[TSC-public] Family Records and Birth Order

Thomas Wetmore ttw4 at verizon.net
Tue Dec 9 22:42:08 CST 2014

GEDCOM encodes spouse/spouse and parent/child relationships using the FAM (family) record. It’s easy to use and easy to understand. Each INDI record can point to natal families (FAMC) and spousal families (FAMS), and each FAM record can hold the spousal events and pointers husband/s, wife/wives and children (HUSB, WIFE, CHIL).

Many people recommend getting rid of the family and simply using the relationships. There are a couple ways of doing this, one with relationship records, and one where each person just points to the other member of the relationship.

However, the family approach has a feature the others cannot handle without extra information — the family record keeps the children ordered, and this is usually used to keep the children in birth order. This is important when birth dates are not known, but the birth order is. Without the family record there is no natural way to encode child order.

Has anyone who wants to get rid of the family record come up with a good way to record birth order? One could assign each person two integer values, one giving the order of birth with respect to the father, and the other with respect to the mother. This is certainly doable. Presumably software would still allow users to view families as families, and if the user wanted to add a child or change the birth order of existing children the software could keep these integer values set correctly.

What do you think? Is handling birth order a big enough chore that we should keep the family record? Are there any other strong arguments in favor of the family record. What are the big arguments against the record?

Tom Wetmore

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