Thursday, May 28, 2015

Family Tree Maker Issue – Ignores Sex for determining Husband / Wife

Notice! The issue discussed and documented below has gotten more complex. Please refer to my reply below in the comments section. Ron - 5/29/2015

While working on my project to break my tree into separate branches I encountered this gem.

Two individuals in a family tree as shown in Family Tree Maker.  The female Sarah Reynolds is shown on the left side of the relationship (below the pedigree panel) and the male David H Woods is shown on the right side.  Please note that their sex is correctly reflected in the details panel for each and that here David is correctly identified as the Husband in the relationship.

The output GEDCOM from this tree for these two individuals.

0 @I58356@ INDI
1 NAME Sarah /Reynolds/
2 SOUR @S1495@
2 DATE 1806
2 PLAC Fairfield, South Carolina, USA
1 FAMS @F19079@
1 FAMC @F18842@
0 @I58357@ INDI   

0 @I58606@ INDI
1 NAME David H /Woods/
2 SOUR @S1495@
1 FAMS @F19079@           

Here is the problem! The output GEDCOM for the Family of these two individuals.  The INDI of the female Sarah Reynolds is linked as the Husband and the INDI of the male David H. Woods is linked as the Wife.   

0 @F19079@ FAM
1 HUSB @I58356@
1 WIFE @I58606@
1 MARR           

It appears that for its GEDCOM output Family Tree Maker uses the positional placement of individuals to determine the husband and wife designations of individuals rather than the sex of people.  Thanks FTM for remaining firmly planted in the dark ages.

This will now require another major project to identify and correct any others in my tree like this. 


  1. Ron,

    What version of Family Tree Maker are you using?

    And, when was the last time you compacted your file?


    1. I am on 2014 version

      The file was created from my main database which was compacted immediately before extracting branches for separate trees. This is the 1st of those branches that I created. I then generated GEDCOM from it to load into SQL to use for some personal research. It is during that process that I happened upon this situation.

    2. Russ, following your hint to compact the file I did exactly that. Then I again exported the resultant file to GEDCOM and reviewed the result, but nothing has changed and the discrepancy remains in the file and will require a manual correction.

      I am in the middle of a project to separate my tree into separate branches and the file I am working with is one of those branches that has been updated with a download from Rootsweb. Backtracking I have been able to ascertain that the data actually came in this way from the Rootsweb GEDCOM.

      My expectation that FTM manages this kind of relationships between individuals led me to my above critique of FTM. It now appears that this was an unjustified assumption on my part and FTM does little more than report on imported data. But this too may be an assumption. Please correct me if I am again wrong.

      I will update this post to report on my new findings. Can you suggest a report that will identify this kind of discrepancy?

  2. Ron,

    Your GEDCOM statement is a little incorrect. In fact, FTM does meet the current (almost 20 year old) GEDCOM standard.

    GEDCOM IS the Dark Ages


    1. Hi Russ - I always appreciate your comments even when we differ. My comment about the dark ages is based upon my discovery of the husband/wife issue in the GEDCOM that was generated from my database and my perception that this is based upon an archaic view of marriage. As you will note in my blog I am a long time user of FTM and it is the only commercial database I use. My critique and comments of FTM reflect years frustration with FTM and of you being just about the only resource available for accurate information for its use. Over the years, you have stated several times that you are not a member of the FTM organization and speak only as a someone who has developed an in-depth personal knowledge of the product and I applaud you for your continued support to the FTM user community.

  3. Are Sarah and David the only people in the GEDCOM file where the husband and wife are reversed? I just exported a GEDCOM from my database, did a quick check, and don't see any problems. I think Ancestry would have a hard time troubleshooting this problem if it's a random, one-off occurrence.

    1. Keith, I do not know how many others are like this in my database. I have added a project to my "To Do List" for that research and will report the results of that at a later date.

      The issue remains that FTM creates this erroneous GEDCOM and any of us could easily have this error in the GEDCOM we generate and use.

  4. I have this exact same issue. I have only come across one instance of it in my data so far. My tree has nearly 30,000+ people, but in the branch I am working on this has caused some weird stuff to happen, especially when viewing trees. It appears to be some sort of duplicate relationship because for each of the husband and wife I can choose the other person as an alternative spouse. When doing so, this switches to show the correct order (husband on the left, wife on the right).