Terry's TMG Tips

Considerations for Exporting Sources
to GEDCOM Files

This page updated 2 Jan 2006

Version note: Applies to TMG 8 & 9

As discussed in my article Working with Source Templates, source data is entered in Source Elements. When reports are created the data in these Source Elements are then assembled to create source notes according to the specifications in the Output Templates. Likewise, when you export a group of people to a GEDCOM file, information about all the Sources cited in the Tags included in the export is also included in the exported file.

Overview of How Source Data are Exported

The process for handling source information in an export is quite different than the process for displaying sources in a report. Rather than being assembled into source notes, each Source is exported as a series of GEDCOM tags, which correspond, conceptually, to TMG's Source Elements. For example, TMG's "Title" Source Element is exported to a GEDCOM tag TITL. And TMG's Author Source Element is exported to a GEDCOM tag AUTH. It is then the job of the importing program to interpret these tags and accept the data they contain according to that program's own source system.

The export is complicated, however, by the fact that TMG has far more Source Elements, or even Source Element Groups, than there are different tag types for sources in the GEDCOM specification. TMG deals with this by doubling up the information from several source elements into a single GEDCOM tag. But since there are no accepted standards for this "doubling up" process, various programs importing a GEDCOM file containing such combined tags will meet with varying degrees of success in satisfactorily placing the data in their own systems of recording source data. It is unlikely that the resulting source notes will read much at all like the source notes produced by TMG, even if the importing program successfully retains all the data included in the GEDCOM file.

If you are unconcerned about obtaining high quality exports (perhaps because you find sharing of data by using TMG's excellent reports more desirable than use of GEDCOM), this issue will be of little concern. But if use of GEDCOM export is important to you (perhaps to transfer data to a handheld computer, or to exchange information with someone you cannot convince to migrate to TMG), especially if faithful transfer of source information is important, you may want to consider the issues discussed in this article.

Examining Source Citations in GEDCOM

Before we look specifically at how TMG exports source information to GEDCOM files, let's look a bit more at how Sources are recorded in GEDCOM files. GEDCOM specs recognize the same three basic aspects of sources that TMG does – the definition of the source itself; definition of repositories (where the source may be found); and citations of the source to event and other tags. Therefore aspects of exported sources and citations appear in the three corresponding parts of the GEDCOM file:

  1. In the section containing persons and their tags, tags with sources attached will contain a reference to the source number, and if the citation contained a Citation Detail, there will be a GEDCOM Page tag containing the information from the CD. For example, this birth tag:
    1 BIRT
    2 DATE 03 MAR 1850
    2 SOUR @S1@
    3 PAGE pg 123

    The GEDCOM source number is shown in red above. The Page tag contains the information from the Citation Detail from the Birth Tag.

  2. In the section where sources are defined, each source will have a number of GEDCOM tags that contain the information from the Source elements of that source. For example:
    0 @S1@ SOUR
    1 TITL The Smith Family, Edition: 3rd edition,
    2 CONT File Reference: a6g31, Film Number: # 234
    1 ABBR Smith Family
    1 AUTH Smith, Robert A
    1 PUBL Jones & Co., Jonesville, NH, Jan 12 1902

    Note that both the TITL and PUBL tags contain information from several TMG source elements, because there are fewer GEDCOM tag types than there are source element groups.

  3. In the section defining repositories, each repository will have a number of GEDCOM tags that contain the information from the source elements that define that repository. For example:
    0 @R1@ REPO
    1 NAME My Big File Cab
    1 ADDR 375 North Main
    2 CITY Boone
    2 STAE NC

Mapping TMG's Source Element Groups to GEDCOM Tags

The data in TMG Source Elements is placed in specific GEDCOM tags according to the Source Element Group it falls in. The following tables show how each TMG Source Element Group is placed in GEDCOM tags. (This information is based on analysis by Caroline Gurney, and appears here by permission. Thanks, Caroline.) Tables showing the Groups for all the standard Source Elements can be found in my list of Source Elements.

Source Elements Related to Citations in Tags
TMG Source Element Group Exports to GEDCOM Tag Notes
Citation Detail PAGE appears first
Citation Memo NOTE only Source Element using this tag
Citation Reference PAGE follows Citation Detail if present, separated by a comma; only included if specified in Export Wizard

 

Source Elements Related to the Source Definition
TMG Source Element Group Exports to GEDCOM Tag Notes
Abbreviation
(Note 1)
ABBR
TITL
appears in these tags only if the source elements listed below for these tags are absent
Author AUTH appears first if present
Comments NOTE only Source Element using this tag
Compiler AUTH follows Author if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Date PUBL follows Publisher and Publisher Location if present, separated by commas
Edition TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Editor AUTH follows Author and Compiler if present, prefaced by Source Element name
File Reference TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Film Number TITL follows Title, prefaced by Source Element name
Location TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Pages TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Publisher PUBL appears first if present
Publisher Location PUBL follows Publisher if present, separated by commas
Record Number TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Record Type TITL follows Title, prefaced by Source Element name
Repository Reference CALN only Source Element using this tag
Second Date PUBL follows Date if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Second Location TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Second Person TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Series TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Short Subtitle ABBR appears first if present
Short Title ABBR follows Short Subtitle if present
Subject TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Subtitle TITL follows Title if present, separated by colon
Title TITL appears first if present
Version TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Volumes TITL follows Title if present, prefaced by Source Element name
Note 1: Abbreviation is not actually a TMG source element, but it is included here because it appears in the GEDCOM tags shown when source elements otherwise using those tags are absent.

 

Source Elements Related to the Repository Definition
TMG Source Element Group Exports to GEDCOM Tag Notes
Repository NAME only Source Element using this tag
Repository Info ADDR, CITY, STAE, POST, CTRY, PHON, NOTE contents of Repository address and note fields appear in respective tags; contents of Addressee, County, LAT/LONG & Temple fields are not output (Note 2)
Repository Memo NOTE only Source Element using this tag
Note 2: The GEDCOM 5.5 spec does not call for those fields in addresses

Conclusions

TMG exports essentially all source information into the GEDCOM source record which has relatively few tag types available to record the information. It does so in a way that is reasonably logical for the default Source Elements. But with the lack of any accepted standards for doing so, results upon import into various programs are likely to be uneven. At best the resulting source notes are likely to read in a disjointed fashion. The data will likely need to be edited after import in order to make the best use of the source fields provided by the importing program, and to print correctly in narrative reports.

To a limited degree with default Source Elements, and more likely with custom Source Elements, the intent of some data element may be become obscured. This is because, as noted in the tables, the names of the Source Elements are not included in the output in many cases. This is not an issue, for example, when the default Author Source Element is used, because it appears first in the AUTH tag. But should a user create a custom Source Element in the Author Group, say one called "State," for recording the state of a census source, the recipient of the GEDCOM might be baffled by the result. Therefore, if GEDCOM export of sources is important to you, you need to choose the assignment of custom Source Elements to Groups carefully.

If you are having difficulty successfully transferring source details via GEDCOM, careful review of the above tables may explain some of the issues, and perhaps suggest solutions, such as placing specific data items in other Source Elements.


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