The GEDCOM Standard Release 5.5: Introduction [Contents] [Home] [Mail]

The GEDCOM Standard Release 5.5


GEDCOM was developed by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to provide a flexible, uniform format for exchanging computerized genealogical data. GEDCOM is an acronym for GE nealogical D ata Com munication. Its purpose is 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 The GEDCOM Standard

The GEDCOM Standard is a technical document written for computer programmers, system developers, and technically sophisticated users. It covers the following topics:

This document describes GEDCOM at two different levels. Chapter 1 describes the lower level, known as the GEDCOM data format. This is a general-purpose data representation language for representing any kind of structured information in a sequential medium. It discusses the syntax and identification of structured information in general, but it does not deal with the semantic content of any particular kind of data. It is, therefore, also useful to people using GEDCOM for storing other types of data, not just genealogical data.

Chapter 2 of this document describes the higher level, known as a GEDCOM form. Each type of data that uses the GEDCOM data format has a specific GEDCOM form. This document discusses only one GEDCOM form: the Lineage-Linked GEDCOM Form. This is the form commercial software developers use to create genealogical software systems that can exchange compiled information about individuals with accompanying family, source, submitter, and note records with the Family History Department's FamilySearch Systems and with each other if desired.

This document is available on the internet at:

Purposes for Version 5.x

Earlier 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.

The 5.x series of drafts includes both the first standard definition of the Lineage-Linked GEDCOM Form and also the first major expansion of the Lineage-Linked Form since its initial use in GEDCOM 3.0. The GEDCOM-compatible products registered as 4.0 systems should still be able to exchange all of the data that was previously handled by their product with GEDCOM 5.x systems. See Compatibility with Previous GEDCOM Releases for compatibility specifics.

The following are the expanded purposes of Lineage-Linked GEDCOM :

Modifications in Version 5.5 as a result of the 5.4 (draft) review

Changes Introduced or Modified in Draft Version 5.4

Some changes introduced in GEDCOM draft version 5.4 are not compatible with earlier 5.x draft forms. Some concepts have been removed with the intent to address them in a future release of GEDCOM. The following features are either new or different:

Changes Introduced in Draft Version 5.3

Version 5.3 introduced the following changes to the GEDCOM standard:

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