Import from Legacy Family Tree (LFT)


Legacy is a Family History program. It's GEDCOM file is a little "eccentric" and in order to import it there are several recommended steps. This article is based on the import of only a few GEDCOM files so improvements to the text are to be expected.

To export your database for import to Family Historian (fh) please use the Export option in Legacy, there are instructions for exporting in Exporting GEDCOM Files from Legacy but not for the latest version.

Use the File tab Export > GEDCOM File command.

On the Options tab:

  • Select Produce file for: GEDCOM 5.5.1 Only or perhaps Legacy to include extra details explained later
  • Select Character Set: ANSI (UTF-8 is an option but only the ANSI character set is supported)
  • Set Break Note lines every 240 characters
  • If Keep embedded formatting codes within text is ticked, then tick Convert formatting codes to HTML style to change « and » into < and >

On the Other Options tab:

  • Tick Override Source options - include all source information
  • Maybe tick Export burial information marked as Cremated as a Cremation event

Click the Privacy Options button on the right:

  • Review the Override Private Settings options, then click Save or Cancel

Click the Customise button on the right:

  • Review Export Items dependent on GEDCOM 5.5.1 Only or Legacy chosen above:
    • Perhaps < Remove the _UID Unique Identifier items
    • Maybe click the Only 5.5 button
    • Maybe Include > the _PLAC_DEFN Place Definition for location Lat/Longitude values
    • Use Save List and Load List to try various options to get different data exported
  • Do NOT tick Move Event Descriptions to the Event Notes field as that will also move Attribute descriptions for facts such as Occupation (fh will move the Event descriptions)
  • Do tick Don't convert British Quarter dates to a date range to let the fh Fix Date Fields plugin convert them to Quarter Dates
  • Click OK

Finally click the large blue START EXPORT button top right.

From fh V5 onwards a selection of Family Historian Plugins can help you migrate your files once they are inside fh. The first step is to check all records which fail to import into fh as outlined below.


Record Numbers

The way Legacy exports Notes, can mean that fh prior to Version 6.2.5 will renumber your Record IDs on all Record Types. If it is important to you to keep the existing numbers, there is a small Plugin that will allow you to make a saved copy of the record numbers and copy them back after the import is complete. See the advice on Handling Renumbered Record Id and the migrate from Legacy - keep ids Forums Topic.

Place Locations

Legacy keeps Place data in a slightly different format to fh, but there is a plugin that lets you convert the location data BEFORE you open the file in fh. It depends on the _PLAC_DEFN Place Definition being included in the Export Items and may need Produce file for:Legacy to be chosen.

Convert Legacy Places

Simply download and double click to install, then in fh run the Plugin from the Tools > Plugins menu (requires a full licence). When run it will prompt for the GEDCOM file and then create a new copy of the file in the same folder which you can open in fh.

Opening in Family Historian

Check for word-wrapping errors

Make a copy of the file to be imported. Make the original file read only to prevent accidental changes. (Right click on the file and choose Properties.)

Open the copied GEDCOM file in fh (File > Gedcom File Tasks > Open Gedcom File), and in the Check for word-wrapping errors window, select Each row contains 1 word with a hyphen in the middle of it.

Report Issues

Say Yes to viewing the report. Ignore all the INFO ONLY messages: these can be dealt with later from inside fh. Use Edit » Find to look at all the EXCLUDED data. Some of these reports may be avoided by use of the Legacy export Customise button and alter the Export Items setting discussed above.


To understand these lines it may be necessary to understand the GEDCOM Standard Release 5.5. In this example it turns out that QUAY is an assessment of the certainty of the evidence to support the conclusion drawn from evidence. (p78) From page 38 it may have values of 0 to 3. Therefore I decided to change the value of 4 to 3 using a manual edit on a copy of the original GEDCOM file.

Another common excluded item in my file is this line:


This means sex unknown. This is not a valid parameter. These records can safely be ignored as fh will leave the sex field blank.

Another common excluded line is _PLAC_DEFN. The underscore at the start shows that it is a user defined field. (i.e. a field that is not in standard GEDCOM: probably better described as a field defined by the software vendor.) They appear to be a list of places used in the file, see above if you want to retain your geolocations and have a full fh licence. I ignored these records and the excluded branch lines.


I also was happy to exclude these lines:



I had to accept these rejections (or go back to the person who sent me the file):


Close fh and make any manual edits required to the copy of the GEDCOM file. Then reopen the file in the manner suggested at the start of this article.

Click Yes to allow Validation:



Set Family Historian Preference for Descriptions

During import, any description on an Event (but not Attribute) will by default be moved to its local Note field, but if it already has a Note, then one of them becomes partially hidden, and will need merging later perhaps using a Plugin.

Alternatively, the description can be moved to a unique _UNCAT UDF field and subsequently corrected using a Plugin. To select this mode, before importing the GEDCOM file, use File > Project Window to open say the Family Historian Sample Project and use the fh command Tools > Preferences > File Load/Save and untick Move invalid data into note fields where possible.

Create New Project in Family Historian

Use File > Project Window and the New Project button, and select Import a GEDCOM file. Choose the final edited copy of the GEDCOM file from above. The dialogue is uncomplicated, but in the Check for word-wrapping errors window, select Each row contains 1 word with a hyphen in the middle of it as above.

See Understanding Projects for more information on creating a Project from GEDCOM & media files, and using the Project Window.

Once the Project is in Family Historian

In Forum thread Importing Marriages from Legacy it was reported that Note Records were used instead of local Notes on some Facts, and can be fixed using the Clean Up Notes Plugin.

Use the Fix Date Fields Plugin to convert Quarter Dates and possibly other dates.

Use the Move Local Media to Media Records Plugin to convert local Media invalidly attached to Address fields into Media records attached to the parent Facts.

Use the UDF List Plugin and check the advice on Handling Uncategorised Data Fields (UDF).

Here are some typical results:

Click on Item Tag to sort the data by Item Tag.

Looking at the data I found that there were some tags that were of no interest to me. _TAG,_TAG3, _TAG4, _TAG6. To delete these fields, I selected the UDF Item field of the first item in the list, and then scrolled down, pressed shift and selected the last item. I then pressed the delete key and said OK to the message.

The next field was _UID. This is a vendor defined tag which gives a unique identifier to each individual and so allows an easy merge between files imported from the same vendor. For more information try As I am importing from Legacy to fh this is no use to me, so I deleted these tags.

EMAIL and _URL items. I am going to merge the file and so I do not want the sender’s email address or web site in my file so I also deleted these items.

I reran the UDF List Plugin and this had brought the number of UDFs down from 1593 to 471 (for 210 Individuals) A quick scroll through the file showed that there are problems with Source records. Looking at the Item Data Reference column, there are fields such as:


From the GEDCOM standard page 34, SOUR refers to a Source and the only valid sub fields are:

  • After pointer to a source record: PAGE, EVEN, DATA, QUAY plus multimedia link and note structure.
  • After a source description: CONC, CONT, TEXT plus note structure.

A Plugin may be able to sort these problems: watch this space. However the file can be merged with an existing fh project: any Uncategorised Data Fields will be moved across with their appropriate parents. They will still be visible in any new file using the UDF List Plugin.

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