15 December 2015

What is a GEDCOM file and how do I use it?

I first became familiar with GEDCOM files when PAF support ended and I migrated my data over to Legacy. GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communication. It is a file standard first developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and since adopted and the standard for exchanging data between different genealogy software.

How can you use a GEDCOM? 
One of the great things about using computers to complete Family History work is that the information can be used in many different ways. It is very hard to maintain several different databases. Ancestry.com, Family Tree, WikiTree, rootsweb, MyHeritage, and FindMyPast all allow you to download the information you have in your GEDCOM to their websites so you can use their tools to find out more information about your family.

However, not all of these sites allow you to download information into a GEDCOM file. Interestingly Family Tree currently does not support downloading or exporting information from the website. In order to get this data you would need to use a third-party certified program like Legacy or RootsMagic to convert the information for you into a GEDCOM file.

Why talk about GEDCOM?
I have recently started using MyHeritage.com. When I uploaded my GEDCOM file to the website it searched and found over 12,000 possible record matches for my ancestors.

I am familiar with many of the sources but there are 1282 matches in the Newspaper Archive alone.

After finding a newspaper record MyHeritage also shows you related records for the source you are checking. In the case above there are 10 other related records including pictures, headstones and other records.

Check out using GEDCOM files to find more information about your family members. I suggest that you keep a master file in either Legacy or RootsMagic. Make updates to your master file and then use it to create other GEDCOM files for tools on the Internet.