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Rated: E · Article · Genealogy · #1661000
Sorting and protecting your hard work tracing your family.
My computer crashed last fall. The repairman said it was like new; there wasn't even dust inside it, like he usually sees. But it was fried like lighntning hit the wires. We'd had no incidents, and it was on a surge protector, so who knows what happened? I needed a new hard drive. We found someone who could save some of our files, but some things are gone forever.

Having put even more time on family research since then, I knew I needed back up files. I bought a lot of discs--ones that could be edited, no music, just photos and writing--and storage sleeves. I labeled a disc for each major family I was tracing. So last week I went to a conference on family history and attended a class on the gadgetry of genealogy. It turns out discs are not the best way to store your data.

We were told by the computer experts, who have been working in both genealogy and computers for decades, that the best way to store your data is on another hard drive. Back up your files once a month or every other month or once a quarter, depending on how much work you've been doing. Store the hard drive in a fire retardant safe, two hour protection recommended. Place the safe in your garage or even a shed. The weather will not hurt it. You might put it in a cardboard box and label it, so that a thief won't be tempted to rob you. He'd be disappointed in its contents.

When a small business does a back-up like this, even on a floppy disc or CD, it usually stores the back-up in a safety deposit box at the bank. That's not necessary in this case.

As for other convenient tools: If you have the money, you can get a scanner that you can pass over the pages of a courthouse document like an 8" ruler. Plug it into your computer, and you have a copy of marriage licenses, land deeds, census records, probate records, etc. You'll only get 8" wide sections, as long as you like, but they'll print on 8 1/2" x 11" paper. So if it's an old book of unusual size or an old style spreadsheet, you'll have to scan the document in sections. It's a great convenience to someone who's really into the hobby, or does this work professionally.

Don't be intimidated by the price tags. Do what you can without the harddrive if it's too much. I'm not going to worry about it until I have a lot more research completed than what I have now. Other generations have done without all that. The new things are exciting and sound convenient for people really obsessed with the hobby or who do genealogy professionally. But preserving your family history should not be teterred by the lack of modern devices. Just be careful to protect what you put together, no matter how you got it.
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