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 you, or 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 backup 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 backup 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.
How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps
Backing Up Your Genealogy with Backblaze – Q & A
English Parish records are a rich genealogical resource. England’s earliest useful census is from 1841, and civil records only go back to 1837. Let us help you trace your English family history before that time. English parish records might hold the key, and we’ve got all the information you need to get started searching them.
This post is the second in a series on finding your English ancestors by Kate Eakman of Legacy Tree Genealogists. Click here for the first installment on the difference between “Great Britain,” United Kingdom,” and “England;” census records and civil birth, marriage, and death records available through the General Register Office, or GRO.
Census and civil records are extremely useful and important for genealogical research in England. But the earliest useful census is from 1841, while the civil records only extend back to 1837. So what do researchers do to trace their English ancestors back to earlier times? How can you find your family if they emigrated in the 1700s or even earlier?
English Parish Records: The Back Story
Genealogists owe a debt of thanks to King Henry VIII’s chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell. After England’s split from the Roman Catholic Church, Cromwell issued an injunction in September of 1538 requiring every church in England to maintain a register of baptisms, marriages, and burials. The law was followed with varying degrees of consistency until Queen Elizabeth I, and the bishops of the Church of England reaffirmed the injunction in 1597. Wars, insects, water, and carelessness have led to the loss and destruction of many of these parish records, but there are still thousands of registers listing these important events available for our use today.
There are some Catholic Church records available for the years prior to 1538, but in general, the bulk of the ecclesiastical records begin with the Church of England or Anglican Church records starting in the mid- to late-1500s and extending into the late 1800s.
So what are you looking for, where do you find them, and what do those records provide? To explain that, we need to review how the church, whether Roman Catholic or Church of England, divided up the country.
- At the lowest level, we have parishes. The size of a parish can vary, and not every town or village had a parish church. Some parishes include a chapelry or two (small local churches or chapels which were under the jurisdiction of the parish priest). Within the records of the parish church is the most likely place for you to find information about your ancestors.
- Parishes were then grouped together under the jurisdiction of a bishop who was in charge of a diocese. There could be archdeaconries or rural deaneries within a diocese as well. Don’t overlook a record set for the archdeaconry or the rural deanery with the name of your ancestor’s town (Archdeaconry of Richmond or the Deanery of St. John).
- You will also see bishop’s transcripts which are just what it sounds like: copies of the parish records which were sent to the bishop of the diocese. These were generally made annually, and were required beginning in 1598, with most extending to the mid-1800s. Bishop’s transcripts were supposed to be exact copies of the parish records, but they may contain either less information (the local parish priest abbreviated the registers) or more information because the local minister had the luxury of time when recopying the registers and so added details not found in the original parish registers. Of course, there is always the possibility of error creeping in, as is true any time that someone is recopying text from one page to the next. It is wise to consult the bishop’s transcripts as well as the parish registers when they are both available so that you are certain that you have every detail available.
Finally, the parish church was not always the closest church to a family’s home. A baptism, marriage, or burial could have taken place in a neighboring parish. If you are unable to find the parish records where you expect to find them, use a map to search for neighboring parishes and try searching for your ancestors there.
Finding Your Ancestors in English Parish Records
It is not uncommon to find that several children from a family were baptized in one church and the others were baptized in a different church, so look around and keep in mind what is a reasonable walking distance for parents with a baby, a bride and groom, or to carry a dead man’s body for burial. Look for places less than three miles from the home of your ancestors.
The same folks who provide us with a free index to civil birth, marriage, and death records also have provided transcripts of ecclesiastical baptismal, marriage, and burial records at FreeReg. Here you can enter the name, a range of dates, the county, and select the type of records. Be sure to click on the “Name Soundex” box in case your ancestor’s name was spelled slightly differently than the modern version. Although these are transcripts with no links to the actual records, this site can help you to narrow down a broad range of choices to the one most likely to belong to your relative.
English Parish Records: Baptismal Entries
Baptismal entries generally include the date of the baptism, the place of the baptism (including the church name), and the names of the parents of the child. The mother’s maiden name is almost never included unless the child was illegitimate. It is also important to remember that baptisms could occur anywhere from the day of birth up to three or more years after the child’s birth. Unless the record specifies the date of birth, assume that it occurred up to three years earlier when continuing your research.
Transcripts of parish register on the left and bishop’s transcript on the right for the same person, John Parker. Due to the use of Latin and the different sentence construction, the names appear to be slightly different, but both are translated as John Parker, son of Joshua and Catherine Parker. Images courtesy https://freereg.org.uk.
English Parish Records: Marriages
Marriage records will include the date and location of the marriage, which was usually the parish church of the bride. Both the bride and the groom will be named, but it is rare to find any additional information such as the occupation of the groom or the names of their parents.
