All about GEDCOMs

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GEDCOM is an acronym for; GEnealogy Data COMmunications, a standardized format for genealogy databases that allows the exchange of data among different software programs and operating systems.

In other words, YOUR genealogy program, regardless of the manufacturer, is capable of exporting a file that can be read and imported by MY genealogy program. This allows us, with just a few mouse clicks, to exchange databases.

The file you produce or export from your program will have the three letter DOS extension .ged Thatís (dot GED)

Once you have created this file and it is on your hard disk, (or floppy) you can do anything you like with it. You can put it on a floppy disk and use the Postal Service to snail-mail it to someone. Better yet, you can "ATTACH" it to an Email and send it to anyone who has an Email address. (Juno is an exception)

It is absolutely imperative you learn how to do the above. You just cannot function as a modern genealogist without this basic skill. The good news is: there is nothing to it! Anyone can learn it with an afternoonís practice.

I am going to break it down into the three areas that seem to cause people the most problems.
1st, creation of the GEDCOM itself. This is an export function.
2nd, Importing a GEDCOM that someone has sent to you.
3rd, Selecting a specific individual from your file and creating a GEDCOM just for that individual and his or her descendants.

CREATING A GEDCOM. A step by step procedure.

Probably more convenient if you print this procedure before attempting to use it. I would not try to read and make any sense of the procedure. It is intended for you to follow the directions step-by-step.

I am using Family TreeMaker for Windows but your program will be much the same. This procedure will produce a GEDCOM of your entire database. If you want less than your entire file scroll down to procedure number 3 that allows you to produce just one branch of selected individuals.

Step 1, Your genealogy program is open and active. It is immaterial which page you are on. From the File Menu choose, "Copy/Export Family File".

Step 2, A dialog box opens. One of your choices is: "save as file type". Use the arrow to select "GED or GEDCOM". Another choice in this dialog box is the "file name". Here you must type a name for your new GEDCOM file. It does not matter if you add the extension. If you do not, the program is going to automatically add the extension (dot GED). We are almost ready to leave this box. Before we do, glance at the "save in" choice up at the top of the box. This tells you the directory where your GEDCOM file will be stored on your hard-disk. You may want to make a note of the directory. You will be looking for it later. We have finished with this box. Click "Save" or "OK".

Step 3, Another dialog box opens. This "Export to GEDCOM" box assumes you know the type of GEDCOM file you want to create. That would be true if you were sending the file to me. You already know I use Family TreeMaker for Windows (FTW). If you do not know: use PAF as your destination. Iím under the impression it is the most generic. A very important step is your next choice in this box. The "Fields to Export" choice. A lot of people overlook this step, then wonder why their individual notes were not exported. We will be temporarily leaving this box but will return. Click on the "Fields to Export" button.

Step 4, You are in the "Fields to Export" box. Several of the fields are mandatory such as the individualís name and birthdate. The text is usually colored and at the very top of the page. You do not have the option to "not export" them. The other fields are at your discretion. You may choose to "export" them or "not export". Select one of them by clicking it once and you will see the "Export" and "Donít Export" buttons changing. The field most important is probably the one named "Notes" or "Individual Notes". Most people put their documentation in the notes. Take your time in this box. Experiment with including and excluding fields until you know what you are doing. When you have the fields to your satisfaction you get back to the box we left temporarily by clicking OK.

Step 5, We are back to the "Export to GEDCOM" box. There is really nothing we need do here. Probably the "Abbreviate Records" choice is checked and the "Indent Records" is not, but leave them the way they are and click OK.

Step 6, Thatís all there is to it. Depending upon the size of your database you may have to wait a moment while the program exports your records to the file. When there is no longer any activity, use File Manager or Explorer to look into the directory where the GEDCOM file is stored. You will find it there, ready to be used in any manner you choose.

Email Ali if you have problems with this procedure. Suggestions that might improve the procedure would be appreciated.

Click here to Email Ali

Procedure #2

Importing the contents of a GEDCOM into your Genealogy Program. I use Family Treemaker for Windows but your program should be similar.

Probably more convenient if you print this procedure before attempting to use it. I would not try to read and make any sense of the procedure. It is intended for you to follow the directions step-by-step.

1 Somewhere on your hard-drive or floppy there is a file with the extension .ged (thats DOT GED). You need to know where it is because you are going to tell your genealogy program where it is located.

2 Open your genealogy program and make some page active. It is immaterial what page you are on.

3 From the "File Menu" choose OPEN FAMILY FILE.

4 A box appears. Toward the very top is a little window named LOOK IN: the program already knows you want to open a file. This little LOOK IN window with the arrow allows you to tell your program the directory/folder in which the file is stored. Click or double-click the drives and directories/folders until you have answered the programís question as to where the file is located that you want to open. Do not click open or OK yet. We still have some things to do in this "Open Family File" box.

