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From FamilySearch Wiki
The acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunications. GEDCOM is a data structure created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for storing and exchanging genealogical information so that many different computer programs can use it. It is identified by the file type ".ged".
GEDcom files are text files that contain the information and linkages necessary to exchange genealogical data between two entities. The entities may use the same software application or differ in software application. Examples of these exchanges would include:
- Between two users of the same application - One family member sending new information from PAF to another family member using PAF.
- Between users of differing applications - A PAF genealogist receiving information from someone using Ancestral Quest.
- From an Internet site to a local application - Downloading information from www.FamilySearch.org to your PAF.
- From your application to an Internet site - Uploading information to www.FamilySearch.org for inclusion in the Pedigree Resource File.
As a text-based file, it is easily transmitted as an attachment to e-mails or downloaded from web sites. The recipient then uses the "Import" function of their application to include the GEDcom file contents in their genealogy. Also, applications may be found on the web to print or manipulate individual GEDcom files without importing them into applications.
For more detailed information, the full text of the current version 5.5 standard is available, courtesy of Rootsweb.