Generating Gedcom files

Most genealogical databases subscribe to a common standard for exporting their information called Genealogical Data Communication, or GEDCOM. (Beware that some genealogical databases deviate from the standard a little — making things somewhat confusing.)

A GEDCOM file is a text file that contains your genealogical information with a set of tags that tells the genealogical database importing the information where to place it within its structure. For a little history and more information about GEDCOM, see Chapter 3. (Flip ahead to Figure 12-2 later in this chapter to see an example of a GEDCOM file.)

You may be asking, Why is GEDCOM important? It can save you time and energy in the process of sharing information. The next time someone asks you to send them your data, you can export your genealogy data into a GEDCOM file and send it to them instead of typing it up or saving a copy of your entire database.

Making a GEDCOM file using most software programs is quite easy. This is true for RootsMagic, too, if you're using the full version of the program. The trial version of RootsMagic that is on the CD-ROM that accompanies this book allows you to go through most of the steps, but will not actually create the final GEDCOM file. If you're using the full version of RootsMagic or you want to follow the steps in the trial version simply to familiarize yourself with exporting information, try this:

1. Open RootsMagic.

Usually, you can open your software by double-clicking the icon for that program or by going to the Programs (or All Programs) menu from the Start button and selecting the particular program.

2. Use the default database that appears, or choose FileOOpen to open another database.

3. After you open the database for which you want to create a GEDCOM file, choose FileOExport GEDCOM File.

The GEDCOM Export dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 12-1.

Figure 12-1:

The Export dialog box enables you to choose who and what to include in your GEDCOM file.

Sedcom Export

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4. Choose whether you want to include everyone in your database in your GEDCOM file or only selected people. You can also choose the output format and what types of information to include, and then click Export.

If you choose to include only selected people in your GEDCOM file, you need to complete another dialog box marking those people to include. Highlight the individual's name, and then select Mark PeopleOPerson to include him or her. After you select all the people you want to include, click OK.

If you choose to include Everyone from the GEDCOM Export box or after you select certain people to include and click OK, the GEDCOM file to create dialog box opens, where you can enter a name for the file.

5. Type the new name for your GEDCOM file in the File Name field and then click Save.

At this point, whether a file is actually created depends on whether you're using the full version of RootsMagic or the trial version.

XML: GEDCOM's successor?

Although GEDCOM was originally designed to help researchers exchange information with each other using various genealogical software programs, it isn't necessarily the best way to present information on the World Wide Web. There have been efforts over the past several years to create a better way to display and identify genealogical information on the Web. Eventually, these efforts could produce the successor to GEDCOM.

One of the possible successors to GEDCOM is eXtensible Markup Language, more commonly recognized by the acronym, XML. XML is similar to HyperText Markup Language (HTML) in that it uses tags to describe information. However, the purpose of XML is different than HTML. HTML was designed to tell a Web browser, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, how to arrange text and graphics on a page. XML is designed not only to display information, but also to describe the information.

An early version of XML for the genealogical community was GedML developed by Michael Kay. GedML uses XML tags to describe genealogical data on the Web, much like GEDCOM does for genealogical software. Here's an example of information provided in a GEDCOM file and its GedML equivalent:


0 @[email protected] INDI

1 NAME Samuel Clayton /ABELL/



2 DATE 16 Mar 1844

2 PLAC Nelson County, KY

<INDI ID="I0904"> <NAME> Samuel Clayton

<S>ABELL</S></NAME> <SEX>M</SEX> <EVEN EV='BIRT'> <DATE>16 Mar 1844</DATE> <PLAC> Nelson County, KY</PLAC> </EVEN> <FAMS REF="F3 97"/> </INDI>

XML, whether it's GedML or some other XML structure, promises an enhancement of the searchability of genealogical documents on the Web. Right now, it's difficult for genealogically focused search engines to identify what's genealogical in nature and what's not (for more on genealogically focused search engines, see Chapter 4). Also, tags allow search engines to determine whether a particular data element is a name or a place.

XML also provides an efficient way to link genealogical data between Web sites, gives users more control over how particular text is displayed (such as notes), and allows genealogists to place information directly on the Web without using a program to convert databases or GEDCOM files to HTML.

For more information on GedML, see

After a GEDCOM file is created on your hard drive, you can open it in a word processor (such as WordPad or NotePad) and review it to ensure that the information is formatted the way you want it. See Figure 12-2 for an example. Also, reviewing the file in a word processor is a good idea so you can ensure that you included no information on living persons. After you're satisfied with the file, you can cut and paste it into an e-mail message or send it as an attachment using your e-mail program.

Figure 12-2:

An example of a GEDCOM file opened in Windows WordPad.

1 HARE Samuel Clayluo Ocelli


2 DATE 1810

2 FLAC Cedar Cree)c,Nel3an, Kentucky, USA


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