LifeLines records are stored in GEDCOM format; you organize, edit and maintain your data in this format. GEDCOM is a standard that defines a file format for moving genealogical data between computer systems. LifeLines has adopted this format for structuring the records in its databases. This approach provides a structured yet flexible method for storing all the data you wish to record. There are few restrictions on the format, amount or type of information you may store in a LifeLines database.

GEDCOM is defined at two levels. At the syntactic level GEDCOM is a simple set of rules for organizing and structuring data into records, with no concern about the types of records, types or formats of information in the records, or the relationships between records. At the semantic level GEDCOM adds an additional set of rules that specify what record types are allowed, how records must be structured, how data within the records must be identified and formatted, and what specific relationships between the record types are allowed. In principle there can be multiple semantic versions of GEDCOM, though in practice there is only one, lineage-linked GEDCOM. Unfortunately this semantic version of GEDCOM is poorly defined, and every genealogical system has interpreted it in different ways.

LifeLines uses GEDCOM primarily at the syntactic level, though it does impose a few of the generally accepted lineage-linked semantic restrictions. This means some important things. It means that you can store all your genealogical data in your LifeLines database, and that you have wide freedom in how you choose your own conventions for structuring and formatting your data. But it also means that the way you store data in your databases can be different from the way that someone else stores their data. This can be a problem if you share data with others or share report programs with other LifeLines users. My recommendation is to use GEDCOM lineage-linking conventions wherever possible.

LifeLines does not use forms or screens to guide you through entering or changing data. Instead you use a screen editor and directly edit the data records. This requires you to understand the GEDCOM format, and be able to edit data in GEDCOM format, before you can use LifeLines. The GEDCOM format is quite simple; this introduction will provide all you need to know about GEDCOM in order to use LifeLines.

Here is an example GEDCOM person record:

Example 1-1. GEDCOM person record

  0 @I25@ INDI
  1 NAME Thomas Trask /Wetmore/ Sr
  1 SEX M
  1 BIRT
    2 DATE 13 March 1866
    2 PLAC St. Mary's Bay, Digby, Nova Scotia
    2 SOUR Social Security application
  1 NATU
    2 NAME Thomas T. Wetmore
    2 DATE 26 October 1888
    2 PLAC Norwich, New London, Connecticut
    2 AGE 22 years
    2 COUR New London County Court of Common Pleas
    2 SOUR court record from National Archives
  1 OCCU Antiques Dealer
  1 DEAT
    2 NAME Thomas Trask Wetmore
    2 DATE 17 February 1947
    2 PLAC New London, New London, Connecticut
    2 AGE 80 years, 11 months, 4 days
    2 CAUS Heart Attack
    2 SOUR New London Death Records
  1 FAMC @F11@
  1 FAMS @F6@
  1 FAMS @F12@

A GEDCOM record is made up of lines. Each line has a level number and a tag, and most lines have a value following the tag. The first line in every record has a cross-reference index between the level number and the tag.

Level numbers allow data to be structured to any degree of detail; lines with higher level numbers expand on lines with lower numbers. Each record begins at level 0, and each deeper level increments the level by one. LifeLines does not restrict the structuring depth. Tags are uppercase (by convention) code words that specify the kind of information on the line or on the higher numbered lines that follow. The information after the tag, if any, is the value of the line.

The first line in a record indicates its type. There are four fixed record types in LifeLines databases: person, family, source and event. The first, 0 level line in these records have tags INDI, FAM, SOUR and EVEN, respectively. Besides these record types, you may create your own record types by using any other tag on the 0 level line of a record. The lines that begin records are the only level 0 lines used in LifeLines. Each level 0 line has a cross-reference index between the level number and the tag. This index is the record's internal reference key; other records may refer to this record by using this index. Cross-reference indexes are bracketed by @ characters.

The first line in the example record has the INDI tag, identifying it as a person. The cross-reference index value, I25, can be used by other records to refer to this record.

