* Ancestry (UK) GEDCOM import date format problem

Importing from or exporting to another genealogy program. This is the place to ask.
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: 16 Nov 2021 15:34
Family Historian: V7

Ancestry (UK) GEDCOM import date format problem

Post by sheffd » 25 Nov 2021 18:15

I am new to Family HIstorian. I am currently using the evaluation period to see whether it fits my needs. My particular interest is to have an advanced/sophisticated search function for my tree.

I tried searching, but didn't find any thread. Apologies if this has been discussed previously.

I have written out a GEDCOM from Ancestry UK, and then imported it into FH. I can see that there is a problem with quite a few of the dates, and I am pretty sure it is caused by the date format which I used in Ancestry.

I use (and prefer) the date format "21-Nov-1877". FH appears to mis-interpret the dash separator as a "from", since I see "frm" in the FH people listing. Is there a way to tell FH about this date format. Just FYI, Ancestry accepts this date format and calculates age for each record directly. I have no idea if there is supposed to be a certain date format, I guess I assumed that you could essentially use any format you like, because it is simply a text field. As a possible fix, I edited my GEDCOM using a text editor changing "21-Nov-1877" to "21 Nov 1877". This time the date was correctly interpreted.

I also use a non-standard date format from some birth and death records, where only the quarter is known, the format is "Q1-1877" (or Q2,Q3,Q4). I am less surprised that this is not understood, but again I wonder if there is a way to "help" the import tool, in order to get the date into an acceptable format?

Interestingly I note that FH accepts the "Abt." preferred (and offered as a correction) in Ancestry and converts to "c" (circa).

I am keen to find a solution as searching/filtering on dates is a feature which I am looking for, and which I think FH will allow in the "Custom Query".

BTW I've probably not RTFM, so any pointers to where to look to find out more about importing from Ancestry would be appreciated.

User avatar
Posts: 1746
Joined: 31 May 2010 03:40
Family Historian: V7
Location: Washington State, USA

Re: Ancestry (UK) GEDCOM import date format problem

Post by BillH » 25 Nov 2021 18:25

Welcome to the FHUG.

There is a lot of good information in the Knowledge Base.

For importing in particular, have a look at Importing to Family Historian.


User avatar
Posts: 22841
Joined: 25 May 2010 11:00
Family Historian: V7
Location: Torbay, Devon, UK

Re: Ancestry (UK) GEDCOM import date format problem

Post by tatewise » 25 Nov 2021 19:33

FH is usually quite good at interpreting various Date formats, but you are correct that it misunderstands those hyphens.
The same way that removing them from the dd-mmm-yyyy format works, removing them from Qn-yyyy format will work.

abt is a standard qualifier but FH has a Tools > Preferences > General option Use 'circa' for approximate dates that is enabled by default to prefix dates with c.

Yes, FH provides extensive search & filter features with Queries.
See the FHUG Knowledge Base An Overview of Queries.

When migrating between products using GEDCOM there are well-defined Date formats.
FH is built on a GEDCOM database and only uses those formats internally.
Mike Tate ~ researching the Tate and Scott family history ~ tatewise ancestry

Posts: 1042
Joined: 27 Oct 2017 19:33
Family Historian: V7
Location: South Cheshire, UK

Re: Ancestry (UK) GEDCOM import date format problem

Post by Mark1834 » 25 Nov 2021 19:41

GEDCOM is really a method of last resort, as there is so much variation in how different apps implement it.

A much better method that has recently become available is to download your Ancestry tree into the free Essentials version of RootsMagic 8. This talks to Ancestry directly without having to go via GEDCOM, so should interpret your dates correctly. It will also download any linked media, which GEDCOM export from Ancestry can’t do.

Once you have your tree in RM, simply import the database file directly into FH7. This is also a direct import, so bypasses differences in GEDCOM dialect.

Ask again if you need more detailed guidance on the individual steps.
Mark Draper

User avatar
Posts: 1351
Joined: 09 Aug 2003 21:02
Family Historian: V7
Location: South Cheshire

Re: Ancestry (UK) GEDCOM import date format problem

Post by AdrianBruce » 25 Nov 2021 21:23

sheffd wrote:
25 Nov 2021 18:15
... I have no idea if there is supposed to be a certain date format, I guess I assumed that you could essentially use any format you like, because it is simply a text field. ...
That's interesting... I've just tried entering "01-sep-1978" into my Ancestry tree and watching what Ancestry does - it explicitly offers "1 Sep 1978" as an interpretation. In other words, it's trying to interpret what you've written and it needs to do that because "01-sep-1978" clearly isn't a standard format as far as Ancestry is concerned - it offered me its standard format.

Fortunately, Ancestry's interpretation of your hyphenated date appears to work very nicely thank you, so there doesn't appear to be any issues inside the Ancestry tree.

I know this is going to sound pedantic but it's never a good idea to cross a program's expected standards, even if it works perfectly today, because tomorrow....? I know I've entered date ranges in Ancestry of the form "From 1921 to 1945" and even though they are accepted, they can't have been interpreted correctly as they are sorted all wrong. Oddly "From 1920" and "To 1920" look as if they have worked based on their sort position. Go figure...

I suspect that Mark's suggestion is worth following up if you have any number of dates to worry about.

Again, at risk of sounding a misery, you might care to check other things like your place names if you've entered names that deviate from the Ancestry suggestions. Ancestry will probably have made its best guess in the background but quite what it'll export either on a GEDCOM or into Roots Magic should be checked - it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that "London" comes out as the one in Ontario when you wanted the one in England - or vice versa. Ancestry also sticks numbers into some place-names for reasons that no-one has ever understood outside their programming team. Hopefully nothing to do with your data but worth checking at some point in the proceedings.

Like I say, this may sound like pedantry, but it's about risk reduction - I spent a career trying both to program defensively and enter data defensively, on the basis that I didn't want to get called out at midnight.

Post Reply