Searching In GEDCOMs

I’ve been thinking for a long time about what things I can do with a .gedcom file.  A GEDCOM is a plain text file, which means you can read it in a text editor as well as being able to search it and extract data from it for statistical and other purposes.  That is how our genealogy software programs use it.  It is a file type which isn’t tied to any particular software program either.

This is what a .gedcom file looks like in a text editor.  It needs to be laid out in this format for genealogy programs to be able to understand it.

As you can see from the first few lines of the file, I create my family tree on Ancestry.  I regularly download my .gedcom file from Ancestry as a backup and keep copies of it on my laptop and in my Dropbox  cloud account.  If you don’t know how to download your .gedcom from Ancestry I have a tutorial here.

One of the things you can’t do on Ancestry is search your tree by location which I find really annoying.  One of the ways I’ve found to combat this is to download the .gedcom file, open it in a plain text editor and search it.

I’ll show you what I mean.

Say I want to find anyone who was born or lived in Flaxley.  Having downloaded the .gedcom file already I open it in a plain text program.  You may need to tell your computer to open it in a text program rather than a genealogy program by clicking the right mouse button on the file, as shown below, and click Open With Text Editor.  You may need to click the Open With option and choose a program from a list.  On Microsoft Windows you can use the Notepad program.


To search the .gedcom file press and hold the Ctrl key and press the F key on your keyboard.

Type in the place or word you want to search for and click Find.  When it finds the word you’re looking for it highlights it.  Keep clicking Find to go to the next instance of the word or place in the .gedcom file.

This is one way I can find anyone who ever lived in Flaxley or any mention of the place.

It may seem like a complicated process to find a simple piece of information but, as I said at the start, it is also the beginnning of my thinking about what other things can be done with a .gedcom file.  I guess it’s a case of what can I do myself rather than using a software program.  I’m not a computer programmer but I am interested in how programs work, how they handle data and what they can be made to do.  The same goes for web apps and to a lesser extent mobile apps.  I can’t make my own software program but I may, with lots of help, be able to do something with a web app.

What is something that you can’t do with your genealogy software program or with one of the online genealogy programs?  Do you have a particular bug bear which you would like to find a solution for?

Minecraft At The Museum And The North Terrace Mounted Police Barracks

I’m helping out with a school holiday event called Minecraft At The Museum (click the link and go about half way down the page) this week and Sunday we were setting up the computer network in an old museum building called The Armoury which is behind the South Australian Museum on North Terrace, Adelaide.

Setting up the computer network

Setting up the computer network

The Armoury, above the door it says Australian Light Horse and Scottish Infantry

The Armoury, above the door at the top of the steps it says Australian Light Horse and Scottish Infantry

I hadn’t been to this part of the museum since I was in primary school so it was exciting to me to find these lovely buildings with their references to South Australia’s early military.

Being the curious person that I am I took a heap of photos and when I got home started Googling!  I found this article by R.J. Potts Chief Superintendent (Ret.), Hon. Secretary, S.A.Police Historical Society Inc. The Former North Terrace Mounted Police Barracks.

In 1854 tenders were called for what became termed the ‘armoury building’ on the southern side of the quadrangle. Designed by the Colonial Architect W. Bennett Hayes, and built by contractor W. Lines, the building was completed in 1855, and was built of uncaused limestone with brick quoins, and with a slate roof. It is believed that the limestone used in the construction of the armoury building and the east and west wings of the mounted police barracks, came from the banks of the River Torrens, at or near the site of the present (2001) Festival Theatre. Other stone from Murray Bridge was also used.1

More of the mounted police buildings

More of the mounted police buildings

Large iron swing entrance gate

Large iron swing entrance gate

Large iron swing entrance gates ‘with massive arches surmounted by three stone structures’ were built on the eastern and western sides of the quadrangle, adjacent to the northern end of each building and were completed in 1851. (One of these entrance gates remains in position on the eastern side of the parade ground in 2001).2 (my note – it’s still there in 2016)

Troop barracks

The back of the Armoury

Tenders were then called in 1850 by the Colonial Engineer for the erection of a purpose-built stone and brick single story barracks complex. The single story buildings that were designed by Captain Freeling and built by contractor J.H.Walker were completed in 1851. Built of limestone and brick with slate roofs and featuring gables with decorative fretted barge boards, they formed the eastern and western wings of a quadrangle that contained a parade ground measuring 210 feet (approx. 65 metres) by 110 feet (approx. 35 metres).3

Troop rooms, mess rooms and quartermaster's quarters

Troop rooms, mess rooms and quartermaster’s quarters

While the original building on the eastern side of the quadrangle has been demolished (1950’s), the two-story building still standing on the western side of the quadrangle still contains sections of the 1851 construction. These buildings are believed to have contained troop rooms, mess rooms and quartermaster’s quarters.4

While independent volunteer rifle units were established in S.A. as early as 1844 in metropolitan districts of Adelaide, it was in 1850 that the first South Australian regiment, ‘The Adelaide Rifles’ was raised. The regimental headquarters of this unit was located within the armoury building in the North Terrace Mounted Police barracks complex, which it shared with the S.A. mounted police. The companies that made up the regiment remained at their particular metropolitan locations.5

It is well worth reading the whole article if you’re interested in South Australian history.

