RootsWeb Is Down: Data Recovery Strategies for the Genealogist

RootsWeb is down! This important free genealogy platform hosts millions of names on hundreds of genealogy-related websites for locales, societies, and even individual family trees. Here’s what you should know about the situation–and how you may be able to access older versions of RootsWeb or other sites that are not currently available.

RootsWeb had a security issue

On December 23, 2017, Ancestry.com reported receiving a tip that thousands of RootsWeb usernames and passwords were publicly exposed. Affected accounts were users of the RootsWeb surname list, which Ancestry discontinued earlier in the year.

For those of you not familiar with RootsWeb, it’s a long-time free web platform where individuals and organizations can host their own genealogy-related websites. I often find sites there with information about counties I’m researching in and sites run by local genealogy societies. More than 11 million names are indexed or transcribed on RootsWeb sites–that’s in addition to the wealth of information you’ll find on local history, sources, and societies. Ancestry.com has been hosting RootsWeb since 2000.

Even if this particular security concern doesn’t affect you directly, I encourage you to keep reading. This scenario provides a perfect example of the kinds of data security, privacy, and loss issues we need to be aware of as genealogists. Even if you don’t have a site yourself on RootsWeb, it’s a common resource you will likely come across as you research your family tree. So here are a few take-home points for everyone, including advice on how to look at archived versions of any website that is temporarily down or no longer in service.

The extent of the problem

Ancestry did some quick reconnaissance and reported the following:

  • No sensitive personal information such as credit card or Social Security numbers were exposed since RootsWeb doesn’t collect it.
  • That said, about 55,000 customers have the same account info for both RootsWeb and an Ancestry.com site, which means that these Ancestry.com customers’ login data was potentially compromised. Most affected accounts are free trial accounts or they’re not currently in use. But Ancestry says, “We are currently contacting these customers. Any user whose account had its associated email/username and password included on the file has had their accounts locked and will need to create a new password the next time they visit…We have no reason to believe that any Ancestry systems were compromised. Further, we have not seen any activity indicating the compromise of any individual Ancestry accounts.”
  • Ancestry found other RootsWeb login information that could have been potentially exposed, and they’re letting these account-holders know.
  • They have temporarily taken RootsWeb offline to do a “deep analysis” of the site’s design. Ancestry says they “are working to ensure that all data is saved and preserved to the best of our ability. As RootsWeb is a free and open community that has been largely built by its users, we may not be able to salvage everything as we work to resolve this issue and enhance the RootsWeb infrastructure.”
  • In the Comments section of the Ancestry.com announcement, Anne Gillespie Mitchell stated, “We do not have a specific timeline at this point. We hope it will take no more than a few weeks to resolve these issues. RootsWeb mailing lists will, however, remain active.”

Bottom line: Anyone whose account was potentially affected is receiving an email notice to change their password. For everyone else, Ancestry.com says, “There is nothing you need to do as a result of this incident. However, we always recommend that you take the time to evaluate your own security settings. Please, never use the same username and password for multiple services or sites. And it’s generally good practice to use longer passwords and to change them regularly.”

RootsWeb is down: Why it matters and what to do

Contributing Editor Sunny Morton shared an email that was forwarded to her by her mother, a genealogy librarian at a public library in Northeast Ohio. I’m sharing it here with the permission of the author Cynthia, who helps manage several RootsWeb sites. Cynthia says:

“I put a couple of items on my websites the morning of the twenty-third. By that afternoon, RootsWeb was shut down. Almost the entire RootsWeb is down, probably for several weeks while they fix a security breach. This involves the Cleveland District Roundtable site, Cuyahoga GenWeb, Lake County GenWeb, and Lake County and East Cuyahoga County Genealogical Society sites. This feels even scarier than the last major outage. Fortunately, I have copies on my computer of my entire sites, so no panic for lost data. But [the data] is now not very accessible for most folks.”

