March 23, 2017

GEDCOM File (What is It & How to Use This Genealogy File)

A GEDCOM file is a universal type of file that genealogists use to move data from one genealogy software program to another. Using these helpful tips below, you can open genealogy files your family members send to youor share your data with others.

When and Why You Would Need to Open a GEDCOM File

A Genealogy Gems reader recently wrote:

I recently signed up for [the Genealogy Gems] newsletter. I received a CD from a relative with family history information that was set up through Family Tree Maker. I am currently not subscribed to any of the genealogy sites. My question is, how can I retrieve this information [from the CD.] Can you help?

The answer to the question is: Use another program to open the GEDCOM file from the CD. Let me show you how easy it is to open and create GEDCOM files.

GEDCOM Basics

GEDCOM is an acronym standing for Genealogical Data Communication. It is a universal genealogy file that allows you to exchange genealogical data between different genealogy software programs.

Because it is “universal” in nature, a GEDCOM file can be read by many different types of genealogy software. That means, if you are using RootsMagic, you can still share all the data you have collected with your cousin who uses Family Tree Maker, and she will not have to type in all the names, dates, and places manually.

Occasionally, not all the information included in a GEDCOM file will transfer perfectly. There are differences in how that information is interpreted and some things, like notes and sources, may be affected. However, for the most part, much of it will transfer correctly.

How to Open a GEDCOM File

Our reader needs to open a GEDCOM file contained on the CD he was sent. To do this, he must have a program on his computer that will read a GEDCOM file. There is an option I would like to share with you.

RootsMagic is a downloadable software for both Mac and PC users. (And, it is the one we here at The Genealogy Gems Podcast use! That’s why we accepted them as a sponsor of the podcast.)

Once you have downloaded  RootsMagic to your computer, open it. At the top left corner, click on File and from the pull-down menu, choose Import.

import GEDCOM file

Now, a new pop-up window will open and ask from what source you would like to import from. You will notice several options, but for our reader’s question, he will choose the GEDCOM option.

GEDCOM transfer

Then, choose I know where the file is, and the file explorer window will appear. In this case, our reader would click on the CD that he has loaded into his computer’s disk drive, and follow the prompts to open the GEDCOM file. All that information his relative sent him will be slurped into RootsMagic and he can easily look through the pedigree of his family.

Family tree using GEDCOM

Creating a GEDCOM to Share with Others

RootsMagic also allows you to create a GEDCOM file. This is what you would send to your relatives when they would like to have a copy of the family tree.

To do this, open RootsMagic. Click on File, as we did before, and this time choose Export from the pull-down options.

The export box will pop-up. You can choose what you wish to have included in this export. I typically choose Everyone, but you can do yours by family names by clicking on the down arrow next to Everyone and choosing Select from list.

GEDCOM export

Once you have clicked OK, the GEDCOM file is ready to be saved to your computer. Save the file on your desktop or somewhere you will be able to locate it again. Remember to name the file and pay attention to where you are saving it!

Creating a GEDCOM from Ancestry.com

If you have stored your genealogy data at Ancestry.com, you may be interested to know that you can create a GEDCOM file for your family tree there as well. It’s just a matter of signing into your Ancestry account, locating the Tree Settings, and then clicking Export. I found a nice article outlining the steps on how to do that here.

Protecting Your GEDCOM Files

Creating a GEDCOM is also a great way to save or back-up your hours and hours of family history research. One of the saddest tales of genealogists everywhere is losing their computer or printed family files with all that work!

GEDCOM files can be saved to a hard drive, saved to an external unit, emailed, put on a thumb drive, or uploaded to the Cloud. You can also invest in a company like Backblaze, the official backup of The Genealogy Gems Podcast,  that will automatically back-up all your files. (Read more about Backblaze, here.) All of these methods protect you and your genealogy.

More on Protecting Your Genealogical Data

Learn more about Backblaze, The Genealogy Gems Podcast’s first choice when it comes to backing up precious genealogy research and personal files. Read the article’s below and determine if Backblaze is the answer you’ve been looking for. We’ve set up a special offer for you, too. Click the image below to save $10.00 on your first subscription of Backblaze.

Why PC World Likes Backblaze for Cloud Backup

How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps

Backing Up Your Genealogy with Backblaze – Q & A

About Amie

Amie Bowser Tennant is a passionate genealogist, speaker, and writer known worldwide. Along with being a dedicated wife and mother to three, she stays rooted in her local genealogical community by serving in many capacities. Amie shares our goal to inspire others with savvy know-how and great finds!

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