I only have day/month dates for some relatives births, but no year. I usually record them as "25 Dec 19_" leaving underscores for the last two digits. The problem is the Brothers Keeper software I use assumes the year 19_ is the year 19 A.D. So if I upload a gedcom to Ancestry.com, these living people are designated as dead, and all their info will be shown.

Is there a way to fool the Ancestry.com "living/non-living" detector? Will "25 Dec 19??" work, or a fake future date, like "25 Dec 9999" ?

  • I did some testing and both 19__ and 19?? are considered 19 A.D., so I tried some future dates like 3333 and 9999, and it seems to accept them, but don't know what online tree will do yet. Nov 18, 2012 at 0:21
  • Will BK allow "25 Dec" without a year?
    – lkessler
    Nov 18, 2012 at 1:32
  • It will allow anything, but it won't register as a complete date. I can type in "ham sandwich" if I like. I won't do anything with it, but I can type it, and it will store/transfer it. Often in date fields for graduations I will type "1981 with PhD" then the university name in the location field. It will accept up to 40 characters in the date field. Nov 18, 2012 at 1:46
  • 1
    Those dates up to 40 characters are entered into GEDCOM as a date phrase. That can be passed to other software, but they won't recognize the year, month or day from it. So maybe entering "25 Dec" might be a good way of doing what you want if the online tree considers people with a date phrase as the birth date to be a living person.
    – lkessler
    Nov 18, 2012 at 1:58
  • Aha! Then would "25 Dec _____" with 5 underscores accomplish this as well? Or my original "25 Dec 19____" with 3 underscores, rather than 2? Nov 18, 2012 at 2:19

4 Answers 4


The GEDCOM structure allows a BET (Between) value for dates. Hopefully your software supports that.

If so, you should estimate the year range as best as possible, e.g. BET 1970 AND 1999. You would then place the date of "25 Dec" in a Note attached to the event with an explanation (and sources) as to why you know it is Dec 25, and how reasons (and sources) as to how you've narrowed the date range down.

Alternatively you could go: BET 25 DEC 1970 and 25 DEC 1999 in the date if you prefer, but make sure you still add the note and sources.

A third possibility is to use an estimated date if your software allows it, e.g.: EST 25 DEC 1980 - and once again add a note to it with sources explaining that the date is known and that the year is unknown but is estimated.

  • These are mainly living people ages 15 to 50. This may work for gedcom standards, but I want the dual purpose of printing out family registers for relatives, and grandma won't understand all the notations. I need to know if I can use a partial date like "25 Dec" with no year, or "25 Dec ____" (4 underscores) which seems to register as a non- number. Will these types of dates declare a person living or dead in common automated systems? Nov 18, 2012 at 1:03
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    @Rusty: You're trying to squeeze a functionality into a program that it doesn't really have. And if you know they are between 15 and 50, why not add that via the years - that may come in useful to you (or someone else) one day. Or better yet, use an Estimated year, e.g. EST 25 DEC 1980 with a note that the date is known but the year is estimated. I'll edit my answer to include this.
    – lkessler
    Nov 18, 2012 at 1:18
  • The trees on Ancestry.com have a formula for determining living or dead. I just need to know how it defaults to an incomplete date. For all other purposes, the year can be pinpointed by ages of parents, spouses, children, and siblings. But I prefer to leave a blank rather than an estimate on living persons. Just a quirk of mine. Nov 18, 2012 at 1:25
  • need to know how it defaults to an incomplete date...and how best to present my date, so it defaults in my favor. Nov 18, 2012 at 1:55

The problem here seems to be:

  • Your software does not cater for a living flag and/or
  • Your online tree does not cater for a living flag.

What software do you use?

What online source are you using?

  • Are you using a software program that publihes to it's own online site eg FTM?
    – Ash
    Nov 17, 2012 at 23:11
  • I use Brothers Keeper for main data. It assumes everyone is alive unless they have a death/burial event, are too old, or I can add "Not Living". There are some "flagging" options, but not sure what they are, or what they do. I use Gen2Web for an online site. Also have a tree on ancestry, but have no way to view my own tree as the public sees it. I only have a dozen people in this situation, so I could edit them before gedcomming, but still looking for a common fix. Nov 17, 2012 at 23:46


There is no one size fits all answer-period.

It all depends on what your software exports to a GEDCOM and whatever program/application you are feeding that GEDCOM into. That can only be determined by actual testing.

  • There are automated standards in place for these situations. I just need to find out what they are, and I can manipulate my gedcom to fit. What happens with uncalcuable dates? Privacy Settings of Ancestry.com - It is not necessary to select Privatize living individuals when uploading your tree because Ancestry.com automatically hides information for all living individuals*. Only the owner of the tree and owner selected guests can view living individuals. *Individuals are considered to be living if they are under 100 years old and have no information in the death date field. Nov 18, 2012 at 2:06
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    @Rusty Erpenbeck - What happens to Ancestry import if both birth and death fields are blank? Are they living or dead?
    – Greg
    Nov 18, 2012 at 3:21
  • @Greg - I believe it checks if marriage or children are over 80 years old, then they are dead. If no determining factors, then living. But I have seen living people shown when the birth field was reversed yyyy/mm/dd. Nov 18, 2012 at 7:49

Does Brothers Keeper allow you to enter a date as "after" a specified time? Also does it allow you to indicate that a date is "estimated" or "calculated"?

Using these facilities in Gramps, I was able to export a GEDCOM that included

2 DATE AFT 25 DEC 1912

That format should ensure that the person is identified as still living (at least for the next few weeks).

I believe that the display program (such as Ancestry) looks for (i) a valid date (ii) a keyword and then (iii) any other string to be interpreted as a phrase to append. You may need to delve into the GEDCOM documentation

  • 3
    GEDCOM allows either CAL or AFT, but does not allow them together.
    – lkessler
    Nov 18, 2012 at 4:07
  • Thanks @lkessler, answer edited to remove CAL from export sample. Attempting to read exported file containing invalid duplicate keywords causes date to be skipped.
    – Fortiter
    Nov 18, 2012 at 4:17

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