Have you developed a family tree of several hundred ancestors – or more? Perhaps you have been thinking of copying your tree to an online site – or perhaps you are simply going along, happily adding more names and details and photographs. Whoops!! Suddenly your computer crashes and needs to be completely reformatted. And all your information is lost.

Do not let this happen to you! Everyone has had their computer crash at some point in time. Unfortunately computers get little bugs, or get overheated and burn out “something”. Most of us have no real idea what goes on in computers or why they crash. But they do crash, losing all of our information stored on the disk.

Get into the habit right now – copy your data to a separate hard drive, or to an external hard drive storage unit. These items are quite inexpensive these days, and you can simply push a button to have the contents of your computer drive copied and saved automatically. Then if your computer hard drive crashes, you can copy your information back onto a brand new drive and start again with only a loss of time.

Other ways to copy information? Copy your latest version of your family tree onto a portable flash drive, then date it! Some people update the family tree on the flash drive once a week or once a month – depending on how actively you are adding information. Some people copy their family tree as a GEDCOM and send themselves an email to another external source, such as their gmail account. Or email it to another family member, perhaps once a month, with the date of the copy as the Subject line. All those documents and photographs? Compress the information and copy as noted above. Most media players are able to compress the information or “zip” it, to enable easy emailing of the details, without overloading the mailbox.

What about all the information you have not yet entered into your computer – like all those old photographs and documents you have found or purchased online? I have piles of documents, registration records, newspaper articles, obituaries, funeral cards, and more. How can I make sure that this information is also backed up, in case of some sort of disaster such as a flood or fire?

There is a joke in genealogy that goes like this: “For a genealogist, what is the Floor?” Answer: “… the place where a genealogist keeps their most precious family documents and details.”

Unfortunately, it is only too true of many genealogists! Piles of information, folders of documents and details, just lying around on the floor. Not very professional, but oh-so-common. Decide that this year, you are going to take one pile at a time, and 100% file it. One paper at a time, one photo at a time, one document at a time: scan into your computer, attach to an ancestor or family, and/or file in family binders. Buy proper archive-quality page protectors for family binders, and place your photos and documents in the see-through polypropylene protectors. They are relatively inexpensive, and usually come in packs of 10-20 or more at a time. Remember that you need to request “acid-free, archival quality” protectors for your records.

Make it your goal this year to attack the piles, and copy your details into a more permanent form. If you take 15 minutes every week, you will make a big dent in the piles. If you take 15 minutes a day, you will see the piles visibly disappearing. Or, take one afternoon a week and scan or copy one pile of documents/photographs. By the end of the year, your piles will be gone, your information properly filed and documented, and you will have your office space back!

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