Cynthia followed her message with this tip: “A workaround would be the WayBack Machine on Archive.org. You put in the URL and it shows you the dates they downloaded. You may need to look at several of them to find a more complete copy. Some are just a few front pages.”

I talked more extensively about the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (along with Google’s own backup copies, called caches) in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 145. Here’s how to use the Wayback Machine to find one of the downed websites Cynthia mentioned: the Cleveland District Roundtable, which is a fantastic collaborative directory and group calendar for all genealogical organizations in greater Cleveland, Ohio. If you run a Google search for that site now, you will find the site. But if you click on it, you’ll see a message that RootsWeb is currently unavailable:

When this happens, you can copy the URL from the top of the browser page and paste it into the Wayback Machine search box. You’ll then see a timeline showing that the Roundtable site has been captured (or archived) by the Wayback Machine 73 times since 2008, most recently (as shown by the arrow) on April 17, 2017:

Scroll down on the page a little to see a calendar, shown here, and you can click on highlighted dates on which updated captures were taken. Click on the most recent highlighted date.

Tips for everyone on avoiding genealogy data loss

A huge hat-tip to Cynthia for the work she does in her local genealogy community–and for sending out advice to those she knew would be affected by the temporary loss of RootsWeb. In addition to her tip on using the Wayback Machine, she says something else absolutely critical:

“Fortunately, I have copies on my computer of my entire sites, so no panic for lost data.”

The true and deep loss is when there is no backup copy of painstakingly-collected genealogy data, whether it’s a family tree, research files, or over 11 million names in RootsWeb’s online indexes and transcriptions. I’m not implying that RootsWeb is permanently lost: Ancestry.com does mention its plan to “resolve this issue and enhance the RootsWeb infrastructure.” But if they don’t bring all of RootsWeb back (they admit it’s possible there will be some loss), or if your genealogy data is lost from any website or computer, you always want to have a backup plan in place.

In this companion post, you’ll find a strategy for backing up your tree at Ancestry.com. It’s actually a template for something near and dear to my heart: a master plan for your genealogy data security. Things to think about in your master plan are:

  • Saving digital copies of every document and artifact on your computer in organized, consistently labeled files. Listen to the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast episodes 32-33 for a tutorial on naming and organizing these files.
  • Keeping your master family tree in software on your own computer rather than online. Click here to read why. I recommend RootsMagic software.
  • Backing up everything on your computer with a reliable cloud-based backup service. Click here to read about the features you should look for in cloud-based backup; I myself use and recommend Backblaze.

Organize and secure your genealogy data once and for all

Genealogy Gems Premium Members can take genealogical organization and security to the next level with my how-to videos. I recommend these:

Be sure to download the video class handouts on the video page. I can’t think of a better way to start the year off right than to take action to secure your hard-won data!

Disaster Recovery for Genealogy: “Think About the Things That Matter Most”

Damage reports are surfacing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Today we discuss how two Texas library collections have fared, and disaster recovery strategies for genealogy researchers. I’ve got a fantastic get-started video tip for those trying to rescue documents, photos, and other family heirlooms–and the two steps everyone should take to protect their priceless genealogical collections.

disaster recover things that matter most

Port Aransas, Texas

My heart goes out to those who have been in the paths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recently. Knowing I live in Texas, many of you have asked how my family is doing. I’m happy to report that the storms didn’t reach those of us here north of Dallas. However, our daughter Hannah and her husband, while thankfully safe after evacuating from their home on the Texas shore, suffered the loss of their car and other possessions, and Hannah’s workplace was destroyed. They are now part of the relief and recovery efforts, and look forward to when they will be able to return to their home, which is currently uninhabitable. We feel very blessed that they are safe and sound, and our prayers go out to all who suffered losses.

Disaster Recovery for Genealogy Libraries

Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

As lives are secured and order begins to be restored in devastated areas, I’ve wondered how various genealogy libraries and archives have fared. Genealogy Gems listener Chris emailed me with an alert that the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in Houston, Texas has suffered some damage. “So sad for genies!” she writes. Indeed! The Clayton is one of the top public library genealogy research centers in the United States.

