This post wraps up our four-week series on disaster planning for genealogists in honor of National Preparedness Month in the United States. In previous weeks, I talked about assessing our collections of family history artifacts and research materials; creating duplicates of one-of-a kind items; and protecting our most valuable items properly.
Last but certainly not least in our preparedness process, we want to share what we have with others and keep our digital files fresh. I’ll cover both of these steps in this post.
SHARE! First, after you’ve copied, scanned or photographed your family archive, spread your digital archive around by sharing it with others. If you leave all your files on the computer in the same building as your originals (your home), one house fire or theft could easily take out both your original and your carefully-made backups. Instead, disseminate your copies to at least two additional physical locations.
For electronic data, I recommend cloud storage like Dropbox, or iCloud. That immediately gets a copy away from your physical home base, but keeps it accessible to you (and others, if you like) from any location, computer or mobile device. Also consider distributing copies to fellow relatives or your genealogy buddies, the first because they should have family information anyway and the second because your genealogy buddies will likely take good care of your files. Just make sure those who receive your files don’t all live in the same general area, or again, the same typhoon may destroy all your copies. And check your CDs and cloud storage periodically to make sure the files are still in good shape.
UPDATE. Finally, every once in a while you’ll need to update your copies. It may sound unthinkable that someday your PDFs or JPGs won’t be readable, or that your computer won’t have a CD drive. But file formats do eventually become obsolete and storage media do decay and corrupt over time. Keep listening to the Genealogy Gems podcast so you’ll be aware when major transitions in technology happen. I’ll tell you how and when to update specific file formats and storage types that are starting to phase out.
I almost forgot–the last and best step in all emergency planning. When you’ve done everything you can to protect your family legacy from disaster, breathe a deep sigh of relief. The peace of mind alone is worth all this effort!