What is GEDCOM?

Gedcom stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunication and is your best friend if you want to switch from one family program to another. Genealogy programs organize all your information in their own special way. Fortunately there is a standard that all family programs understand, namely Gedcom.

Extracts and identifies information

Gedcom extracts the information contained in a family program and organizes it in such a way that all other genealogy programs also understand how to categorize the names, birth dates, children, source references and so on.

As with FamilySearch, we also can thank the Mormons in Utah, Salt Lake City, USA that we have the Gedcom files. They chose to develop Gedcom in 1984. That was long before the internet and the large selection of family programs we have today were in the minds of most genealogists.

Multiple versions GEDCOM

There are several versions of the Gedcom standard, but only version 3.0, 4.0 (launched in 1989) and 5.5 (launched in 1999) are considered official. The others are so-called “draft papers” that can cause problems when the information stored in one family program is to be transferred to a next family program.

Both Brother’s Keeper, TNG, Legacy 7.5 and Legacy 8 use the Gedcom standard 5.5. If you are using a less common genealogy program, it might be worthwhile to determine if the program is using one of the official standards or the draft. It would be smart to do this before you really are in need of the official standard.

Here’s how Gedcom (.ged) looks like:

If you open a gedcom file in a simple word processor as a notepad, you can see how it actually looks. Some of it is understandable for the average genealogist. We can see the name, date of birth and also the place of birth. We can understand whether there are references to sources, but not what (2 SOUR @ S47 @) means. If you scroll a little further down in the file you will see that @ S47 @ is a reference to “Borge Torsnes ministerial book # II3 1878-1902”. If you want to spend time on this you will understand the gedcom file, just like a genealogy program, except that it is much more efficient to load it into a genealogy program that does the same job in seconds.


Sources:
Stoa, Nils Johan og Lars-Jørgen Sandberg (2012) – Våre røtter : slektsgransking som hobby: Cappelen Damm
https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEDCOM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEDCOM
http://www.gedcomx.org/