Not wanting to disturb their recovery efforts with a phone inquiry, I’ve turned to Google searching and social media for a status report. The Houston Public Library Foundation states that the Clayton is among one of 10 library locations that are “unable to open due to various building damages.” The Clayton Library Friends Facebook page offers more specifics–and this hopeful report:

“Yes, there was some flooding at Clayton Library and according to Susan Kaufman, Manager, Clayton Library is closed this week. Clayton Library staff will be deployed to other libraries that are open.

Clayton Library did suffer some water damage but it was not really that bad. They just need to decide how best to proceed since they were planning on doing renovations soon anyway.”

CityofHouston.news tells us what Clayton staff may be doing at other library branches: “The services and resources that are available at your library system include free access to WiFi and computers, one-on-one assistance with filling out applications and forms, and access to the expertise of library archivists who can assist you in preserving and saving precious family memorabilia such as books, letters and photographs that may have been damaged in the storm.” 

Chris’ email encourages us to support the recovery effort for Houston’s libraries through the Houston Public Library Foundation: here’s the link she sent to their donation portal.

Port Arthur Public Library, Port Arthur, Texas. Image from library website.

Down on the coast, another library system wasn’t so fortunate. The Port Arthur Library will remain closed for months, reports the Port Arthur News. “The Port Arthur Public Library was one of many buildings hit hard by Harvey,” states an article by L.V. Salinas. “It sustained flood damage and the subsequent mold issue inundated buildings often face afterward. It also sustained substantial damage and loss of property of its books, computer equipment, archives and more.”

Crews are working to clean up and preserve what they can. High priority is being given to their historical and genealogical resources: “One of the costlier processes was the freeze-drying of irreplaceable items like genealogy records, microfilm, Port Arthur historical photos and collections. The intent, as performed by companies contracted by the city, was to prevent any further damage from taking place, kill the bacteria that’s present and preserve the items long enough for a transference of information by experts.”

The Port Arthur History Collection is proudly described on the library website; it includes a collection of historic photos that were lovingly organized by volunteers and placed in archival-quality storage. “It’s one of our highest buy testosterone medication priorities,” states a library official in the article. “It’s time sensitive, and it has to happen now….We have to preserve it now.”

Disaster Recovery for Genealogy Researchers

As genealogists, we to have our personal and precious libraries and archives. We build trees in software–some of us spending hundreds or thousands of hours on them. We may have files, books, and other research materials. Many of us are family archivists: the stewards of priceless original family documents, photos, and other artifacts. Here’s some level-headed counsel for after a disaster strikes–and here’s what the rest of us should be doing now, before another disaster.

After a Disaster: Take It One Step at a Time

If you’ve been affected by a recent disaster, I’d like to share this fantastic, level-headed advice from Rennee Tallent, Galveston Historical Foundation’s Manager of Historic Collections (Galveston, Texas was hit by a hurricane in 1900–the “deadliest natural disaster in American history”):

I love her compassionate advice:

“Walking into [your home after a disaster] is very overwhelming. Try to take a deep breath and think about the things that matter most to you and what your priorities are. Take it one piece at a time: after you’ve finished that one, move on to the next.” -Rennee Tallent, Galveston Historical Foundation’s Manager of Historic Collections

Start your recovery efforts with whatever matters most to you, Renee says. But she reminds us that certain items are more vulnerable to destruction than others, so try to also focus on things made out of paper and photographs, then cloth, then wood. Leave your china, silver, and glassware until these other items have been stabilized.

Before Disaster Strikes: Digitize and Back It Up!

If a disaster strikes, most of us won’t have the time to grab all our genealogy research files, photographs, and other precious heirlooms. But many of these items are one-of-a-kind–unless we make them two-or-more-of-a-kind!

