November 22, 2017

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 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.

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!

More Gems on Backblazecloud storage download backblaze

Why PC World Likes Backblaze for Cloud Backup

Backblaze Security Gets Even Better for Computer Backup

What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine, I Hope

8 Features Your Cloud Backup Service Should Have

cloud backup serviceCloud backup service for your computer is a must-have, but not every service is the same. Learn 8 essential features yours should have–and the company I love that offers every one of them for just $5 a month.

These days, we create SO many files we couldn’t bear to lose. Genealogy data files. Photos. Videos. Emails (and all those attachments). Unfortunately, computer crashes, thefts and other physical damage are not rare occurrences. And even though external hard drive backups are better than nothing, they are vulnerable to the same loss.

The video below offers a quick introduction to cloud-based computer backup service for your computer. I’ll tell you:

  • WHY I use cloud-based backup for all my own business and personal files,
  • WHAT kind of features I recommend in a backup service and
  • WHO I use to back up my own computers.

And check out the offer in the video for a great cloud backup service PLUS a free video class!

Here’s a quick recap of the questions to ask when considering a cloud backup system:

1. Does it automatically back up ALL your data (including videos)?
2. Does it back up any external drives attached to my computer by USB?
3. Does it have an unlimited file size limit?
4. Has it got an unthrottled or optimized backup speed?
5. Are there flexible backup options?
6. Does it restore files, folders and all data?
7. Does it offer a feature to locate my computer if it’s lost or stolen?
8. Does it allow me to add additional layers of security, such as a pass-phrase?

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyI use and recommend Backblaze because I can answer YES to all of the above. In addition to all these features, Backblaze has a rock-solid reputation in the industry for being secure and reliable. And it’s SO affordable–only $5 per month–less than the cost of a single fast-food lunch for unbeatable security and peace of mind for ALL your data.

I encourage everyone to do the research themselves and choose the right cloud backup service for themselves. But I hope you’ll click here to check out Backblaze as a serious option.

“I Was Robbed!” They Took the Computer AND the Backup Drive (Why You Need Cloud Backup)

cloud storage computer backup plan backblazeA Genealogy Gems listener was robbed of both her computer AND external hard drive. “Thank goodness we had a web-based backup, so we did not lose our precious research or photographs.” Here’s what web-based backup is–and how you can save a whopping 50% on Backblaze backup service THIS coming Monday only).

Recently Kathy from Carmel Valley, California wrote in with a sobering message.

“Lisa, I thought you  might share a reminder with your listeners. My husband and I were out of town last week and were robbed. The robbers took only electronics (thank goodness) and did not mess up the house….another thing to be thankful for. But your listeners can not rely on external hard drives as backup. If the external hard drive is by the computer….the robbers will take that as well.

“Thank goodness we had a web-based backup. So we did not lose our precious research or photographs. It could have been so much worse. This is just another reason why your listeners should look at BackBlaze or another company that provides the same service.  I am grateful that I did.  Yes, we have to purchase new computer equipment….BUT we have our research and our photos.  Gratitude, gratitude.”

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyWeb-based computer backup–also referred to as cloud backup–can certainly minimize our losses if we experience a disaster or robbery. My cloud backup service is Backblaze. Backblaze works behind-the-scenes 24/7 to save a copy of every file on my computer to its secure cloud storage. If I ever need it, I can log in to Backblaze and there it will be, waiting for me.

THIS coming Cyber Monday–November 30, 2015–you can purchase Backblaze cloud backup service for 50% off ONLY through Genealogy Gems. Sign up for my email newsletter now and I’ll send you a coupon code and special instructions for redeeming it on Sunday evening. This fantastic Cyber Monday offer is only valid on Monday, November 30, 2015 and only with the coupon code and instructions you’ll get via my email!

backblaze sale cyber mondaayWhy I Use Backblaze and More About the Cyber Monday Special

 

What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine Was, I Hope!

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-free Life

Backblaze Security Gets Even Better for Computer Backup

Backblaze extra securityWe already trust Backblaze as the official cloud-based computer backup service for Genealogy Gems. Now they’ve added another optional layer of security: even better!

Recently Backblaze, our computer backup service and a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast, let us know that we can now activate an extra layer of security to better protect the data we have stored with them. The feature is called two-factor verification. It requires that we present both our account credentials and a verification code from a second device to gain access to our Backblaze account. That means someone who was trying to steal our data would have to have both our account information and access to the phone that’s tied to the account. Pretty unlikely!

