Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists: Assess Your Assets Part 1

fire

This morning I looked out my window and could see a huge plume of smoke. Across the valley a wild fire is raging that began yesterday afternoon. The hot and very dry conditions have fueled the flames, and homes are starting to be evacuated.  It’s a grim reminder that disasters do happen and no one is immune.

It is National Preparedness Month in the United States, and for genealogists, that means disaster planning for our home archives and family history files. We don’t like to think about the unthinkable: losing our original photos, documents and years’ worth of research in a fire, flood, hurricane or other disaster. But it’s happened in places as high-and-mighty as federal archives here in the USA: it can certainly happen in our homes. Even a leaky roof, downed tree, bug infestation, basement mildew issue, theft or other “minor” disaster can mean total annihilation of our family archives if it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I watch the fire and monitor it’s progress on Twitter, I’m thankful that I can rest easy that my precious family history is protected in a number of ways. This month, I’ll share four steps to help you secure the future of your family past, one step for each of the next four weeks. This gives you time to follow through on each piece of advice before you get to the next step. This week’s step:

ASSESS YOUR GENEALOGY ASSETS. What needs protection?

Your top priority, as a genealogist, will likely be original photos, documents, artwork and one-of-a-kind family artifacts like a family Bible. In other words, things that can’t be replaced.

Next, think about things you’d rather not have to replace: records you’ve ordered from repositories; several years’ worth of genealogy notes and files; computerized family trees. Make yourself a list, so in the weeks to follow you can carry out an emergency plan for each item (starting with high-priority items) as your time and budget permit. Next week’s topic: DUPLICATE THE PAST.

 

Disaster Planning for Genealogists Part 4: Share and Update Files

firefighter_run_300_clr_11079This 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!

Episode 192


Genealogy Gems Podcast

Episode #192

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Genealogy Gems PodcastHighlights from this episode:

  • How to use Animoto, my favorite new tech tool for creating professional-looking slide shows and videos
  • New Genealogy Gems team member Amie Tennant shares insights as she prepares for professional certification
  • A listener shares a favorite genealogy database for finding recent relatives
  • A listener uses DNA to connect adoptive and biological relatives?who were closer than she thought
  • A segment from the Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with author Helen Simonson on The Summer Before the War
  • News from Dropbox and a new initiative to capture the family histories of remote, indigenous populations

 

NEWS: Dropbox Improvement
New on Dropbox: Now when you share Dropbox content with someone, shared links will stay active even if you move or rename the file or folder.

Dropbox file-sharing tip: “If you ever want to unshare something you’ve already sent out (like to remove access to a sensitive document), it’s easy to disable an active link.” Just sign in to dropbox.com. “Click the link icon next to the file or folder, and click ‘remove link’ in the top right corner of the box that appears. You can also remove the link by visiting dropbox.com/links and clicking ‘x’ next to the file or folder.”

How to share folders on Dropbox

 

NEWS: MyHeritage and Tribal Quest

NEWS: New Premium Video

New Premium Video Getting Started with Genetic GenealogyGetting Started in Genetic Genealogy: a new video available to Genealogy Gems Premium website members by Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard

Genealogy Gems Premium website membership: Click here to learn more

Click here to watch a free video preview

 

MAILBOX: Russ Recommends the U.S. Public Records Index

Genealogy Gems MailboxRuss blogs at https://worthy2be.wordpress.com/

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 181: What to use while waiting for the 1950 census

Russ recommends the “U.S., Public Record Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 and 2.”

“Volume 1 is far more interesting with more data. A search will return a Name AND Birth date, along with more than one ADDRESS, Zip Code and sometimes phone numbers.”

Ancestry’s description of its online database for Volume 1 says original data comes from public records spanning all 50 states, such as voter registration lists, public record filings, historical residential records and other household database listings.

US Public Records Index

Thoughts about using the U.S. Public Records Index (some of these points come from the FamilySearch wiki):

Not everyone who lived in the U.S. appears in the index, and you’re more likely to find birth information for those born between 1900 and 1990. What you’ll find is primarily where someone lived, and often when they lived there.

It’s rarely possible to positively identify a relative in this index, since there’s limited information and it spans the entire country for up to a half century, and you can’t follow up on the record it comes from because the index doesn’t say where individual records come from. As Russ says, this is a great resource to use in combination with other records. It’s a similar concept to the way you might consult uncited family trees: great hints to go on and follow up with further research into verifiable sources.

When you find more recent listings, you can sometimes find telephone numbers for living distant relatives. The Family History Made Easy podcast has a 2-episode series (episodes 14 and 15) about cold-calling techniques for reaching out to distant relatives you don’t know.

 

MAILBOX: Katie on Cold-calling and Adoption and DNA

Katie blogs her family history adventures at McKinnon Ancestry.

Click here to read a blog post with her story and see more pictures that go with it.

Gem - Katie

 

INTERVIEW: Amie Tennant

Amie Bowser TennantAmie Tennant is the newest member of the Genealogy Gems team. She contributes to the blog at www.genealogygems.com. She is also preparing to become a certified genealogist, which is a professional credential offered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).

What have you learned in the process of preparing for certification?

“I think the biggest thing I have learned is the meaning of true exhaustive research. We talk a lot about that in our genealogy standards, but essentially, it is looking EVERYWHERE for EVERYTHING that might shed light on your research question.”

Why do you want to become certified?

I want a way to determine how well I am doing. A measuring stick of sorts.

What is the process like?

The process is the same for everyone. Once you have decided to become certified, you apply to the BCG. They send you a packet of information and you are “on the clock.” The clock is up in one year unless you ask for an extension. The portfolio you create consists of:

  • Signing the Code of Ethics
  • Listing your development activities (like formal coursework or enrichment activities);
  • Transcribe, abstract, create a genealogy research question, analyze the data, and then write the research plan for a document that is supplied to you;
  • Do those same 5 things for a document of your choosing;
  • A research report prepared for another person.
  • A case study with conflicting, indirect or negative evidence;
  • A kinship determination project (a narrative genealogy that covers at least 3 generations)
  • There is a lot of great free content on the BCG website: articles, examples, and skill-building activities.

 

GEM: How to Create Family History Videos Quickly and Easily

Visit our page on how to create family history videos which includes video tutorials and inspirational examples.

 

Genealogy Gems Book ClubBOOK CLUB: Interview excerpt with Helen Simonson,
author of
The Summer Before the War

Helen Simonson

featured book

Get the hardcover

Get the Kindle ebook

Beatrice Nash is a bright, cosmopolitan young lady who has grown up traveling the world with her father. Now he’s gone, and she’s landed in the small village of East Sussex, England, where the locals aren’t entirely thrilled about engaging her as a female Latin instructor for their schoolchildren. She spends a summer fighting for her job, meeting a local cast of engaging eccentric characters (both gentry and gypsy) and trying not to fall for handsome Hugh. Then the Great War breaks out.

This novel follows Helen’s popular debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 21 languages. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can join us in June to hear our exclusive and fun interview with Helen Simonson.

 

GENEALOGY GEMS PODCAST PRODUCTION CREDITS:

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Contributing Editor

Vienna Thomas, Audio Editor

Additional content by Lacey Cooke, Amie Tennant

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU