• GEDCOMs Explained

    GEDCOM files

    What are they and when do you need to use them?
    • GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication
    • A GEDCOM is a standard method used to format your family tree data into a text file. The file is written in a code and a genealogy software program is used to read and convert the coded text file. The Church of The Latter Day Saints originally developed the GEDCOM format in the mid 1980s and the format has been updated several times since it was introduced.
    • Typically a GEDCOM file is used to share information between researchers or to upload to the growing number of tree building and genealogy database websites that are now available.
    • GEDCOM are text only files. They cannot be used to transfer images or photographs. To fully utilise the benefits of a GEDCOM file requires a GEDCOM reading program or a genealogy software program installed on a computer. It is possible to open a GEDCOM file in a word processor program. However, these files contain large blocks of text and can be difficult to read and understand. For this reason it is far easier and more convenient to download or purchase a software program.

    Using GEDCOM files

    GEDCOM files are used to quickly transfer information either from one researcher to another or to create family trees on another computer or website. Although it is possible to transfer information without the need for a GEDCOM file the process is far more accurate and quicker when GEDCOM files are used.

    Sending information is a three step process and is usually called "exporting".
    • Step 1 is to create a GEDCOM file
    • Step 2 is to save the file on your computer
    • Step 3 is to send the file as an e-mail attachment or upload the file to a website

    Creating a file is best done with a genealogy software program. A word processor program can be used but the process is very tedious and long winded. Even a small file (say 6 individuals) can take hours to create and mistakes are easy to make.

    Receiving a file is again a three step process and is often referred to as "importing"
    • Step 1 is to download the file, either from an e-mail or website
    • Step 2 is to save the file to your computer
    • Step 3 is to open the file - this requires a GEDCOM reading program (genealogy software) or a word processing program on your computer

    Please note, that using a word processor package to open and read a GEDCOM file is far from ideal. It can be done but the knowledge required to understand the codes, relationships and information makes it a very long process, even for the smallest files.

    Gedcom FAQs

    Do I need to use a software program to create, edit, send and receive a GEDCOM file?
    Software isn't strictly needed but the task of creating and editing a file is both complex and time consuming. It is far better to use a software program.

    I want to share my tree with a relative. How do I send the GEDCOM file to them?
    If you wish to send a file then it should be sent as an e-mail attachment

    I wish to add my tree to the internet. Can a GEDCOM help me do this?
    Yes, this is one of the things a GEDCOM was designed to do. By uploading the file to a website the task of entering all names, dates, places and relationships etc is handled automatically. There is no need to type any entry if you use a GEDCOM file.
    Can I exclude any information or individuals from the GEDCOM file before I send it?
    Most genealogy software programs allow you to exclude information and individuals from a GEDCOM file. This allows you to protect sensitive information and the identity of living people.
    Can I include photographs and census images into a GEDCOM file?
    Unfortunately the answer is no. GEDCOM files are text only.
    A fellow researcher has sent me a GEDCOM file. Can I add this information to my existing family tree software and can I use just part of the information?
    The information can be added (called importing) to your existing software programme. Many programs allow you to select part(s) of the new GEDCOM and add those to your tree which is known as "merging" files.
    I don't have software. Can I download my tree from Genes Reunited and upload it to another site?
    Yes, you can do this without software installed. Your tree can be downloaded as a GEDCOM file from Genes Reunited and you then save the file to your computer and upload it to another site. This will then allow you to have two sites where you can view your tree.
    What icon is used for a GEDCOM file on my computer?
    The icon looks like a picture of a tree.

    See also:

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