GEDCOM 5.5.1 Specification: GEDCOM-L Addendum

The GEDCOM standard was unchanged for many years. In the past few months, that status has changed dramatically. FamilySearch released the GEDCOM Version 5.5.1 (although it appears to be a rather minor update to the earlier proposal for changes). Other people and organizations have recently published PROPOSED changes to the GEDCOM standard. You can find the recent articles in this newsletter about GEDCOM by starting at:

Now the GEDCOM-L group in Germany has added a proposed addendum to the present GEDCOM standard. Here is the announcement written by that group:

The addendum is prepared by the GEDCOM-L group, a working group initiated by the Computer Genealogy Society of Germany (CompGen). More than 20 developers of genealogical programs have been working since 2009 with the following goals:

  • to improve the communication between genealogy programs via GEDCOM files
  • to reduce data loss during export and import of GEDCOM files
  • to improve the common understanding and interpretation of the GEDCOM standard
  • to agree on common solutions, in order to improve the users’ satisfaction
  • to use the GEDCOM Standard 5.5.1 as its base
  • to add, when required, common user-defined tags for transferring data, where the standard does not offer solutions

This document serves as an explanation of incorrect and wrong text parts of the GEDCOM Specification 5.5.1, interprets ambiguous statements of the specification, defines agreements for solving this situation and contains additional user-defined tags to allow extended functionality.

It summarizes in one place the modifications, additions and, where necessary, explanations including new User-defined tags. This document is version controlled. In the past, this was documented on Wiki pages.

The first release of the document is available at

The GEDCOM-L group is going on to discuss the data transfer in between genealogical programs. Later versions will include more results of the group, and have higher version numbers.

We hope this documentation will help to improve data transfer in between other programs, too.


I am all for updating computer programs — as long as they are made backward compatible. I do hope they are keeping that in mind.


The real problem with support of GEDCOM 5.5.1 is not that it was a draft, but that while most software “says” they support GEDCOM 5.5.1, none actually support the whole standard! All of the major and therefore the most used genealogy programs drop tags and don’t support concepts that are in the GEDCOM 5.5.1 standard (many of the same ones in v5.5 as well) , if they can’t support v5.5/v5.5.1 how are they ever going to support any part of ANY newer versions of the standard? Cherry-picking the parts of the standard you want to support is NOT supporting the standard, this would never be allowed in the programming world, i.e. only supporting half of the C++ or Java language!


Where do I get the New Gedcom Software download?


What is an amateur to make of this new GEDcom? I don’t understand the technical discussions in these Comments. Should people like me just wait and see what develops?


Interesting to see a location record appear.
The authors identify the deficiencies of the current standard “Locations are described using the PLAC tag. In the GEDCOM standard, this tag is not sufficient to represent the data of a hierarchical structure, the historical relationships between different locations and their higher-level administrative units, geographical units, or the structures of church hierarchies. “


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