As family archivists, we can best preserve our past by:

  1. Digitizing it. Make high-quality digital scans of original documents and photos. Take digital pictures of three-dimensional heirlooms such as clothing, handicrafts, even quilts.
  2. Backing up your digital files. Should a disaster occur–whether storm, theft, or fire–your computer may suffer the same fate as any original documents and heirlooms in your home. So I recommend investing in an automated, cloud-based backup service for your computer.

For a few dollars a month, a cloud-based backup service will continually back up your computer files to a remote server. In the event of any loss (including a computer crash), you can download them again. Having a digitized version of those original Civil War letters or photos isn’t quite the same as the real thing–but it’s so much better than having them disappear entirely. And if you’re like me, your computer doesn’t just house your photos and research files. It may have hundreds or even thousands of work files, personal files, music, or video files and more.

I use Backblaze for my personal computer and to back up thousands of Genealogy Gems audio, video, and other files. Backblaze is made for everyday consumers: it’s affordable and easy to use. Do your research yourself and choose the best cloud-based backup for you (click here to read the 8 features you should be watching for).

Our Service “Happiness” Manager, Lacey, experienced first hand the benefits of having her computer backed up:

Right after our Genealogy Gems seminar in Dallas in early August, I came home, sat down to work, and discovered my laptop had died. I tried everything I could find to get it going again (thanks to Google search results) but it couldn’t be revived. Thankfully, I had both Backblaze and Dropbox installed on my computer, and I didn’t lose any files at all. I was able to get everything back! Even my Google account saved all of my settings and bookmarks for my Chrome browser, so when I got my new computer, just about everything was restored as though nothing had happened. I was SO RELIEVED! Planning ahead really paid off!

Backblaze lisa louise cooke(If you decide to go with my favorite, Backblaze, thanks for clicking here to purchase it. The modest commission we receive supports the free information I provide on this website and the Genealogy Gems podcast.)

My sincere wishes for the safety of your families–and your family history.

“If My Ancestry Subscription Expires, What Happens to My Tree?”

Worried about access to your online tree if you let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse? The tree should still be there. But take these steps to be sure your tree remains accessible and secure–along with the records you’ve attached to it.

What happens to my ancestry tree?

“If My Ancestry Subscription Expires, What Happens to My Tree?”

Many people start researching their genealogy with an Ancestry subscription. They build their family tree on the site, adding details about dozens of relatives. Then they sift through Ancestry’s billions of historical records and add hundreds or even thousands of new names, dates, relationships and other facts to their trees. They even attach records to each ancestor as evidence of what they’ve learned.

Then life calls them away for a while, like it has for Beverly. She wrote to me, concerned about what will happen to all her hard work on that Ancestry tree:

“I have been a member of Ancestry.com for a long time and have worked on several trees. I love to work on my genealogy but lately have not had time. Can I drop my membership and still retain my trees? I plan to get my membership back at a later day. Right now I am wasting $20 a month.”

Beverly, I hear your pain! We all go through busy seasons. It’s easy to cringe at the thought of paying for genealogy website subscriptions we aren’t currently using. But the idea of losing all our progress on those sites is worse.

I did a little research along with Sunny Morton, Genealogy Gems Editor and our resident expert on the “genealogy giants” websites. Here’s what we can tell Beverly and everyone else who is wondering the same thing:

According to Ancestry, the answer is yes. You can still access your trees with your login after your subscription lapses, as long as you didn’t delete the tree or the account altogether.

Ancestry continues to host people’s trees because they want our tree data to share with others, and to give people a reason to come back! Your login and password remain the same. But your account reverts to a free guest account, without access to most of Ancestry’s historical records—including the ones you’ve already attached to your trees.

Ancestry Tree Preservation Strategy 

If you plan to let your Ancestry.com subscription lapse for a while, but you want to continue to work with your online trees, consider taking these steps:

1. Download a copy of every record that you’ve attached to your ancestors’ individual files on Ancestry.com. Do this by opening the image of the record, click on the Save/Saved button at the upper right, and click Save to your computer. I suggest doing this even if you don’t foresee letting your subscription go in the near future.