The examples of a parish register and the archdeacon’s transcripts provide variant spellings of the groom’s surname: Wasy and Acye or Wacye. The bride’s given and surnames have different spellings as well: Amie and Amye and Cots or Cottes. This is why we encourage researchers to use the “Name Soundex” box, particularly since these records are for the man known as Thomas Wise today.
Note the different spellings of the names although the archdeacon’s transcript was supposedly a copy of the parish register. Images courtesy https://freereg.org.uk.
English Parish Records: Burials
Burial records, which are not the same as death records, provide the name of the deceased, the date and place of his or her burial, and the names of the parents. If the deceased was married, the name of the husband or wife is also included. Most burials occurred between one and three days of death, but unless the record specifies a specific date of death, it is best not to assume a particular day.
The burial record below is an excellent example of additional information which can be included on a bishop’s transcript. The parish records no longer exist for burials from the cathedral church of Durham, but the bishop’s transcript provides very useful additional details. From this record, we learned that William James, who was buried on 3 April 1634, was baptized on 24 June 1632. His father, also named William James, was buried 21 January 1659/60.
The split date for the burial of William James, Sr. (21 January 1659/60) indicates the date differences of the Julian and Gregorian calendars. This type of annotation can be seen during the first three months of each year in English records until 1751 when England officially accepted the Gregorian calendar. Image courtesy https://freereg.org.uk. Click here to learn more about Julian and Gregorian calendars.
Online Parish Clerks Websites
There are also a number of Online Parish Clerks (OPC) websites which allow you to search for transcriptions. Lancashire’s OPC site is one of the most complete sites and is easy to use. If you are fortunate enough to have ancestors from Lancashire, definitely use this site. For other OPC sites, go to UKBMD.org for links to about 20 other projects.
Obtaining Copies of English Parish Records
Once the transcripts of your English ancestor’s baptisms, marriages, and burials have been located, you can turn to several sources to locate the actual copies of the records. There are some digital copies available on FamilySearch.org. (Note that the agreement that the Family History Library has with a number of the repositories requires that you access the records from a local LDS Family History Center and not from your home.) You can also find copies of the documents on the for-fee site FindMyPast.com (and click here for English Catholic parish records at Findmypast.com).
Devon Parish Registers showing 1660 baptisms from http://findmypast.com.
Parish registers and bishop’s transcripts are very useful for tracing English ancestors back to the mid-1500s. The registers include baptismal, marriage, and burial records and although they often contain only the bare minimum of information, that can be used to research and extend your family tree. Because everyone in the parish was included–not just the wealthy and powerful–these records can allow us to trace our English ancestors for many generations.
Get more help finding your ancestors
Legacy Tree guest blogger Kate Eakman grew up hearing Civil War stories at her father’s knee and fell in love with history and genealogy at an early age. With a master’s degree in history and over 20 years experience as a genealogist, Kate has worked her magic on hundreds of family trees and narratives. Let Legacy Tree Genealogists like Kate apply their expertise to your family history brick walls! Click here to request a free consult–and take this exclusive Genealogy Gems coupon code with you: $100 off a 20-hour+ research project with code GGP100. (Offer subject to change without notice.)
With an update to PERSI for genealogy, Pennsylvania birth and death records, and a tidbit or two from the United Kingdom and Scotland, you will start this year off right! It’s a new year and we are ringing in some great new and updated genealogical record collections.
PERSI for Genealogy
A monthly PERSI update has been added at Findmypast. With over 67,000 new articles and five new titles, the Periodical Source Index is the go-to source for those looking for stories of their ancestors. The new titles cover the American Historical Society, Chicago, Maryland, and British family histories & heraldry and will allow you to discover articles, photos, and other material you might not find using traditional search methods.
To fully appreciate PERSI as a genealogical tool, read our previous blog post “PERSI for Genealogy: the Periodical Source Index.” And you’ll find more related articles at the bottom of this article.
Pennsylvania – Birth and Death Records
This week, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released the 1911 births (105 years old) and 1966 death records (50 years old) to the public. This makes birth records publicly accessible from 1906 through 1911, and deaths 1906 through 1966. This collection index is free through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission portal.
Ancestry.com offers these records in digital form as well, but there is a subscription cost to use Ancestry. However, Pennsylvania residents can access these records free of charge through Ancestry.com Pennsylvania.
To access the index only, start with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission page on Vital Statistics for links to the indexes. You need to know the year of the event and the surname. If you do not know the year, you can search several years, one by one. These indexes are not digitized but are PDF files of the ones the State uses. If you locate a state file number for a certificate, you can order it from the State Archives.
