A GEDCOM file is a "text" file format created by the genealogy programmers and the LDS genealogy staff that allows the various genealogy programs to exchange information. You don't have to know anything about the internal structure of a GEDCOM file to take advantage of its power. My illustration for this post shows, for those who are curious, the first forty lines of a GEDCOM I created from Personal Ancestral File (PAF 2.31) and loaded into my current genealogy program RootsMagic 6. Notice that it's "text" that you can read, with data tags like "2 DATE" and "2 PLAC" on the left of each line in the file.
A GEDCOM file can be created (exported) and shared by attaching the file to an Email. They can also be staged on the Internet (uploaded) for sharing with others. I've found several on the Internet that were of interest.
If you get lucky enough to find another researcher who is working on the same families that you are you can use GEDCOM to exchange the information each of you have recorded.
When loading a GEDCOM from someone else into your genealogy program always create a "new" file with your genealogy program, with a "new" name before you load (import) the GEDCOM. That way you can check the quality of the work of the other person. For example, you can see if you both enter place names in the same way. And, you can see whether there are duplicates in the file you are receiving. It's never fun to remove duplicates once they are in your master genealogy file.
To learn more about GEDCOM you can practice creating a GEDCOM (exporting) and then adding it to a "new" file (importing) on your own computer. Backup you own genealogy file first, just to be on the safe side. Just remember that when you load the GEDCOM into your genealogy program you want to create a "new" file with a "new" name. You don't want to load your practice file into your main genealogy file. That would create a mess because every record would be duplicated.
You don't have to include all the records in your file when you create a GEDCOM. You can tell your genealogy program which records to include in the GEDCOM. For example, you may only want to share a branch of your tree rather than the entire file. Practice this also to see how it works.
19 October 2014