The second line in the example has the person's name. Each person record in a LifeLines database must have at least one 1 NAME line, and its value must be in GEDCOM name format. This format allows names to be as long as needed, but the surname, which may be placed anywhere in the name, must be separated from the rest of the name by one or two slashes. For example:

Example 1-2. Example of NAME formats

1 NAME John/Smith
1 NAME John /Smith/
1 NAME John/Smith/Jr.

The second slash is required only if name elements follow the surname. White space is optional before the first slash and after the second. If you don't know a person's surname, or the person doesn't have a surname, you may use / or // or no slashes at all. For example:

Example 1-3. Example of searching on NAMEs

1 NAME Mary//
1 NAME Mary/
1 NAME Mary
are all ways to enter a person named Mary with no known surname. A person may have any number, including zero, given names and/or initials. A LifeLines person record may have any number of 1 NAME lines, though the person will be displayed with the first name value only. Persons are indexed under all their names, however, so you will be able to search for persons by any of their names.

The next line in the example gives the person's sex. LifeLines doesn't require a 1 SEX line, but you should include it. The value of the line should be M or F if the sex is known; it can be left blank or set to U or ?, say, if not known. A person must have a 1 SEX line with a value of either M or F before he or she can be made a spouse or parent in a family.

The example record also contains three events: birth, naturalization, and death. An event begins with a level 1 line whose tag indicates the event type. For example, BIRT is the tag for a birth event.

Events usually have at least a 2 DATE and a 2 PLAC line and often a 2 SOUR line. The DATE and PLAC lines give the date and place of the event. The value of a LifeLines DATE line is free format, though LifeLines will try to parse it for specific day, month and year information. The value of a PLAC line is usually a comma-separated list of geopolitical units, starting with the most specific, ending with the most general. The SOUR line indicates the source of information about the event. The SOUR line can be the root of a full description of the source, or the value of the SOUR line can be a cross-reference key that refers to the source record that describes the source.

The naturalization event (with tag NATU) shows a few other lines. The 2 NAME line gives the person's name as recorded in the source (only 1 NAME lines must follow GEDCOM format). The 2 AGE line gives the person's age at the time of the event. The 2 COUR line indicates the court where naturalization occurred.

The final event is a death event (tag DEAT). The 2 CAUS line gives the cause of death.

At the end of the record are three lines that refer to family records. A 1 FAMC line refers to a family record that the person belongs to as a child; its value is the cross-reference index value of that family. A 1 FAMS line refers to a family record that the person belongs to as a spouse or parent.

When using LifeLines to edit a person, you will not be able to edit the cross reference values on the 0 INDI, 1 FAMC or 1 FAMS lines; these are maintained by LifeLines.

Here is an example family record:

Example 1-4. Example family record

  0 @F6@ FAM
  1 HUSB @I25@
  1 WIFE @I26@
  1 MARR
    2 DATE 31 March 1891
    2 PLAC New London, New London, Connecticut
    2 SOUR New London Vital Records
  1 CHIL @I27@
  1 CHIL @I17@

The 0 FAM line assigns the family the cross-reference index of F6. The record contains 1 HUSB and 1 WIFE lines that refer to the two spouses/parents. The record also holds a marriage event (tag MARR) and two 1 CHIL lines that refer to two children in the family. When editing family records, you cannot edit the 0 FAM, 1 HUSB, 1 WIFE, or 1 CHIL lines; these are maintained by LifeLines.

When you create new records for your database, you are free to invent tags and structure your data in any way you see fit. However, it is good practice to use standard GEDCOM tags and value formats. LifeLines does enforce a small set of conventions that you must obey. Within person records, LifeLines requires that you use 1 NAME and 1 SEX lines with their special meanings and value formats. Though not required, LifeLines assumes that you will use 1 BIRT, 1 DEAT, 1 CHR, and 1 BURI lines for birth, death, baptism and burial events, respectively. In family records, LifeLines assumes you will use the 1 MARR event for marriage events. Within person records, you are not allowed to use 0 INDI, 1 FAMC or 1 FAMS lines, since these are used to maintain linkage information. Within family records, you are not allowed to use 0 FAM, 1 HUSB, 1 WIFE or 1 CHIL lines.

The indentation shown in the examples is not part of GEDCOM format. When LifeLines prepares records for you to edit, however, it always indents the records, making them easier to read and understand. You do not need to follow this indentation scheme when you edit the records. Indentation is removed from the data before it is stored in the database.