GEDCOMs–understanding and working with them

Genealogists use GEDCOMs as a tool to transfer their files from one computer to another, and to backup their database in a compressed and simplified manner.  A GEDCOM is simply a computer file containing a ‘shorthand’ version of your information  that virtually all computers can read and understand.  In fact, you can read what is in your GEDCOM by opening it in your word processor (or text editor) and seeing what it says.  It isn’t the most interesting reading, but it is easily understood–and can be edited in your word processor as well.

Many years ago the LDS Church developed the GEDCOM. which has become the world standard for transferring genealogical data from one computer to another.  In fact, GEDCOM gets its name from “GEnealogical Data COMmunication”  and is used by all mainstream software developers today as the standard within the industry.

Perhaps the most important use of the GEDCOM is to transfer data from one computer to another.  The best part about this ability is that it can also transfer data from one operating system to another–meaning that if you use Windows or Vista (the Microsoft operating system) and a friend uses an Apple computer (Apple OSX operating system) or even UNIX , you can exchange data even though your computers “speak” different languages.

By creating and saving a copy of your GEDCOM you can easily store a backup of your data, in case your computer hard drive crashes or otherwise becomes corrupted.  If loaded onto a flash drive, or even a CD or floppy disk, it can act as an ‘insurance policy’ so all your work isn’t lost should something happen to your computer.  ALWAYS store your backup GEDCOM in a place away from your computer–so they both aren’t damaged or stolen at the same time.

And, as often happens, you discover a cousin across the world somewhere–say in England; you can create a GEDCOM of all or even a small portion of your database and email it to them.  They, in turn, can open it as a copy of your work–or import it into their database.  However, you should never import someone’s GEDCOM into your work without first opening separately to make certain it is what you are expecting; or that it is in the form that you prefer.  You will have to link the first name on the new data to one you already have to keep the family tree organized.

So, how do we create a GEDCOM?

If you are a PAF user, here are the steps.

  1. Open your PAF file that has the data you want to include in the gedcom file.
  2. Click on <FILE> to open a drop-down menu
  3. In the menu select  <EXPORT>
  4. A window will open–select the format to create the GEDCOM in (PAF 5, PAF 4, etc.)
  5. Then, select what information you want included in the GEDCOM you will create.
  6. When all selections are made, click on <EXPORT>
  7. Another window opens–requiring you to tell where to put this file when it is created, and what name it will be called.  Where it says “Save As” select a folder where the completed gedcom will be placed; and where it says “File Name” give the GEDCOM a name.  It is always best to include in the name the date, followed by the extension .ged
  8. When the information in step #7 has been entered, click on <ENTER>
  9. Your computer does it’s magic, and a little window pops up telling you how many people are in your GEDCOM, and how many families are included as well.
  10. You will find your GEDCOM at the location specified under “Save As” in step #7

Congratulations!!  You have successfully created a GEDCOM.

 If you are a LEGACY user:

  1. Open your LEGACY file that has the data you want to include in the gedcom file.
  2. MORE TO BE ADDED LATER
If you are a REUNION user:
  1. Open your REUNION file that has the data you want to include in the gedcom file.
  2. Click on <FILE> to open a drop-down menu
  3. Select <IMPORT/EXPORT> and then with your mouse select <EXPORT GEDCOM>
  4. In the box that opens, select ALL for your entire file, or MARKED PEOPLE for only certain individuals to be included.  Remember, you must first select those certain individuals by clicking their names in the Index first.  Change any other options at this time–such as “Include Sources” and so forth
  5. When information in the box has been selected as you want it to be, click EXPORT on the bottom right (blue icon)
  6. A new box opens where you first must give your new file a name so the computer can recognize it.  This is done in the text box called “save as.”  TIP!! It is always the best choice to include a date in the name, so you don’t accidentally open the wrong file in the future.
  7. In the same box, you then must tell the computer where you want the new GEDCOM file stored.  This is done below the naming text box in the open field.  Here you will select a folder to place your GEDCOM in–which could be your desktop, in your document folder, on a flash drive, or about anywhere else you may choose.
  8. After naming your file and telling your computer where to store this new GEDCOM file, click on <EXPORT> and then a little box opens showing the progress of the file as it is saved.
  9. When finished, your gedcom should be where you told your computer to put it.  Go there, using a mouse click or two, and look for the name you gave the file.
AND…that’s all there is to it.  After a couple of times of doing this you will see how easy and intuitive it is.  After you master the creation of a GEDCOM, come on back to this site and learn something else that you need a little help with.
                                               Happy Hunting!  (for your ancestors)

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