[Sources-Citations] GEDCOM's sourcing

Louis Kessler lkessler at lkessler.com
Thu May 7 19:20:42 CDT 2015

Nick said:

The GEDCOM standard for citations seems to be targeted at published

The problem with GEDCOM is that it heavily restricts the types of source
that can be easily cited.  Citations in Gramps are based on GEDCOM, and this
is an area that needs improvement.  I suppose one good thing about GEDCOM is
that it doesn't specify formatting - it just allows the transfer of elements
such as TITL, AUTH, PUBL and PAGE.



I'd like to defend GEDCOM for a moment. It's source structure is much more
flexible than you state.

In the SOUR record, it provides TITL, AUTH, PUBL, and also and DATA (with an
AGNC - responsible agency and its own NOTE structure), ABBR, TEXT, multiple
REFNs (each with a TYPE to describe it), RIN, a change date, a NOTE
structure, and a Multimedia Link (which has its own title, a file reference,
a multimedia format type, and a source media type: audio, book, card,
electronic, fiche, film, magazine, manuscript, map, newspaper, photo,
tombstone, video). 

The source links to a Repository (REPO) record that contains the name of the
repository, its address, phone number, email, fax, web page url, a note
structure for the name, a REFN (with a type), an RIN and a change date.

Along with the link to the Repository is a NOTE structure, a CALN call
number and source media type (same choices as above)

The conclusion data links to the source with their misnamed SOURCE_CITATION
which includes PAGE, EVEN (event cited from and ROLE of the person in the
event), DATA (including date the entry was recorded and TEXT from the
source), a Multimedia link (as above), a NOTE structure, and a QUAY (quality

The power of the PAGE tag is often overlooked. It is to describe he specific
location within the information referenced. The data in this field is in the
form of a label and value pair, with each pair being separated by a comma.
The labels are user defined, so anything goes. This gives this standard
great flexibility. The example given in GEDCOM is:  Film: 1234567, Frame:
344, Line: 28  

Note that this is GEDCOM 5.5.1 and includes some improvements over GEDCOM
5.5's sourcing.   GEDCOM 5.5.1 should be considered the de facto standard
(as Tamura Jones validly has argued) because PAF used it and many programs

I'm not saying GEDCOM's sourcing is perfect. It is not. It does mix a bit of
conclusions with sources and there are some source types that can be handled
better. But it is far better than most people realize. There really is very
little that cannot be reasonably described with GEDCOM's sourcing.

The problem in my opinion was that programmers did not look into GEDCOMs
sourcing deeply enough and did not attempt to use it in all its detail. Many
instead invented their own non-standard schemes and resulting in their
GEDCOM exports not transmitting their source data to other systems. 

With regards to GRAMPS, I can't believe any of the programmers have
attempted to use GEDCOM sourcing to the extent it could be, or GRAMPS
sourcing would be much better than you describe.

I do feel that this committee should be able to come out with some sort of
system that is not much more complex than with what GEDCOM did as I
described above. 

With regards to nested sources, my opinion is that a simple reference within
a source to another source will handle this easily (similar to Tom's
proposal for Personas), e.g.:
   0 @S1@ SOUR
   1 TITLE xxxxx
   1 SOUR @S2@
   2 PAGE .
   2 NOTE .


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