Get to grips with GEDCOM

Most computer software tends to save data in a specific format that isn’t always compatible with rival programs. For genealogists, who thrive on sharing their research, this can be a problem. The solution is GEDCOM (Genealogical Data Communication), a special format which most genealogy software can read and write to. Generally all you need to move your data from one program (or family tree website) to another is look for the export or import GEDCOM options. You can even open a GEDCOM file in any text editor – though it’s not designed to be read by humans!

Step 1


Let’s assume you’ve been recording details of a family tree for some time now. For this example we’ll imagine you’ve been using Personal Ancestral File, a free program from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Step 2


Most genealogy programs have an Export option under the File menu. In this case it has several options for file formats, and we need to select the GEDCOM one. Then click Export and give the file a name to save it.

Step 3


You can now import that file at, even if you’re not a member yet. Just go to the Family Trees menu and select ‘Upload a GEDCOM’. Then fill in the details as shown here, selecting the file you saved before.

Step 4


If you’re not already a site member, it only takes a few moments to give your name and an email address – this will create a free Family Tree account at Ancestry for you.

Step 5


You’ll then be taken to your home page, where you'll see a link ‘Go to [tree name]’. Click that and you’ll see this screen, where you are asked to choose the Home Person for that tree.

Step 6


And that’s it! Now you can see all the data that you previously had in the offline program available to explore, edit and add to here at