How to Open a GEDCOM file in Your Genealogy Software

Generic Instructions for Opening a GEDCOM File

Example of a genealogy gedcom file

Kimberly Powell/ThoughtCo

If you've spent much time online researching your family tree, then it is likely that you've either downloaded a GEDCOM file (extension .ged) from the Internet or received one from a fellow researcher. Or you may have an old GEDCOM file on your computer from research you entered years ago into a now-defunct family history software program. In other words, you have a nifty family tree file which may contain vital clues to your ancestors and your computer can't seem to open it. What to do?

Open a GEDCOM File Using Stand-Alone Genealogy Software

These instructions will work to open GEDCOM files in most family tree software programs. See your program's help file for more specific instructions.

  1. Launch your family tree program and close any open genealogy files.
  2. In the top-left hand corner of your screen, click the File menu.
  3. Select either Open, Import or Import GEDCOM.
  4. If .ged is not already highlighted in the "file type" box, then scroll down and select GEDCOM or .ged.
  5. Browse to the location on your computer where you save your GEDCOM files and select the file that you want to open.
  6. The program will create a new genealogy database containing the information from the GEDCOM. Enter a filename for this new database, making sure that is one that you can distinguish from your own files. Example: 'powellgedcom'
  7. Click Save or Import.
  8. The program may then ask you to make a few choices regarding the import of your GEDCOM file. Just follow the directions. If you're not sure what to select, then just stick with the default options.
  9. Click OK.
  10. A confirmation box may appear stating that your import was successful.
  11. You should now be able to read the GEDCOM file in your genealogy software program as a regular family tree file.

Upload a GEDCOM File to Create an Online Family Tree

If you don't own family tree software, or prefer to work online, you can also use a GEDCOM file to create an online family tree, allowing you to easily browse the data. However, if you have received a GEDCOM file from someone else, you should be sure to get their permission before using this option as they may not wish the information they have shared with you to be available online. Most online family trees do offer the option to create a completely private tree (see below).

Some online family tree builder programs, most notably Ancestry Member Trees and MyHeritage, include an option to start a new family tree by importing a GEDCOM file.

  1. From the Upload a Family Tree page on Ancestry, click on the Browse button to the right of "Choose a file." In the window that comes up, browse to the appropriate GEDCOM file on your hard drive. Select the file and then click the Open button. Enter a name for your family tree and accept the submission agreement (read it first!).
  2. From the main MyHeritage page, select Import Tree (GEDCOM) under the "Get Started" button. Navigate to the file on your computer and click Open. Then select Get Started to import the GEDCOM file and create your family tree (don't forget to read the Service Terms and Privacy Policy!).

Both and offer options to create a completely private online family tree, viewable only by you, or the people you invite. These are not the default option settings, however, so if you want a private family tree you will need to take a few extra steps. See What are the Privacy Options for My Family Site? on MyHeritage or Privacy for Your Family Tree on for step-by-step instructions.

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "How to Open a GEDCOM file in Your Genealogy Software." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). How to Open a GEDCOM file in Your Genealogy Software. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "How to Open a GEDCOM file in Your Genealogy Software." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).