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gedcom question

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You know how (it used to be) that Word Perfect couldn't open Microsoft Word documents, and vice versa; so if you wanted your Word doc to open in WP you first had to convert it to something like an RTF file?

Same principle here. There were lots of family history programs floating around, and the Church basically developed the GEDCOM format as a way to make sure that genealogical data could be shared regardless of what program people were using.

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No matter how anyone explains it to me, I just don't get what it is.  Does anyone here have a simple explanation they can give me?


GEnealogical Data COMmunication. A database format developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make it possible to transfer genealogical data between users, computers and large databases. It is supported by most genealogical database applications.

Here's a sample {The stuff in curly braces — {---} — are explanatory notes):


0 HEAD {from here to the next line labeled zero "0" is a "header": it tells the reader what this file is.}

1 SOUR PAF {the program that generated this GEDCOM file (down to the next 1)}

2 NAME Personal Ancestral File


2 CORP The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

3 ADDR 50 East North Temple Street

4 CONT Salt Lake City, UT 84150


1 DATE 17 FEB 2001

2 TIME 12:43:01

1 FILE sample.ged

1 GEDC {this line tells the reader that this is a "real" GEDCOM file}

2 VERS 5.5



1 SUBM @[email protected]

0 @[email protected] SUBM {this section (to the next 0) identifies the researcher}

1 NAME John Apperson

1 ADDR 123 Sample Drive

2 CONT Sample City


1 _EMAIL [email protected]

0 @[email protected] INDI {each entry for a person starts with a 0; the digit is the ID for this person}

1 NAME Happy /Smith/ {each piece of information about the person starts with a 1; this one is his name}

2 GIVN Happy {both the "given name" and the "surname" appear twice: once here and once above}

2 SURN Smith

1 SEX M {only two options for "SEX", so there is only one line for this information}

1 BIRT {this one starts all the birth information}

2 DATE 1 JAN 2000

2 PLAC Los Angeles,California

1 FAMC @[email protected] {this identifies the marriage that produced this person (his parents); both people in this marriage have the same FAMC code}

1 CHAN {I have not been able to figure this one out and can't find anyone else who knows, either}

2 DATE 17 FEB 2001

3 TIME 12:42:42

0 @[email protected] INDI {next person}

1 NAME Daddy /Smith/

2 GIVN Daddy

2 SURN Smith



2 DATE 1 JAN 1975

2 PLAC Los Angeles,California

1 FAMS @[email protected] {identifies the marriage of this person}

1 FAMC @[email protected] {child of this marriage}


2 DATE 17 FEB 2001

3 TIME 12:29:33

0 @[email protected] INDI

1 NAME Momma /Moore/

2 GIVN Momma

2 SURN Moore



2 DATE 1 JAN 1975

2 PLAC Los Angeles,California

1 FAMS @[email protected] {this person was married to the other person in @[email protected]}

1 FAMC @[email protected] {this person is the child of this marriage}


2 DATE 17 FEB 2001

3 TIME 12:29:39

0 TRLR {this is the end of the file}


Death information, christening information and all the other kinds of data have their own codes (DEATH, etc), and the formats for each are about the same.

TMI, perhaps, but I find this kind of thing fascinating.


Edited by LeSellers

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They should have structured it as a chiasmus.

:hmm: I know the guy who developed the format (it was one guy) and a significant portion of the church's genealogical database.  Would you like me to ask him if he could come up with a new variation? He's learning to compose music right now (among other things) and might see this as a related challenge.

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