GEDCOM – What Is A Genealogy GEDCOM

GEDCOM – What Is A Genealogy GEDCOM

What genealogy GEDCOM is –

You’ve heard the term “GEDCOM” and you’re wondering what is a GEDCOM, or more specifically what is a genealogy GEDCOM? You’re not sure what it is and how it relates to genealogy and your family tree and history. I’ll see if I can shed some light on the subject although I have never used the GEDCOM protocol.

First of all, GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogy Data COMmunication or, simply a means of communicating genealogical data from one point to another. This data would usually be the information included in your family tree computer file of names, dates, locations, etc.

It was developed by the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) as a rather “universal” means of communicating your family tree information to other genealogists, websites, etc. Although supposedly “universal” in nature there are certain software programs that either do not recognize all the GEDCOM versions or tack on their own format extensions that are not recognized by other software programs.

GEDCOM 5.5 of 1996 is still considered the standard version. If you buy genealogy software you may want to check to see if the software recognizes the 1966 version or if it adds extensions to its GEDCOM file that might not be recognized by other software.

Everything else being equal I don’t believe that I would not purchase a certain brand of software simply because of the negatives mentioned above especially if the software has a feature that you believe you would be interested in utilizing. In over 25 years of genealogical research I have never found the need to utilize my software’s GEDCOM capabilities.

However, that being said, I was recently contacted by a distant cousin who is willing to share family information with me. Even though I emailed the cousin some information I realize how much more convenient it would be if I sent him a GEDCOM file which he could examine and take info from at his convenience and he could send me a GEDCOM copy of his file which I could use in the same way.

Creating a GEDCOM file –

The best advice for creating a GEDCOM file would be to follow the directions in the manual that came with your software.

For the software that I am using you would go to the “Family Page”, click on “File” and then click on the “Copy/Export Family File button” in the File menu. You click on the “Save as type”, then click on “GEDCOM (*.GED), then “Save” and “OK” to export to GEDCOM. It seems pretty straight forward but I’ll know more when I eventually try it.

Using a genealogy GEDCOM file –

My software allows me to send a single family line of ancestors to a GEDCOM. Usually when someone wants a copy of my file they are only interested in that line that we share in common and my software allows me to send them a GEDCOM of that line only.

My software also allows me to import a GEDCOM file. I can do this using one of two procedures.

  • Procedure 1 –

The first procedure is to immediately Append/Merge my Family File with the incoming GEDCOM file. However, if you are not satisfied that the incoming GEDCOM file contains only accurate information you would probably be wise to use Procedure 2.

  • Procedure 2 –

This procedure requires that you open the GEDCOM file with a newly created Family File and then after you have examined the information for accuracy you can then Append/Merge your original Family File with the new GEDCOM file or the newly created Family File.

Conclusion –

I can appreciate how useful a GEDCOM file can be assuming that the information in the file is accurate and you probably won’t know that until you receive and examine it. Some researchers are very meticulous about only entering information from reliable sources and others not so much.

There is an article at Wikipedia on GEDCOMs but much of the language is too technical for me to understand but maybe you would understand it better than I.


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