After RootsTech, I posted some of my concerns for the conversation that I hoped would develop between GEDCOM X and/or BetterGEDCOM and/or FHISO. At the time GEDCOM X had just been officially announced by FamilySearch and FHISO (the FamilyHistory Information Standards Organiation), growing out of the BetterGEDCOM efforts, was newly formed.
My observations: a) it is generally agreed that the GEDCOM standard for data communication has become fragmented over time and needs to be superseded; b) BetterGEDCOM was established to further conversation about data communication across the broader genealogy community; c) GEDCOM X was launched by FamilySearch to meet their on-going needs for data submission; d) FHISO was established in recognition of the multiplicity of approaches to data communication within BetterGEDCOM and with the addition of GEDCOM X. My basic concern in all of this was that one player (FamilySearch) “owned” the previous standard. It was their standard and they abandoned it when it no longer served their needs. FHISO presents a mechanism for a community-owned standard which can be adapted to meet changing needs of the broader genealogical community.
Of course, the basic question is whether FHISO can actually become the standard maintainer for the genealogical industry. (I use the term “industry” rather than “community” because the standard has to be implemented by the genealogy vendors in order for it to become usable by genealogists and family historians.) In the absence of my blogging over the past two and a half months, I have noticed three events that I consider noteworthy with respect to FHISO and its capacity to function as a standard-setting and -maintaining organization: 1) a start-up grant from Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak’s Honoring Our Ancestors Genealogical Grants (Support from Megan Smolenyak2 gives real credence to the FHISO effort); 2) an inaugural year financial pledge from Andrew G. Hatchett III (Hatchett is one of FHISO’s leaders); and 3) Ancestry.com is becoming a founding member of FHISO (now FamilySearch is not the only 800 pound gorilla in the room). Financial support from key players is significant for an organization’s establishment. Participation by Ancestry.com (with its 1.9 million subscribers) provides political clout.
GEDCOM X indicates that its intention “is to define a standard for modeling and exchanging the components of the research process that comprise the genealogical proof standard.” They use Mark Tucker’s Genealogy Research Process Map as a graphical representation of the research process. I find this approach to be encouraging. When I am at my best, I am shaping my genealogical research by the GPS.
Louis Kessler, developer of Behold, has given a cursory review of the GEDCOM X publicly released data format. His primary concern is “that GEDCOM X will represent some of its data structures in very different ways than most genealogy programs…” It is clear that significant changes will be made in the structure of genealogical data communication. Whatever changes GEDCOM X institutes will obviously be fully integrated into FamilySearch. After all, GEDCOM X is their baby. Enter FHISO! The conversation between GEDCOM X and the broader genealogical community is a necessity. Does GEDCOM X become the de facto standard or is it a foundation for developing a broader standard? Kessler mentions that Ancestry.com and MyHeritage “have their own data transfer ideas.” Let’s hope that FHISO can form alliances with the various key players so as to further the conversation and help shape a single standard for genealogical data transfer.