However, if you are a Pennsylvania resident, you will be able to access the certificates digitally using the link to Ancestry.com Pennsylvania as mentioned above.
United Kingdom – Huntingdonshire – Marriages
New at Findmypast this week, the Huntingdonshire Marriages 1754-1837 collection contains over 1,000 names taken from 26 volumes of marriage records from the Huntingdonshire district of Cambridgeshire. These records will allow you to discover when and where your ancestor was married.
Scotland – Roxburghshire – Patient Registers
Also at Findmypast, explore the Roxburghshire, Kelso Dispensary Patient Registers 1777-1781. These registers contain over 1,700 names that list the date and outcome of patients’ treatment (such as cured, relieved of symptoms, or died). This may be particularly helpful for those unable to find a death date.
It should be noted that these are transcriptions only and you will not be able to see a digital image of the original.
More PERSI for Genealogy Articles
PERSI Digitized Collections Gaining Ground
New FindMyPast Hints Help Find Records
The Genealogy Gems Podcast Premium Episode 135: Comparsion of Google Scholar & PERSI (Premium Member Subscription Needed)
We have a new title for our Friday series, but it is still your go-to list for new and updated genealogical records! Here is this week’s suggestions for Australia, North Carolina, and Florida. Happy hunting!
AUSTRALIA – MILITARY
Fold3.com has added WWI Service Records for Australian soldiers to their website. This collection contains service dossiers for the Australian Imperial Force, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train, Australian Flying Corps, and the Australian Army Nursing Service. It also has depot records for those serving at home. Records found in this collection are administrative files that only provide a general overview of the individual’s service. Further information may include details about casualties, wills, medals, pensions, mail, and personal effects.
UNITED STATES – NORTH CAROLINA – LAND GRANTS
Ancestry.com now offers the North Carolina, Land Grant Files for 1693-1960 for those researching this area. Organized by county name, these records offer warrants, surveys, and sometimes a hand drawn map. Additional information may include:
- Certificate number
- Name of grantee
- Number of acres
- Date the grant was issued
- Entry Book and page number
- Location description
UNITED STATES – FLORIDA – PASSENGER LISTS
Florida, Passenger Lists, 1898-1963 is a record collection provided by Ancestry.com. It is an index-only of passenger lists of ships and airplanes arriving from foreign ports to various Florida ports. The names found on this index are linked to images of the passenger lists, which were copied from the NARA microfilm. Information you might find on these indexed records include:
- Given name and surname of passenger
- Age, sex, and ethnicity/nationality
- Birthplace and last residence
- Name of friend or relative
- Final destination
- Port of departure and/or arrival
- Date of arrival and/or departure
Many passenger list forms from the twentieth century are two pages long. You should click the Previous and Next buttons to make sure you are seeing the all the information.
Here are this week’s collections of new genealogy records online. Included are Scotland mental health records and, in the U.S., WWII draft registrations, WI probate and NY marriages and deaths.
SCOTLAND – GLASGOW – MENTAL HEALTH. Arranged by county, the pages contain details of all licensed institutions operating in 1857 when a special report of the Royal Lunacy Commission was being prepared. The Mental Health Institutions Index will give you the information you need to order the entire record.
U.S. – MILITARY. Eight new states have been added to the U.S. World War II Draft cards, 1942 on Fold3.com. New states include North Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Mexico, Washington DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These draft cards are a collection of The Fourth Registration, also known as “old man’s registration.” Men participating in this draft were born on or between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897.
U.S. – WISCONSIN- PROBATE. Wisconsin, Wills and Probate Records for 1800-1987 have been updated at Ancestry.com. This collection includes images of probate records for approximately 50 percent of Wisconsin counties. Wills, Letters of Administration, Guardianships, Inventories, and Bonds are just a few of the great gems you will buy erectile dysfunction medication online find there!
U.S. – NEW YORK- MARRIAGES. FamilyTree.com is offering a new digital index for New York City marriages, 1908-1938. This index is free and open to the public. Once you have found an ancestor using this index, you can write to the NYC Clerk to request a copy of the full record for $10.00. A full record may inlcude the marriage record, applications, affidavits, and licenses.
U.S. – NEW YORK – DEATHS. Our friend at Extreme Genes let us know about the recent addition of the 1966 deaths for New York State Death Index. Free and available online, this database covers deaths in New York State for 1957 – 1966. Decedents name, sex, date of death, and age at death are given in the index.
Be sure to check in next week to see what’s new in genealogy collections. Afraid you will miss the post? Sign up for Lisa’s free weekly e-newsletter so you will get future updates. Just enter your email address in the signup box at the top of this webpage. You’ll also receive a free e-book with Lisa Louise Cooke’s Google search strategies for genealogists.