A friend of mine just accepted the job as the genealogist for the Clan Forsyth Society of the USA. The previous genealogist for the clan had done all the record keeping in folders by states and had not entered any of the information into a genealogy program. She is asking clan members to send in a GEDCOM of their lines with sources and as many collateral lines as possible.
What is GEDCOM? GEDCOM is short for GEnealogy Data COMmunications. It was started by the Family History Library in Salt Lake to convert data from various programs to a common format which allows you to switch genealogy programs, send data to a fellow researcher or relative and back up your data, maybe at Salt Lake City. Since the first GEDCOM they have updated it five times so now the latest version is 5.something , and the last version came out a few years ago and there have been no updates since then.
How do you make a GEDCOM? Early genealogy programs did not even come with GEDCOM capability, some had it added after an update, but today all the programs have GEDCOM in them somewhere. I have been using Ancestor Quest for years and to make a GEDCOM you go to Export Data and then it asks which people you want to be in the GEDCOM? Do you want the whole file for a relative? One line for the clan genealogist? Once you decide who is to be included you click on make GEDCOM and it asks for a name for the GEDCOM file, so in this case, mine would read, HANSEN.GED and in a few seconds the file is completed. Now you can send it to a relative, the clan genealogist or to a safe storage area.
A GEDCOM is a text file and can be opened by Notepad or any word processor, but since it is a text file it can not transfer pictures, videos, or audio attached to your genealogy program. It will transfer all the names, dates, and notes for your file. How about sources? It depends on how your genealogy program handles sources, some will convert the sources some may not. So check your GEDCOM after it is made to see what is included, does it include sources? Great if it does, but if not you might be doing a lot of retyping. It is interesting that you can import a GEDCOM from a MAC to a PC or vice versa, since both formats recognize text files, only problem is the transfer medium may not work in both machines, so you might need to E-Mail the files to get a good transfer.
So now, you have received a GEDCOM from a relative, what do you do with it? The worst way to handle it is to just import it into your own database, open a new file and import it there, go and look to see if all the data made the transfer? Did the sources come through? The notes? Any problems? Hopefully no problems so now look at the file, any new data you did not already have? Any duplications? Any data you do not want in your file? I think most programs now have a merge feature that allows you to import that file and check for duplications, I know Ancestor Quest does, but I have never used it, I just type in the information I want and will eventually delete that new GEDCOM.
Because of the limitations of GEDCOM many programs will import data directly from other programs without using GEDCOM, and this is usually better if you have a lot of pictures, or audio or video in your file, so check to see if that ability is in your program.