Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
GEDCOM is an acronym for Genealogical Data Communication, a standard file format that allows the transfer of information from one computer system or genealogy program to another. A GEDCOM file is an Ascii text file, usually (in MS-DOS) with the extension .GED, which preserves the relationships in a genealogy data file. You can always recognize a GEDCOM by this .GED file extension.
The benefit of the GEDCOM is its portability -- no matter what genealogy program you use, you should be able to import or export the data as a GEDCOM file. While most genealogy programs write to their own file formats -- Family Tree Maker, for example, uses the .FTM extension -- most also have the ability to import and export data as GEDCOM or GED files. This is a feature you may want to verify before purchasing a genealogy program. The .GED file format allows you to easily transfer all of your information should you switch from one genealogy program to another; it can also be can be shared by saving it to a CD or via e-mail and on the Web.