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GEDCOM Help

Many participants in Taylor Family Genes seem to be challenged by the prospect of a GEDCOM file. This page explains and gives advice on that subject.

What is a GEDCOM?

GEDCOM is an acronym standing for

It was developed to enable genealogy databases -- each using different formats -- to talk to each other. With GEDCOM as an intermediary, a genealogical database created in Personal Ancestry File, Family Tree Maker, Legacy or The Master Genealogist can be imported to one of the other programs. It has also become the de facto standard for uploading family history data to the Internet. GEDCOMs are the "lingua franca" of genealogy.

A GEDCOM file is identified by the file name extension ".ged"; it is a plain text file, readable in any text editor and in that way resembles the web page you're reading now. It contains special "tags" to identify individuals and the data about them.

For example, a record of one individual might read:

	0 @I1@ INDI
	1 NAME Bob /Cox/
	1 SEX M
	1 FAMS @F1@
	1 CHAN
	2 DATE 11 FEB 2006

The above tells us that the person's name is Bob Cox; his ID number is @I1@; he's a male; he belongs to family @F1@; and his record was last changed on 11 Feb 2006. A "BIRT" tag would tell us about his birth and a "DEAT" tag would tell us about his death.

The basic GEDCOM standard was first released in 1984 and the revised version 5.5 in 1996. (A draft version, 5.5.1, was released in 1999 and 6.0 in 2002, but both received sporadic implementation by software developers.) As a result of its age, the standard does not support all the bells and whistles of current genealogy applications

Nonetheless, it's important to have a GEDCOM file of your hard-acquired family history data. It's a protection against computer crashes and other disasters which could otherwise make it inaccessible.

To read more about GEDCOM, see this page. For descriptions of the tags, see this one.

How do I make a GEDCOM?

Making a GEDCOM file is easy -- if you have the right software. The Taylor Family Genes project strongly recommends that its members have genealogical database software to keep and organize their data. The steps are

  1. Obtain genealogy database software. (See Software below.) We do not recommend one program over another, but make sure yours has the ability to import and export standard GEDCOM files;
  2. Enter your data into it.
  3. Export your data to a GEDCOM. this will create another file in the GEDCOM standard.

What can I do with a GEDCOM?

Once you have it, lots.

Share with family, friends and colleagues

They may have different software than you and be unable to read your software's native format. But, they will be able to import your GEDCOM and read it in their own software.

Upload it to the Internet

Let's say that you want to put your family tree on the Web. GEDCOM is accepted by most genealogy sites. While most software programs will create Web pages after a fashion, these sites have search engines especially built for genealogy. They take care of the page-building and navigation for you. (No need to worry about HTML codes and links.) A few are

Save it as a backup

A GEDCOM file is small in comparison to many computer files. It fits easily on a flash drive or even a floppy disk. It's a convenient way to safeguard your precious data.

Uploading your GEDCOM

Uploading a GEDCOM to a website is also a fairly straight-forward process. It will, however, usually require you to establish a secure account with the site. (Sites are careful about who puts stuff on their servers.) We'll use the FTDNA site for illustration:

  1. Have an account.
  2. Log on with your username and password.
  3. Navigate to the place for uploading.
  4. Select the file to upload. Most sites give you an option to browse your own computer's drive and allow to to simply click the file.
  5. Click the button to upload the file.

Software

Many genealogy database programs are available. As of July 2015, most popular programs cost from $25 to $90 and import & export GEDCOMs.

We recommend this Cyndi's List page, or use the Google search box below.

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Revised 08 Jul 2015