it infuriates me that the genealogy data providers seem to insist that we mere consumers transcribe YET AGAIN to our own genealogy software of choice.  As an IT professional it beggars belief that the user is being asked to re-key the data in yet again!

So, my idea is that we users push the genealogy data providers to provide us with a level of service that our subscription fees merit.  The concept is eTAGexport Transcript As GEDCOM.  We should demand an eTAG button on every web search result screen.  FamilySearch currently provide a “Copy” button, but this is merely text in a similar format to what is displayed on the web page.  What are we supposed to do with this other than Copy and Paste like everything else?

GEDCOM is the de facto genealogy data interchange standard, allowing us to import into our favourite software and export to other people’s choice of software.  GEDCOM is rather dated to say the least, but it is the lowest common denominator and does the job.  [See GEDCOMX for the next iteration].

So, if the genealogy data providers can generate HTML from their proprietary databases on-demand, then surely they can generate GEDCOM on-demand too?  If they provided such a feature, it would allow me to quickly get to the next level of my ancestral tree instead of spending 15 mins or so documenting the source + image, adding the family of 5 from the census record and citing the source for each family member in turn.  I could just click the eTAG button and move on to the next search.  It’s a bit like Bookmarks in a browser or the Reader feature in Safari – I’m not expected to save the URL of the page I was interested in reading more later as text in Text or Notepad.  So why can’t that genealogy data I just came across be saved for later too? When it suited me I could just import the saved GEDCOM and – hey presto – my day’s genealogy web surfing has been documented!

Does this not make perfect sense or what?



  1. Louis Kessler

    Well Stephen, automating everything may seem like utopia, but I feel it is harmful. Genealogy is not just a cut and paste. It is a see- think – interpret – conclude process. It is better that you are forced to document your source yourself. The extra minute will allow you to think about it more carefully.

    Yes, maybe you’ll make a transcription error. But if you document your source, someone can trace it. And hopefully that source has documented its source, and then its source … Then you can skip the middlemen and go right to the origins, which is really what we all want – to see the original, and not all the doctored up copies that are full of mistakes, as you point out in your post.

  2. John Sillitto

    Perfect sense to me – I think this would be an excellent option.

    Louis Kessler, fundamentally you are correct, but I think what Stephen Rettie is saying, and what I would say, is that when you find the information you check it against your records.

    In your words you “see- think – interpret – conclude”. It is when you come to the ‘process’ stage the Stephen is talking.

    Once you have determined that it is sufficiently accurate to add to your database there should be an easier, automated way of importing it.

    GEDCOM is the best, most universal, way presently. eTAG would seem to be the way to go.

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