Google Search By Image

I’ve been scanning and sorting more of my Dad’s photos and I wanted to see if there were any photos of a taxi similar to his online.

2016-01-01 15.38.11

This is where Google’s search by image function comes in handy.

Go to and click on the camera icon in the search box

Go to and click on the camera icon in the search box


Click on ‘upload an image’


Click on ‘choose file’



Click on the picture you want to upload and click on the ‘open’ button, in some programs it might be the ‘okay’ button


Wait while the picture uploads



Now Google will compare your picture with all the pictures it can find on the world wide web and will show some similar ones



You can also enter a word in the search box, I used Holden and it narrowed down the search and gave two websites about Holdens as well.


I think this was the closest match

I think this was the closest match.  You can also use this function to see if there are any copies of a photograph online.

Saving Trove Articles

Saving Trove Articles

When I have found a result in the Trove digitised newspapers which I need to keep this is what I do:

  • Zoom in on the section of the newspaper that I want to keep.  In this case it is a notice about Heinrich Rubeni my 3x great grandfather.


  • Position the text under the name of the newspaper and the date it was published, as in above picture.
  • Take a screenshot of the page.  You can use the Print Screen key on the keyboard, a snipping tool or a graphics editing program.  Edit the screenshot in a graphics program and select just the newspaper text you require, the name of the newspaper and the date it was published.  Crop the picture to the selection.


  • Before uploading the picture to my family tree I copy the Harvard/Australian citation from Trove so that I have the correct source for the information and I can find it on Trove again if I need to.



  • and paste it into the event description box.


How To Download Your Family Tree From


This is the pedigree view of my family tree.


Near the top left hand corner of the screen next to the name of my tree, ‘Willison Family Tree’ is a menu titled Tree Pages.  Click on Tree Pages and then click Tree Settings.


Near the bottom right hand corner of the screen it says, “Export your family tree data, as a GEDCOM file, to your computer.”  Click on the green button Export Tree.  Depending on the size of your tree this may happen quickly or it might take a little while.  It’s a good opportunity to make another cup of tea.


When it has finished you will see the above screen and the green button has changed.  It now says Download your GEDCOM file.  A GEDCOM file is a standard file for family tree software programs.  If you have a family tree software program installed on your computer you can use it to open your GEDCOM file.  Even if you don’t have a family tree software program on your computer it is still a very good idea to keep a copy of your family tree on your own computer as a back up.  I’ve spent years creating my tree on and I would be devastated if I lost it.  Please be aware that this process does not download the photographs or stories you have uploaded to Ancestry.

When you click Download your GEDCOM file, make sure you know where it is being downloaded to on your computer.

Linux In Genealogy

I’ve been using the Linux operating system on my desktop pcs and laptops since about 2002. I used to administer Linux systems and a network as well as building computers and teaching computing using the Linux operating system. Now I’m more of an ‘end user’.  There are many flavours of Linux operating system.  I’m currently using the Debian Linux distribution but will soon be changing to Linux Mint.  There are several benefits to using Linux on your computers but the main ones I like are that it is Free and Open Source Software, people don’t tend to write viruses or spyware for it, and it works well on older hardware.  I don’t have to keep updating my hardware to work with the latest operating system version which means less E-waste going into landfill.

I haven’t heard much about genealogists using Linux lately so I did some searching this morning to see what people are saying about it and how popular it is these days.  At first what I found was mostly outdated but with a few changes of search terms I got better results.  The bulk of what I found was about genealogy software programs and no real discussion on the benefits of using Linux or Free and Open Source software in genealogy.

I found this article from May this year Six of the Best Free Linux Family History Software Programs which provides a good review of the genealogy software programs available.


I’ve tried using the GRAMPS program recommended in the article above and I find it difficult and non-intuitive to use for data entry.  I do like some of the reports and search functionality in it so I do use it sometimes.  I use to create my family tree and collaborate with my sister and I upload the GEDCOM to PHPGedView on my own website so that more people can find it.  Naturally there is a lot of focus on genealogy software for Linux, Windows and Mac and other software programs aren’t discussed as much.  I wrote this blog post in 2012 Software I Use For Genealogy and the only things which have changed since then are that I rarely use Picasa now and I use the Chrome for Linux web browser.

Would you consider changing your computer operating system?  Are you dependant on one particular operating system to run your gadgets and computing peripherals?  What do you think of the almost monopoly that Microsoft has in the computer operating system department?  I am interested to hear people’s responses and start some conversation on using a different computer operating system.