This is a brief post (that leads to a couple of articles) covering an issue that came up in an email I received from a Chris M. He was migrating from an older version of MacFamilyTree (MacFamilyTree 4) and this caught my attention. The problem was Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 and Unicode GEDCOM files. I ended up turning it into part test and part review of importing Unicode/UTF-8 GEDCOM files into newer versions of Mac OS X genealogy software. For an explanation of Unicode and UTF-8 and why it matters, see the article at the bottom of the page.
Why would it be an issue?
Unicode supports certain Asian and Eastern European characters that may occur in family names and locations. It could be an issue for those migrating from Personal Ancestral File 5.2, which supports UTF-8 as its internal character encoding, and which can export UTF-8 GEDCOM files.
I initially thought more genealogy applications might not handle Unicode, but seeing as how Mac OS X natively handles it, as well as some supporting at least parts of GEDCOM 5.5.1, it really wasn’t an issue for most.
This is not simply a problem with the Mac Family Tree Maker implementations. Tamura Jones covers this problem in an article, Family Tree Maker 2012 Fan Value that gets into some of the Unicode/UTF-8 problems that Family Tree Maker has. He is discussing it from the point of view of exporting GEDCOM files, and mentions that while Family Tree Maker 2011 has Unicode technology, it does not support UTF-8 GEDCOM exports. Family Tree Maker 2012 somewhat addresses the issue (you really should read his article for more about it), but it still doesn’t do it in a logical way. FTM 2012 doesn’t support the GEDCOM 5.5.1 draft standard, which includes UTF-8 encoding.
For a longer look at this issue, see these three articles:
- Mac Genealogy Software – Unicode, UTF-8, and GEDCOMs
- Unicode, UTF-8, GEDCOM 5.5.1, GEDCOMs and Macs
- Conversion of Unicode GEDCOM Files on a Mac