The word GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data Communication. GEDCOM is also the name of a computer program created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the specifications of a file standard used for exchanging genealogical data between different desktop genealogical family tree software programs and websites. The original GEDCOM Standard program was released in 1984 and the last update to the standard was Version 5.5 in 1996. An incremental upgrade to 5.5.1 was released in 2019. The GEDCOM Standard has become a de facto specification and file standard for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogy desktop software programs and websites.
If a desktop program or website has adopted the GEDCOM program standard, users of the desktop program or website can download their family tree data to a standard GEDCOM file that can then be uploaded to another program or website that recognizes the GEDCOM Standard. Hundreds of website and desktop applications support the reading and writing of GEDCOM files. Individuals who use desktop programs and websites that implement the GEDCOM Standard can share all or portions of their data for collaboration, reports, charts, special analysis, and other innovative purposes.
The GEDCOM Standard file format allows users to build, preserve, collaborate, import and export their data with different applications while maintaining control of the original copy of their data. GEDCOM is still relevant for personal private backup of family tree information. The “ged” file extension is the standard used as a suffix to indicate the file has been formatted using the GEDCOM data specification.
Additional content found at
Frequently Asked Questions
Who owns the copyright to GEDCOM ?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints copyrighted the GEDCOM Standards 1987, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2019
How can I use the published standards ?
The standards may be copied for the purpose of reviewing or programming of genealogical software, provided the below notice is included. All other rights reserved.
Copyright © 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2019 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This document may be copied for purposes of review or programming of genealogical software, provided this notice is included. All other rights reserved.
Are GEDCOM Files still being used by FamilySearch ?
FamilySearch Contributors can submit their trees to FamilySearch.org Genealogies using GEDCOM files to make information available to help other researchers. These submissions remain in the submitters control, preserved indefinitely, to review or remove as seen fit. ( see FamilySearch.org/mytrees )
The GEDCOM 5.5.1 standard is copyright 2019, but I thought it was released in 1999?
A draft was released in 1999 and was widely circulated, but before it was made an official release FamilySearch began work on unrelated software projects. Without a new released standard, and recognizing the advantages of 5.5.1 over 5.5, many in the genealogical community implemented 5.5.1 despite its draft status. In 2019 FamilySearch officially released 5.5.1 without the draft notice.
What's the difference between GEDCOM and GEDCOM-X ?
GEDCOM-X is a distinct family history data format, also created by the church, which addresses some perceived shortcomings in GEDCOM. GEDCOM-X is related to FamilySearch Family Tree's internal data models and is widely implemented by software that interoperates with FamilySearch Family Tree. However, GEDCOM remains more common as a file format for sharing files between software platforms. See more at www.gedcomx.org/About.html .
Can I use GEDCOM to share my family tree with someone else ?
This is the primary purpose of GEDCOM, and should work assuming you both use products that support GEDCOM. However, most software adds various extensions to GEDCOM to export features they have that other software might lack, and those extensions are sometimes not imported correctly by other software, even other software with similar features, so you might see some special features getting lost in transmission.
Additional FAQs found at GEDCOM.io/guides
|2019-11-15||5.5.1||standard||Final version was released with updated email, dates, and copyright|
|1999-10-02||5.5.1||draft||UTF-8, email, URLs, geographic coordinates|
|1996-01-10||5.5||errata||GEDCOM 5.5 errata sheet|
|1996-01-02||5.5||standard||GEDCOM 5.5 with errata|
|1995-12-11||5.5||standard||structured addresses, more name parts|
|1995-08-21||5.4||draft||citation-source-repository model, more name parts, submission record (obsolete)|
|1993-11-04||5.3||draft||Unicode, multimedia, name parts, schema (abandoned)|
|1984||1.0||proposed standard||First Version|