Genealogists spend hours doing research about their ancestors. It takes time to track down vital records, figure out tricky family connections, travel to graveyards, and build a family tree. It would be a nightmare to suddenly lose all that information because you failed to properly back it up. Here are some tips for backing up your genealogy research.
Why should you make backups?
The simplest reason why you should make backups of your genealogy research is because accidents can happen. A fire could destroy the paper copies of your research. Your computer’s hard drive could be damaged if someone spills a drink onto the computer. The genealogy website where you put together your family tree could one day go out of business – leaving you with no access to the information you posted.
Follow the 3-2-1 rule.
There is an easy to understand rule that archivists use to prevent important data from disappearing. It is called the 3-2-1 rule. Every important electronic (or digital) file needs to have at least three copies, on two types of storage media, in at least one location other than your home.
A digital copy of your family tree might exist in software that you installed on your computer’s hard drive. That’s one type of storage media. A second type of storage media might be a GEDCOM file that you store on a CD. A third type of storage could be the genealogy website that you built your family tree on. One digital file – stored in two different formats (hard drive and CD) – and stored in one format that is outside of your home (the genealogy website).
You can solve the 3-2-1 rule in a variety of ways. This is just one example.
What’s on that CD? Who is in that photo? You might have known that information when you first created that digital file. Years later, unlabeled digital information becomes a mystery. You will end up researching it twice – instead of spending that time on new research.
The way to solve this problem is to make sure you label everything. Get a marker and write on the front of the CD about whatever it contains. Take the time to go through your digital photo albums and label each photo with the names of the people in it, the family event, and the year the photo was taken. Doing so may seem tedious, but it can save you a lot of trouble later on.
Visit the Library of Congress website.
The Library of Congress has detailed information about personal archiving. There are quizzes, overviews, and a “how to” section for genealogists learn from.
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