Posts Tagged ‘genealogy’

Genealogy: Convert from Burkes Peerage to GEDCOM format

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You can use Alex to help partially convert a Burkes Peerage formatted family tree document to a  GEDCOM file for use in family tree software.


My family tree originally conformed to the Burkes Peerage format. Parentage is based on indent level with individual meta data contained in a fairly human readable way. Spouses and inlaws are included in an individual’s entry. It can look something like this,

It’s not very convenient for any systematic analysis or very easily updated with family tree software (like webtrees).

An online search returned little help on converting from this format to the international standard GEDCOM format.

The best recommendation I found was to extract the individuals and then manually recreate the relationships and families in genealogical software.

For the 1600 individuals in my family tree, this was not really an option.

So to help with the conversion, I wrote my own app in PHP. It’s called “Alex” after one of my relatives who has dedicated much of his life to researching our tree.

You can find it on GitHub and here’s how it works.


Alex creates an alex_relation object for each line of a Burkes document. It then creates an alex_spouse and alex_inlaw object for each of those alex_relation objects if a first spouse and their parents exist. These objects are instances of child classes of the abstract alex_person class.

These classes all have methods which return key meta data about the individual.


  1. Currently, Alex returns parsed values for: name, surname, given name, name prefix, sex, birth, baptism, death, and burial.
  2. Alex does not return spouse and inlaw individuals from marriages greater than the first.

There’s an index.php file which helps you to review the results of the conversion per line, and a results.php file which returns the final GEDCOM text file.

Using Alex


  • PHP5 – Alex has been tested on a server running PHP 5.2.17.
  • Git (Optional) – If you have GIT installed, you can use that to copy the source code.


  1. Get Alex
    • With Git
      • git clone
    • With FTP
  2. Update the configuration options
    • The source code should be fairly well commented. Open up the files in the system folder and change some of the opening variable declarations. For example, the default surname.
  3. Conform Includes
    • Burkes Document
      • Alex can’t handle branch repositioning
        Authors of Burkes Peerage documents often move entire branches later than their natural line number. This newly repositioned branch begins with the phrase OF WHOM PRESENTLY. This branch repositioning breaks the indent lineage structure necessary for correct relationship management in the app and therefore must be manually repositioned / removed prior to using the app.
      • Upload the conformed Burkes document to /alex/burkes.txt
    • Female Names Document
      • Alex uses a list of known female names to determine gender. This is admittedly a bit of manual work to update the list to include all the female names in your burkes document.
  4. Review
    • Navigate to /alex/
    • You’ll see the original imported burkes document at the top and the GEDCOM individuals extracted below.
    • You’ll need to review the individuals to make sure that they have parsed correctly
  5. Download the GEDCOM file.