The GEDCOM Standard Release 5.5: Letter
January 2, 1996
Dear GEDCOM Developer:
This letter accompanies the final version of The GEDCOM Standard, Release 5.5. Thank you for your
feedback on preceding drafts, especially 5.4. The number of respondents and the depth of suggestions
is greatly appreciated. For the first time, most of the feedback came via email.
Among other things, this release adds comprehensive support for genealogical documentation and
formally defines the valid combinations of tags used by lineage-linked form compatible programs.
If you do not plan to read the entire 5.5 release at this time, please take time to study the following
A. Data Model Chart.
This is a visual summary of the structural relationships between elements of the Lineage-linked
form. This information is not part of the official document, but it provides an important high
NOTICE: Programs that check cross reference pointers should be modified to expect pointers to
records that are not present in the transmission but are available on a network (future
implementation). These pointers contain a colon (:) character. For the time being, they can be
treated as if the line were not present.
D. Compatibility with Other GEDCOM Versions
E. GEDCOM Product Registration (see Chapter 4)
Needed changes that would cause major incompatibilities with prior implementations were postponed
until release 6.0, some time in the future. Minor 5.x releases may occur in the interim.
Official, current GEDCOM documents are now available by anonymous ftp at
. This includes a postscript and a WordPerfect version of The
GEDCOM Standard, a postscript version of the data model charts, this cover letter, and answers to
frequently asked questions (FAQ).
All future announcements about GEDCOM will be sent via email. To subscribe to our announcement
list, please send email to email@example.com,
with the word
in the message area. Those
already added to the list have been notified by email.
Questions and suggestions may be sent via email to
by regular mail or by
telephone as indicated on the title page.
Thank you for your interest in The GEDCOM Standard.
William S. Harten
GEDCOM Product Manager
This release of the GEDCOM Standard contain the following changes which were made subsequent to
the release of the standard dated 11 December 1995 and distributed by mail just before Christmas:
Table of Contents:
Encoding and Decoding Algorithms for Multimedia Objects......
The second bullet item concerning the date definition.
- The definition of the date value was refined to include many of the potential ways in which a person
may define an imprecise date in a free form text field. Systems which guide users through a date
statement should not result in such a precise way of stating an imprecise date. For example, if
software was to estimate a marriage date based on an algorithm involving the birth date of the
couple's first child, hardly needs to say "EST ABT 1881".
The third bullet item concerning Multiple Names.
- Multiple Names
... The same thing often happens with other multiple-instance tags when only one instance was
expected by the receiving system. GEDCOM 5.4 and prior 5.x drafts specified that multiple names
should be listed with the preferred name first. PAF and other products that handle one name only
may drop the preferred name under this arrangement. Therefore GEDCOM 5.5 specifies that the
preferred instance of multi-valued information is to be listed last.
From the first paragraph.
... To ensure all transmitted information in the Lineage-Linked GEDCOM is uniformly identified
the standardized tags cannot be placed in any other context than shown in Chapter 2. It is legal to
extend the context of the form, but only by using user-defined tags which must begin with an
A geographical division of a larger jurisdictional area, such as a State within the United States of