2. Save each record in an organized, findable way on your computer. I recommend using a consistent system to organize these, which I explain in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, in episodes 32-33. (Genealogy Gems Premium website members have access to a 2-part video tutorial on organizing their hard drives.) If you don’t have a consistent way to organize these document images, you’ll soon become overwhelmed with files that all sort of look the same and you won’t be sure what year they are or which ancestors they pertain to without opening each one!

(What about cloud storage options, such as Google Drive or Dropbox? That’s ok, too, although I recommend using these platforms more as temporary or backup storage or to share with relatives, rather than as your primary storage. Instead, I recommend investing in cloud-based backup for your home computer. I use Backblaze personally and for my business.)

3. Download copies of your Ancestry.com treesClick here for instructions; it’s really easy. Yes, Ancestry does continue to maintain your trees, but what guarantees do you have? Data loss does happen even on big websites, and sites change their practices and policies sometimes. If that happens, you could lose all the information you’ve carefully added to your tree.

4. Start using computer software for your “master family tree” instead of keeping it online. A “master family tree” is your most complete, up-to-date version of your tree (or trees, if you build separate ones for separate family lines). Keeping your master tree on your own computer keeps all your tree data at your fingertips without any subscription required. Having one master file matters even more once you start sharing your tree on other websites or with relatives.

RootsMagic the Master GenealogistI use RootsMagic, and that is why I happily agreed to them sponsoring my Genealogy Gems Podcast. It works for Mac and the PC. I like its affordability: there’s a free version you can try for as long as you like, and the full software will cost you the same as about 90 days of access to Ancestry.com. And RootsMagic has solid relationships with the major genealogy sites: it now syncs with your trees on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, and you can research records on MyHeritage.com and Findmypast.com. RootsMagic has tons of advanced features to help you create family history charts, books, and reports, and a great user support community online.

Ancestry and the other Genealogy Giants

genealogy giants quick reference guide cheat sheetKeep up with news and changes on the “genealogy giants” websites with our ongoing coverage of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com. And get our quick reference guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites. This inexpensive, easy-t0-read guide compares the “big 4” side by side to help you determine which records website may be the best ones for your current genealogy research needs.

Disclosure: this post recommends carefully-chosen products and services for which we receive compensation. Click here to read my full disclosure statement, and thank you for supporting the free content we provide at Genealogy Gems.

Backing Up Your Genealogy with Backblaze – Q & A

Backing up your genealogy with Backblaze is a critical move if you want to protect your family history. Let us answer your questions and share with you how the cloud backup service Backblaze can be the answer to effectively backing up and protecting all your genealogy data.

backing up your genealogy with Backblaze

Recently, we received some great questions concerning the cloud-based computer backup service, Backblaze, one of our trusted sponsors of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. The answers to these questions will give you with the confidence to put a reliable cloud backup plan in place so that your family history remains safe and secure.

What is Backblaze?

Backblaze is an online back-up tool that stores copies of your computer files, and allows you to restore them in case your computer is lost, stolen, or destroyed. It offers unlimited storage and supports every type of file, including large video files and genealogy tree files. Once installed, Backblaze works 24/7 through your internet connection to save every change you make. Backblaze also keeps your files safe offsite (at their data centers) with 24-hour staff, biometric security, and redundant power.

Unlike Evernote or Dropbox which are designed to allow you to work with your files across multiple devices, Backblaze is “set it and forget it” protection should the worst happen. While you can sign-in and access your files from multiple devices, it’s primary purpose is to provide a back-up plan so you can restore your data if something happens to your computer. While external hard drives are great for when your computer crashes, they can’t help you if they are destroyed in a fire or flood along with your computer because they were both in the same location. Off-site backup and multiple copies (redundancy) are key when it comes to protecting your precious genealogy research.

