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Preserving your research


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The last couple of columns have been about different ways to organize your data. This one is about trying to make sure that your data is here for a long time to come. The first tip here is with regards to backups. If your data is on the computer (all your folders and organization), then make sure that it’s copied to a cd/rw or dvd/rw (or several) on occasion. I like putting the date on a cd like this, so if/when you collect multiple backups you have an idea of which is the freshest.

DVD’s aren’t just for movies. dvd-rw’s can hold between 4 and 8GB of data currently (single or double layer writing.) Soon, other technologies promise greater capacity, so for all the images and text documents that would probably be the disc of choice. Another suggestion is to make sure to send copies of your information to other family members from time to time. What if you have a house fire? Of course, your genealogy research may be the last thing on your mind, but you can avoid having that lost as well by sending copies of your backups to relatives. Another suggestion here is a safe deposit box at a bank, or a small fireproof safe and to put the backup with your other irreplacable data.

Try to use file formats that are accessible and will be around for a good while. What happens if you use one program to store your data and 5 years from now that program is no longer in existance, are there ways to get at the data? For most genealogy programs, that means exporting to the gedcom format. (Although for some, exporting to a series of html files might be enough.) The idea, (similar to that of having good notes and documentation) is if someone else had to come in and try to get at your research, could they?

Another idea is to contribute what you can online. The Genweb project has archives for transcribed documents and it’s worth being on the lookout for other services that let you upload your data. Don’t make that the only solution, as you know companies can come and go, it’s hard to trust that something WILL be there for years to come.

Probably the best way to preserve your research is to find someone to make copies of everything for and pass your research on to.