Gedcom for a dummy

+3 votes
Can someone explain Gedcom to me, please explain as if I am a total dummy.

I'm asking this because several years ago I was sent gedcom files and have tried to download others and have never been able to figure out how to open them and see the information. I have looked at dozens of explanations and attempted to follow the directions and it never works.
in The Tree House by M Ross G2G6 Pilot (441k points)

I can't explain them, but I can tell you how to open them (at least, I managed to open one sent to me).  RootsMagic Essentials 7 is free to download and use.  Learning to actually use it is up to you, because I still fumble around, but you should at least be able to access what you have.

You might want to take a look at this page I put together for newer GEDCOM file users. GEDCOM File Usage Primer  There is a link to Wikipedia on just what a GEDCOM file is on that page..

And while George is essentially correct that GEDCOM files are nothing more than a text file, there are variations of just how a GEDCOM file is created.  Not all GEDCOM Files are created equally.  See the Wikipedia page.

1 Answer

+7 votes
Best answer
It really not too complicated.

The purpose of a gedcom file is to exchange information between genealogy programs. The data is in a standard format, so in principle it does not matter what software generated the file, nor what software you import the file into.

The gedcom file is a text file which is essentially unformated, other than each bit of information is on one line.

Gedcom files are not intended to be opened, like a word processor file, and worked on, but rather to be imported into a genealogy program.

An important feature is sometimes when these files are created you get a file with a “.txt” extension instead of a “.ged” extension. Genealogy software cannot read a txt file, and this is where importing the file can fail. Change the extension from txt to ged and the file should import without issue.

Your genealogy software will have a menu option to import file. Click on that and follow the prompts and you should have no issues.

I use the software Marion mentioned, and it works nicely.

WikiTree has a different, more labor intensive process for importing a gedcom. I have read about it, but have never done it myself. If you go to the WikiTree help menu there is a link for gedcom files. That will give you the details. Also, there are frequent discussion about the process in g2g.
by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (510k points)
selected by Susan Smith
Thanks George

Next questions; I have Ancestry and Family Tree Maker, if I upload them to Ancestry what happens?
I have never uploaded a file to Ancestry, but have downloaded a file from there and imported it into RootsMagic without issue.

Exporting a gedcom from Family Tree Maker should be straight forward. There will be a menu option for it.

Thank you for the Star!

I also use FTM and Ancestry and the sync feature is absolutely wonderful because I also have the Ancestry app on my tablet. I can access everything without the computer and able to update within the app and later sync with the computer.

Ancestry allows you to search your tree directly on their site and see your hints (appear as green leaves) as they would in FTM.

To export from FTM - click "File" then "Export", be sure to change the output format (drop menu in upper right) to GEDCOM. If have the latest version, you can select specific individuals (ancestry or descendants) and the number of generations.

I hope this helps.
Yes Carol, I too love the sync feature between FTM and Ancestry, I tend to do all my research on Ancestry and then sync to FTM. FTM lets me create charts and reports that I then send to various relatives. I started with the 2014 version and have updated when possible since.
I guess my question should have been what happens if I upload a Gedcom to Ancestry or FTM, does it create a new tree?

I wouldn't want to somehow alter my existing trees, they were started in 2013, and even though there's always lots of minor details to tidy up, they are as close to being finished, as is possible.

That's why I decided to enter all the family history here on WikiTree.

After that, I have trees for a friend and for my son-in-law to work on.

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