Answers to Your Questions about Using Backblaze for Cloud Storage

Q: I am excited to begin using Backblaze for the first time! However, I am a bit uncertain of how to actually begin. Can you walk me through it?
A: Lots of our readers are a little uncertain when it comes to using something new. We have created a blog post titled “How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps” that will walk you through it!
Q: I have a number of computers at home and I also have a network drive. What does Backblaze cover? Will it back up everything?
A: No, and here are the details. You can have multiple computers backed up on your account, but each computer will require its own subscription ($5/month, $50/year, or $95/2 years). Backblaze can back up all file types and storage is unlimited, so large files from your hard drive are not a problem. It also backs up every time you make a change to a file and your backup will always have the most current version. You can view and restore your backed up files at any time via download, USB flash drive (mailed to you,) or USB hard drive (mailed to you.) Backblaze does not however support the backup of network drives.
Q: Does Backblaze also save earlier versions of my files like Dropbox does?
A: Yes. You can locate earlier versions of files or even files that have since been deleted. To learn how to do this, follow the step-by-step directions in this article from Backblaze.
Q: I live in a fairly remote location, and have a limited Internet data plan. Will Backblaze use a lot of data?
A: Backblaze, as with any Cloud backup service, does require a strong internet connection and could take days or weeks to completely back up your entire computer. This will depend quite a bit on how much data you have on your computer. If you have a limited data plan or slow internet, you could experience delays or what appears to be high data usage while the initial backup is occurring. Here is a link to a helpful page on the Backblaze website called “Bandwidth Speed Test to Backblaze” where you can test your internet speed. Backblaze is designed not to “throttle” or slow down the flow of uploads. It strives to use your full internet bandwidth. However, you do have the option to set it to slow down the backups. The “Bandwidth Speed Test to Backblaze” page provides instructions on how to  throttle your download speed so that it doesn’t use up as much bandwidth.  While this will cause your initial backup to take longer, it can clear help ease  up on the data usage and allow for your other internet activity. You can also pause backups, or set them to start manually or at scheduled intervals. Once your initial backup is complete, the data usage should slow down.
Q: Because Backblaze backs up my computer automatically and instantly, what happens if I get a virus. Will that also be transferred to Backblaze?
“Since Backblaze is…continuously running online backup solution and is not locally connected to your machine, all of your backed up files would be available for restore with minimal or no data loss (depending on the last backup time before the machine was infected).”

A Note From Lisa About Backblaze for Genealogy

Lisa answers your questions“You’ve heard me talk about Backblaze on the podcast, and why it’s my first choice when it comes to backing up my precious genealogy research and personal files. I met their CEO Gleb Budman at Rootstech and after lots of research, I decided that Backblaze was the best cloud backup service out there! Maybe you’re still on the fence about it or maybe you’ve been putting it off, unsure of how complicated it is to set up or if it’s really worth the cost. So I got in touch with our friends over at Backblaze and we’ve set up a special offer for those of you have not yet begun protecting your data.”

As a special bonus, you’ll get the free mini ebook with purchase of “Lisa Louise Cooke’s Top Tech Solutions”!
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Buy it now or sign up for a free trial with the button below:
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“I Lost My Photos on My Phone!!” Here’s What You Need to Do

Using your mobile device for genealogy is a great idea, but with that convenience takes some additional know-how. Back-up your mobile device images in a few simple steps and you’ll never say, “I lost my photos on my phone!”

Back-up Your Mobile Device Easily

“I lost my photos on my phone!!”

This is NOT what you want to hear from a dear friend who is also a genealogist. So my heart sank when Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant’s email dropped into my inbox.

Amie wrote:

“I spent 6 hours researching at a cemetery and archives in a far away location. You won’t believe this, but when I got home I realized my smartphone wasn’t working. I had taken all the tombstone images with it, all the document copies were made with it, all my notes were on it. And I hadn’t even had time to back it up.”

That’s the problem, unless you back up as you go, you can’t be sure that just an hour later it won’t all be gone. These days you’re more likely to snap photos of records with your phone than a camera. But with that convenience comes the need for a new game plan to keep those precious images safe.

