Spell Checking a GEDCOM File

Have you ever mispelled a word when entering data into your favorite genealogy program? (In other words, are you human?) Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to thoroughly check the spelling in your GEDCOM file? There is! By using Ancestral Author Plus to create LibreOffice word processing files, you can easily find and correct spelling errors.

Here's how it works. Use GEDCOM file drag-and-drop to drag a GEDCOM file onto the Ancestral Author Plus (AA) desktop icon. This will create a word processing file that can be viewed in LibreOffice. AA will automatically create and open the document. Then use the Spelling tool to find and correct spelling errors. Here are the steps in detail.

Step 1: Instruct AA to generate an Open Document Text (ODT) file when a GEDCOM file is dragged onto the AA desktop icon. To do this, open AA, select menu item Script→Preferences→Cause Drag and Drop to Generate ODT, then exit the program.

Cause Drag And Drop To Generate ODT

Step 2: Open File Exporer (on Windows) or Finder (on Mac), find the GEDCOM file, then drag it onto the AA desktop icon.

Drag a GEDCOM File Onto The Ancestral Author Plus Desktop Icon

This will cause AA to create a document showing every person in the GEDCOM, their family reslationships, with dates, places, notes, source citations, and events. Then AA will automatically ask if you want to open the document in LibreOffice.

Ancestral Author Plus Asks If You Want to Open The Word Processing File

Select Yes.

The remaining steps are in LibreOffice.

Step 3: Use the LibreOffice Spelling tool to find and correct the errors.

You will notice that misspelled words are underlined in red, as shown below.

LibreOffice Underlines Misspelled Words

It can be tedious, especially for larger documents, to find all of the underlined words. A better approach is to use the Spelling tool. This tool will interactively walk through the entire document, showing each misspelled word in bold red, giving you the option to correct the spelling error, or ignore the spelling error (useful for names and places).

To use this tool, select LibreOffice menu item Tools→Spelling

LibreOffice Spelling Menu Item

This will bring up a dialog that looks something like the following:

Spelling Dialog Shows Misspelled Word In Red

Notice that the misspelled word is shown in bright red at the top, with suggested corrections at the bottom. Choose the appropriate correction, then press the Correct button to correct the error. The dialog will then show the next error. Repeat.

Sometimes, names and places will not be recognized by the spell checker, in which case you might see a dialog entry like this:

Surnames Can Be Flagged As Mispelled

Here you have several choices. One option is to press the Ignore All button. This will instruct the spell checker to ignore all occurrences of this surname in the genealogy report - useful because this surname will probably occur frequently in the GEDCOM file. The Ignore All button, however, will apply only to the current spell check session. When you run the spell check on a separate file, or on the same file at a different time, the same surname will once again be flagged as a misspelling.

To avoid this annoyance, press the Add to Dictionary button. This has the same effect as the Ignore All button, with the additional benefit that the next time you run the spell checker on this file, or any other file, the surname will not be flagged as a misspelling.

Step 4: Reflect the corrections back into the GEDCOM file.

This, unfortunately, is not as convenient as correcting the spelling errors in the word processing file. Each spelling error has to be located in the GEDCOM, and corrected there. If you are comfortable with text editing tools and understand the basics of how GEDCOMs are structured, then you can correct the errors directly in the GEDCOM file. If not, then you have to use your genealogy program to navigate to the person, family, source, or event that contains the spelling error, and correct it there.

The good news is that once the spelling errors are corrected in the GEDCOM, you will not have to correct them again!