Monday, December 7, 2009

Working with GEDCOM Files Made Easy

Part 1: What Is A GEDCOM File?

A GEDcom file is an acronym, meaning a GEnealogical Data COMmunication. It is a file format that allows family history and genealogy researchers to share genealogical information.

The three videos below break down how to use GEDcom files from how to create a GEDcom, and show how to use them with commonly used software programs like Family Tree Maker and Personal Ancestral File. The final video also how to download GEDcom files from websites like and import them into your family history program for your own personal use.

What does a GEDcom file look like? If you opened one, it would likely look similar to the example shown below, although it will likely be much, much longer:

0 @I1@ INDI
1 NAME John /Smith/
2 DATE 21 FEB 1805
2 SOUR @S1@
4 TEXT Transcription from birth certificate would go here
3 NOTE This birth record is preferred because it comes from the birth certificate
3 QUAY 2
2 DATE 22 FEB 1805
2 SOUR @S2@
4 TEXT Transcription from death certificate would go here
3 QUAY 2

Well, that is somewhat confusing, that's for sure. "Okay, GenTips, how can that gobbledy-gook possibly help me?" you may be asking. Well, GEDcom files are extremely easy to use once you get the hang of them. The first video shows how to create GEDcoms and store them on your computer.

Part 2: Working With PAF

PAF is short for Personal Ancestral File, a free software program available from, which is one of the most important websites for genealogical information available on the Internet. All I can say is bookmark that site because you will be returning to it again and again. I have a link below where you can download PAF.

Part 3: Working With Family Tree Maker

This video outlines how to use GEDcom files with one of the better family history software programs available called Family Tree Maker, and compares it with PAF. The video ends showing how to download GEDcoms from Familysearch and use the file with either PAF or Family Tree Maker.

If you are interested in purchasing the Family Tree Maker software program, you can check it out on on the links below. Both versions are great, with the Deluxe obviously providing some added features that you may need.

Family Tree Maker 2010 Essentials

Family Tree Maker 2010 Deluxe

The Deluxe edition is slightly more expensive than the Essentials edition and there's also an even more expensive edition (called Family Tree Maker 2010 Platinum) for those with greater genealogy needs. A good book you might want to pick up on the program is also available on Amazon called The Official Guide to Family Tree Maker, written by Tana L Pedersen.

There are new editions of the Family Tree Maker program each year with updates and changes. I personally use the program and I'm happy with it, but don't forget about the Personal Ancestral File program, which is a free program downloadable from I have used the PAF program for years and highly recommend it to anyone asking about how to to store their family information on their computer. Most, if not all, of the features offered by other programs are available with PAF and it will likely meet all your needs if you are just starting out or looking for a handy way to store all of your information.

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