What is GEDCOM?

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GEDCOM (an acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication), is the standard for exchanging data from one genealogy program to another. Most new genealogy enthusiasts do not take the time to investigate the usefulness of this standardized method of importing and exporting data between programs. As an Internet user, you may find a pedigree that links into your own somewhere on the web. In most cases there are two ways of getting that information in your software of choice: enter the data manually, or download a GEDCOM file and use your software’s import feature. For a few names, the answer may be manual entry, but for several hundred new entries, a small lesson in GEDCOM can save you hours of typing. All of the major software programs for genealogy have both import and export capabilities. However, none of them do it in exactly the same way. For detailed instructions on using GEDCOM, see the documentation supplied with your software.

Although the implementation of GEDCOM may be different with the various programs available, there are some basic guidelines you should use with any program when importing a new GEDCOM file:

  • Import the GEDCOM file into a new directory/project to begin with. If you choose to import into your existing data make sure you have a current backup.
  • Most programs create an error log during the import process. Check this data carefully. It is information that was not imported correctly and may need to be manually corrected.
  • Verify that you receive the data correctly and that it is good data. There are many GEDCOMS available that may not be up to your standards for entry, or you may want to verify sources before finalizing the merge with your existing data.
  • After verifying integrity and manually entering the information from the error file, either merge the data using your software’s merge function, or export to a new GEDCOM file and import the corrected file into your master database.
 

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