By Allison Dolan Premium

Imagine sharing your genealogy software files without any conversion snafus — no flubbed notes or missing sources. Wishful thinking? Not if you’re a Mac user.

GEDitCOM shareware <> may be your answer. While most family tree programs store data in their own file formats, GEDitCOM fully embraces GEDCOM, the universal file format for family trees. All the files you create and edit are GEDCOMs, so you avoid the pitfalls of importing and exporting different database formats — including lost data.

But that’s not the only feature that makes GEDitCOM unique. The most recent version, 3.0, is “carbonized” to run on the new Mac OS X operating system.


What really sets GEDitCOM apart is its flexibility. Creator John Nairn designed the program to be totally customizable. It operates on a series of formats that control how you view, edit and print data. You can pick preferences within pre-existing formats (default, book or pedigree) or make up your own. Creating formats isn’t for newbies — you need a good understanding of how GEDCOM is programmed, and you have to learn GEDitCOM’s programming language. But if you’re patient enough to learn, Nairn promises you can “design your own personal genealogy application.” Don’t worry: The prefab formats are easy enough for novices.

Functionality — GEDitCOM is more functional than flashy — you won’t find fancy fan charts, family scrapbooks or huge databases of names. You do get the same basic features as more glamorous programs, such as searches, multimedia capabilities and book printing. GEDitCOM gives new meaning to “unlimited notes” — you can actually add notes, sources and multimedia links to any fact. The default format has two basic family tree charts, an ancestor and descendant, which you can customize through Preferences (under the Tree menu). It includes research logs and notes, as well as a basic letter-writing template. And its nifty date converter lets you switch between Gregorian, Julian, Hebrew and French Republican calendars, figure out days of the week and determine a person’s age on any date.

File management — Data entry is straightforward, and the depth of what you can store is remarkable. Each record type (individual, family, source and so on) displays in a different window. You end up with lots of windows, but you can easily switch to a new screen without losing track of the last one. You can configure the program to display more than one window of a record type, which makes it easy to copy and paste data from one person to another. You can only open one file at a time in default format.

Documentation — GEDitCOM is excellent for documenting your research. Every window or field has an Add Source button where you can link to an existing source or create a new one. From the Source Record screen, you record a reference title, author and publisher; actual text; and the data the source contains. You can even record facts about the repository where you found it and link to an image or Web site. Once you’ve attached a source, click Details to add page numbers, dates and evaluate the source’s quality (unknown, unreliable, questionable, secondary, primary). And you can attach as many sources as you want to a fact.

Internet — You can export search results and lists of relatives as HTML files, but GEDitCOM 3.0 doesn’t have a feature for automatically turning your database into a family Web site. Nairn says he’s working on Web-site creation for a future version.


GEDitCOM isn’t for everyone, especially if you don’t want to spend the time to explore all its features. But since it’s free to use as a file browser, it’s great for swapping and downloading GEDCOMs. And if you want a way to document every scrap of research or want total control over how your file operates, this program is for you. It’s also a welcome additional choice for Mac users, whose only real software option has been Reunion.

Besides OS X, GEDitCOM 3.0 runs on Power Macs with OS 8 or 9 if you download the Carbon Library from Apple <>. Older Macs can use version 2.9.6. All versions are $49.99 to register, and include free upgrades.

From the December 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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