Back-up Your Mobile Device Images: The Plan

I put together an immediate email to Amie with a restoration and preservation game plan. If, like Amie, you are using your smartphone and mobile devices more and more, you’ll want to put this plan into place too.

First, I advised Amie to visit her phone store (for example, The Apple Store if you have an iPhone) and see if they could retrieve the lost photos and data. You never know unless you ask!

Back-up Your Mobile Device Photos

Image of Amie’s 4th great-grandfather she was able to retrieve.

Next, it’s important to consider automatic back-up options. Automatic back-ups are great, which is why I love BackBlaze. But BackBlaze is back up for your computer. The BackBlaze app on your phone only gives you access to those computer files, and doesn’t back up your phone.

One option is to back-up manually as you go. In other words, as soon as you snap that image of a record, save it to a Cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. You could even activate Cloud back-up so that it happens automatically, though with the size of image files, you would likely need a paid subscription service to allow for adequate storage space. However, if you are going to continue to use your phone as a genealogy tool, it may be well worth the investment. Let’s look more closely at these two options:

Free Manual Option: If cost is an issue, you can save your photos to a free Dropbox account at the time you take the photo, and then move to more permanent storage on your computer at a later time.

1. Take the photograph

2. Tap the photo in my iPhone’s Photos app

3. Tap Edit and do a quick edit to clean it up (improve contrast, rotate so that it is right side up, crop to get as close-up as possible)

4. Tap Done to close the editor

5. Tap the Share icon and tap Save to Dropbox

6. Select the folder in Dropbox where I want to save the image and tap Save

However, it would definitely be faster and simpler to have your phone automatically backing up to the Cloud.

Low Cost Automatic Option: If your phone is going to be one of your genealogy tools, then automatic cloud back-up may be worth the low cost of around a dollar a month.

Personally, I am not a fan of iCloud even though I have an iPhone. I just don’t find it very user friendly to work with. Setting up your photos and videos to automatically back up to your Google Photos library via Google Drive is another option. Again, since photos and videos do take up a lot of space you’ll likely need to invest in a low cost monthly storage plan.  Click here to learn more, or Google search Google Drive Plan Cost (or substitue the name of the service you are considering) for current plans.

Bottom line: There are several Cloud services available for our smartphones and mobile devices, so there’s sure to be one that’s right for you. Where ever your images find their final resting place, make sure it has Cloud back-up.

Amie’s Response to the Plan

I quickly sent the plan to Amie. She responded by saying:

“Thank you, Lisa! It was devastating. You were right, a nice man at the phone store was able to restore them! But, I don’t ever want to have this happen again. When I set up my new phone, a Samsung Android, I noticed a setting that said something like “automatic save to Google drive” and it would sync your images. So I clicked it “on” but now I can’t find where I did that! Any ideas?”

Troubleshooting Backing-up Your Mobile Device

When people shoot me a question, my usual response is “Just Google it!” I Googled Automatic backup of android phone and got several great hits on the results list.

One article on Android Fact.com was particularly helpful. (Read the full article here.) Remember, it can get pretty expensive to be instantly uploading images with your cell phone carrier. I suggest clicking Wi-Fi Only to ensure that uploading only takes place when you are connected to Wi-Fi.

I regularly emphasize backing up important documents that live on your computer. But let’s face it: If you have a smartphone, it would be oh, so sad to have to say “I lost my photos on my phone!” So don’t wait—back up your smartphone or mobile device today.

Another Tip for Using Smartphones for Genealogy

mobile genealogy bookHere’s a another mobile computing tip my book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research.

Smartphones and other mobile devices offer a plethora of editing tools. It is well worth the investment of a few extra seconds to clean up and maximize images as you go. This is particularly true of records that need to be clear for future reference or printing.

Try applying a filter to your images for maximum readability. I like the Noir filter in my iPhone’s Photos app editor.