5 Toward the bottom of the box there is another little window with an arrow named FILES OF TYPE. This window allows you to tell your program the TYPE of file you want to open. Click the arrow and use your mouse to select GED or GEDCOM.

6 Only one more little window to go and that is the FILE NAME selection window. We have not mentioned it before but there is one very big window in this box. At this time you should be able to see your file in the big window. Simply click it once with your mouse and it will appear in the little FILE NAME window.

7 We are ready to leave this box but before you go, take a look at what you have done. You will be using some variation of this procedure in many "Windows" applications---not just your genealogy program. Using the LOOK IN you told your program where the file was located. With FILES OF TYPE you specified the TYPE of file it was to look for. After narrowing it down the FILE NAME window shows the EXACT file in which you are interested. Click Open or OK.

8 This box looks almost identical to the one we just left. This one is named "New Family File" instead of "Open Family File". Instead of LOOK IN, that little window is now titled SAVE IN. Since we are converting a GEDCOM file to one of your "Family Files" the program wants to know where you want to store this new file. I use Family Treemaker and do not have to change anything in this box. The program anticipates where the file should go. Your program may do this also. Most programs require you to put a family file on your hard-drive and will not allow you to put a new Family file on a floppy. Use the SAVE IN window to click and double-click until you have selected the directory in which you want to store this new Family File. For storage we will use the directory/folder in which your genealogy program is located. Mine is C:\FTW. We are putting this new Family file in with your other Family files and all your genealogy program files. Do not leave this box just yet. We have a little more to do.

9 The little window toward the bottom of the box has changed from FILE OF TYPE to SAVE AS TYPE. It probably is already showing your genealogy program. If it is not, just use the arrow to select your program. One more thing to do before we leave this box.

10 The FILE NAME window is probably suggesting a name for your new file. It would suggest the same name as the GEDCOM file simply changing the extension from dot-ged to dot-whatever extension your program uses. Mine is FTW. If the name is acceptable to you we are finished in this box. Click the SAVE button.

11 We are in the "Fields to Import" box. One of the buttons is the "Fields to Import" button. Click that button and we will temporarily leave this box.

12 Here we want to make certain we are importing NOTES. Notes and Marriage Notes is the spot most people put their sources or documentation. It is exactly the same as step 4 when we created a GEDCOM in the "Create a GEDCOM Procedure" When you have the fields selected click OK.

13 We are back to the "Import from GEDCOM" box. Nothing needs to be done here so click OK.

14 Your program should take it from this point. It closes the Family File you had open originally and opens this new Family File. Along the way the program will ask you if you want to view ERRORS generated during the importing procedure. For now, letís say no and let the program open your new Family File.

Please make suggestions as to how this procedure can be improved. You will not hurt my feelings and you may make it a little easier for the next person. Email Ali if you get stuck anywhere.

Procedure # 3

Probably more convenient if you print this procedure before attempting to use it. I would not try to read and make any sense of the procedure. It is intended for you to follow the directions step-by-step.

Let's assume you want to send me all the descendants of a particular individual. This is a very common request I receive several times a day.

Step 1: Family Treemaker is open and running and you are on the family page of the individual in question.

Step 2: Select (highlight) the name of the individual.

Step 3: Click the "DESCEND" button on the tool bar.

Step 4: A descendancy chart appears but it probably does not have all the generations we really want.

Step 5: From the "CONTENTS" button on the menu bar choose "NUMBER OF GENERATIONS"

Step 6: Continue to request more and more generations until you are satisfied that you are requesting more than actually exists. This way you know you have them all. It does no harm to request an excessive number. You can request 30 or 40 generations. The program is only going to give you the 10 or 12 you actually have.

Step 7: You now have a descendancy chart displayed that contains all the information you have to offer. You cannot see it all because of the smallness of the screen but that doesn't matter. Now we are ready to make the descendancy chart into a GEDCOM.


Step 9: A new window appears containing a number of selection boxes. One of the boxes is titled "SAVE AS TYPE." Using the arrow alongside, change the "save as type" to read "GEDCOM.

Step 10: Carefully note the filename, (you can change it if you like) and most importantly where it is being saved. You need to be able to find the file later. Look at the very top and you will see "SAVE IN" Thats the folder where the program is going to save your new GEDCOM.

Once again if you have any problems with this procedure email Ali. By learning where you became confused I can re-write the procedure making it easier for the next person.

Please consider a donation to help keep the Waller pages on line. The Waller Family pages will be preserved here for as long as we can keep it going. Thank you. Ali.


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