GEDCOM was developed by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to provide a flexible uniform format for exchanging computerized genealogical data. GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data Communication. GEDCOM is provided to foster the sharing of genealogical information and the development of a wide range of inter-operable software products to assist genealogists, historians, and other researchers.

Purpose and Content of This Document

This technical document is written for computer programmers, system developers, and technically sophisticated users.

The chapters in this document contain the following GEDCOM specifications:

This document describes GEDCOM at two different levels. The lower level defines a general-purpose data representation language for representing any kind of structured information in a sequential media. The higher level defines specific content for data to be exchanged between compatible systems.

The lower level is known as the GEDCOM data format and deals with the syntax and identification of structured information in general, but does not deal with the semantic content of any particular kind of data. The lower level GEDCOM format and the basic GEDCOM concepts are presented in chapter 1. This chapter will also be useful to those using GEDCOM for other kinds of data, not just genealogical data.

The higher level is known as a GEDCOM form. A GEDCOM form is defined for each kind of data that uses the GEDCOM data format. The only GEDCOM form presented in this document is called the Lineage-linked GEDCOM form. Other GEDCOM forms have been used for other kinds of data, including several that are not related to genealogy. The Lineage-linked GEDCOM form is defined in chapter 2 and is the form used by commercial genealogical software systems for exchanging compiled, linked information about individuals with accompanying source citations and evidence records. The other forms of GEDCOM are not publicly exchanged at this time, and are not discussed in this document.

Changes in Version 5.x

Prior versions of The GEDCOM Standard were released in October 1987 (3.0) and August 1989 (4.0). Versions 1 and 2 were drafts for public discussion and were not established as a standard.

This GEDCOM draft version (5.x) includes the first standard definition of the Lineage-linked form of GEDCOM and also includes the first major expansion of the Lineage-linked form since its initial use in GEDCOM 3.0. The existing registered GEDCOM-compatible systems should still be able to exchange most data with newer systems that use this version and will still be considered GEDCOM-compatible for submitting information to the Family History Department. See chapter 2, Compatibility with previous GEDCOM releases, for compatibility detail. There are several purposes for version 5.x of GEDCOM:

Some changes in Version 5.2 - 5.3 that were not in previous 5.x versions are:

GEDCOM Product Registration

Developers of GEDCOM-compatible products using the Lineage-linked form of GEDCOM (see chapter 2) should register their product by submitting the following information to the GEDCOM coordinator:

GEDCOM Software Library

A library of unrestricted public domain source code, in the C programming language, is available to help reduce the work required to achieve GEDCOM compatibility.