More Gems on Using Mobile Devices for Genealogy

How to Use Your Mobile Device for Genealogy: Free Video!

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Mobile Device

How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps

Download BackblazeDon’t be intimidated by signing up for Backblaze, the cloud-based computer backup service I recommend.
Here’s how to download Backblaze in four easy steps. Protecting genealogy data, family photos, and other files is essential!

I was pretty startled when I discovered that the cloud backup service I used to use wasn’t backing up my video files! That was a deal-breaker for me. So, after reviewing other cloud backup service options, I chose Backblaze. I’m really glad I did. Backblaze runs 24/7 through my internet connection and is constantly saving changes I make to every file. That means if my computer is lost, stolen, destroyed, or hit with deadly viruses, I’ll always have copies of my files and that even includes my large video files!

Genealogy Gems Premium website member Kathy felt a little intimidated about downloading BackBlaze for the first time:

“I received your e-mail yesterday with all the helpful information. I remember you mentioning Backblaze in previous e-mails, and I looked up their website and read the information I could find. However, it did not show the download steps, so I could not tell how difficult it would be and if it would ask me really hard questions that I would not know how to answer during backup, so I didn’t subscribe.

I have had a few external hard drives with backup programs before and they were very difficult and I didn’t want to go through that again. But, I decided that today would be the day, that I would back up my computer…I subscribed to Backblaze. I trust your judgement, so thank you for your advice.”

Have you wondered, like Kathy did, if it would be complicated to set up Backblaze? Has it held you back from taking the leap to protect your files? I want you and our other readers and listeners to feel 100% confident in downloading this awesome back-up service. Here’s how to download Backblaze to your device in four easy steps.

  1. Click here to go to Backblaze and begin your free 15-day trial by clicking on “Try Free Trial.”Download Backblaze
  2. You will be asked to create an account using your email address and choosing a password. Once you have clicked “Start Backing Up,” a pop up window will appear and you can download Backblaze to your device.How to download Backblaze
  3. Next, another pop-up window will ask your permission to install Backblaze to your device. Click “Ok.”
  4. Wait patiently. Yet another pop-up window will appear and ask you to “Install.” Click “Install Now.” It may take several minutes depending on the speed of your internet connection.Download backblaze

You have now installed Backblaze and the back-up process has begun. You can continue to use your device normally as all your data is backing up.

How to Schedule Your Back-up Time

It is quick and easy to set up a time for Backblaze to back-up your data. By clicking on “Settings,” and then “Schedule,” you have the pull-down menu options of a continuous backup (this is the option Backblaze recommends, and the one I chose,) a daily backup, or “when I click <back up now>.” Choose whatever option is best for you and then click “Apply” and “Ok” at the bottom of the window. You are all set!download backblaze

A Crucial Aspect of Your Genealogy Research

So, why did Kathy want cloud backup service? She says:

In 2013, we had a house fire and we lost everything but the clothes on our backs. I lost 30 years of genealogy, all my records and my genealogy library, plus all the ancestral photos that can never be replaced. I did have a back-up system, but it burnt right along with my computer. At first, I thought I would never do genealogy again. I would never be able to replace all that I had lost. It was costly enough to order all the birth, death, and marriage records the first time. There was no way I could do it again. I bought another computer and a copy of Family Tree Maker 2012 and decided that I would just work on some of the families that I was most interested in. I have very limited resources now, but I am enjoying trying to rebuild little bits of my tree. Thank you for all you do for the genealogy community. It is greatly appreciated.

My heart aches for Kathy’s loss. I hear stories like her’s far too often. I truly believe that backing up our precious genealogy data is a crucial (and underutilized) aspect of family history research. I hope her story will help to encourage others to start backing up today. I am so happy that many Gems, like Kathy, are now using Backblaze.

After doing my homework, I was proud to bring Backblaze on as the official backup of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. Please get the word out there to your favorite genies that Backblaze is an effective and cost-efficient way to save us from loss of our most important data. They’ll be thanking you!

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