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Genealogy Data Communication

Prashant Magar
Genealogy Data Communication, or GEDCOM, is a specification which is used to exchange information between different genealogy software. It is a plain text file of the '.ged' format, used for sharing genealogical information of individuals and meta data linking their information records.
The GEDCOM formats are supported by most of the genealogy software available and in use today. This format was developed by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints as a support system for the genealogical research.
The file can be read in editors like Notepad or Textpad and hence allows various types of computers and programs to share genealogical data. Its format and usage are described in a written and open specification.
The format was readily adopted by different vendors in a variety of software products and has become a standard for genealogy programs. Genealogists, the world over use GEDCOM to save,transfer, and edit files containing genealogical data.

The Concept

GEDCOM structure is the collection of data based on a nuclear family and the concerned individual's name. It is neither a verification model nor goes deep into research for the 'original' form, if it exists. This format simply allows the structuring of data in accordance with the records of the family and individuals, as entered in the storage.
Each file contains a header, trailer, and a record section. The records section comprises certain notes, and the data specification as IND/FAM for individual or family respectively. Every file contains the top level of the main records like IND, FAM, or NOTE. The other level numbers are positive integers incorporating further information on the subject.
It is simply a database of records, wherein the pointers track the location of the relation and the individual concerned. For example, a name 'Sara Parker' would be enlisted or found in the file sharing database of the 'Parker' family tree, and can be traced with reference to the searched genealogical base.
Thus, there are two sections of a file. The first section includes the name and information of an individual. The second section lists all the associated relationships of that individual.

Working with GEDCOM files

Although, a GEDCOM file can be read by any text editor, it is preferable to use a software application that is specially designed for viewing tree diagrams or GEDCOM formats. The first step on downloading or on receiving a file through an e-mail account, is to save it in a safe and easy to locate place on the hard drive. Ensure the authenticity of the file.
As stated earlier, the file extension is '.ged'; although, a compressed file uses a '.zip' extension. A file created in a tree diagram format by a random genealogy software program is not the recommended format to be used. Last but not the least, the file has to be decompressed, if it is in a zip format and then opened with the existing '.ged' format.
The file systems used in GEDCOM's lately, allow a great deal of flexibility in its usage. Multimedia files capturing your precious events like a marriage or birthday parties can also be stored in this format. The latest version in development is the GEDCOM 6.0.
Until now, the files were limited to the desktops of genealogists. A new concept called the GenWeb, which means GEDCOM on the Internet, allows instant access to a database of any family tree and all the associated services. These files save as much as 80% storage space as compared to a '.txt' file format.
A usual family tree format with all the graphic features saves a data of 2000 family members in a 6MB file, a GEDCOM format stores the same in a 450 Kb file. In Future, the program will integrate reasoning and require proof along with the entry. For example, any significant event will have to be supported with evidences or reasoning for its authenticity.