“This feature is available immediately to all Backblaze users and does not require an update to be used,” they told us. It’s also not automatic–you can activate it if you choose.”

We’ve heard from so many Gems listeners and readers who have purchased Backblaze that we wanted to share with you how to enable this optional feature.

How to Activate Backblaze Computer Backup Service’s Two-factor Verification Security

1. Log in to your existing Backblaze account.

2. Open the “My Settings” page as shown here.

Backblaze my settings

(Click image above for larger view)

Backblaze phone number

Step 4

3. Click on the “Sign in Settings” link on the right hand side. If you already have a phone number set up for your account, go to Step 4. If you do not have a phone number set up for your account you will see this screen:

In the “Verify Phone Number” window, you’ll enter your phone number and then verify it is correct by having Backblaze send a verification code to the phone. That verification code is entered in this window. You can not turn on two-factor verification without successfully completing this step.

4. Once you have a phone number set up for your account, you’ll see a screen like this when you click on the “Sign in Settings” link.

Backblaze sign in settings

Step 5

5. Choose the two-factor verification setting you desire and select “Update” to change the setting.

6. The set-up/change of your two-factor verification setting is now complete.

What it will be like to use Backblaze two-factor vertification

Let’s say you have selected the “Every time I sign in” option for your two-factor verification setting. Here’s what happens when you sign in to Backblaze:

1. Click the sign-in button and enter your Backblaze account credentials.

2. A unique text message is sent to the phone number on your account, as shown here:

 

3. At the same time, a “Two-Factor Verification” screen is presented.

4. Enter the code from the text message you received into the “Two-Factor Verification” screen, then press “Enter Code.” You have 10 minutes to enter the code. If you do this correctly you will be logged in to your Backblaze account.

Why not use it?

backblaze online backup for genealogy Cloud backupThis is an optional feature on Backblaze. Why would you choose not to activate it?

“It is important to weigh the added security of two-factor verification against the possibility that you will not have the second device with you when you require access to your Backblaze account,” says an email from the company. Some users may not consider what they’ve got stored with Backblaze to be the kind of data that needs extra layers of protection. Others may not want the hassle of an additional layer of security.

But think carefully–Backblaze backs up ALL the files you tell it to. You may have personal and financial data in at least some documents: bank account or credit card numbers, digitized birth certificates or Social Security cards.

Consider what works best for you! Our best recommendation is to HAVE a computer back-up service in place. We chose Backblaze because of its reputation, the quality and security of its service and its very reasonable price–less than $5 a month! That’s less than you’d spend at most parking garages in a single day. Click here to learn more about Backblaze and why we selected them as a sponsor of our free Genealogy Gems Podcast.

Resources

What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine Was, I Hope!

Dropbox v. Backblaze: Does Cloud Storage for Genealogy Replace Computer Backup?

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-free Life

 

Go Digital! in the New Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 183

GGP 183Digitization tips for old home movies and photos. Online storage and computer backup tips. The Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Pamela Smith Hill, the editor of the new Laura Ingalls Wilder biography, Pioneer Girl.

These are all highlights of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 183, newly-published and available for your listening pleasure on our website, through iTunes and the Genealogy Gems app.

Kristin HardingA special feature is an exclusive interview with digitization expert Kristin Harding from Larsen Digital. She is passionate about getting old photos and movies safely digitized and into storage we can access in the years to come!

As always, you’ll hear from fellow genealogy lovers who have written in with comments and questions. Diahan Southard returns from her summer break with a great new DNA story that settled an old scandal involving U.S. President William G. Harding.

So tune in and enjoy the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 183! Then why not share it with a friend who may like it, too? Thank you!

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-Free Genealogy Life

cloud backup for paper-free lifeHave you dreamed of living a paper-free genealogy life? One where there are no sticky notes surrounding your computer screen and–not so much paper piling up on your desk that your actual remaining work surface is about the size of a sticky note? It happens to the best of us! And much of the reason is we haven’t felt confident about our ability to keep digitized versions of the paper truly safe.

That’s all changing, and a long time Genealogy Gem, Michelle, recently wrote in about her journey to living an almost paper-free genealogy life:

“Dear Lisa,

I wanted to let you know that I just purchased Backblaze to back up my files. I thought you might be interested in my story.

school report outlinedI did my first genealogy project in high school in 1971 and got an A+ on it. I’ve attached the title page for you to enjoy. Well, that project ignited my lifelong passion for family history. During the past 44 years, I’ve amassed a LOT of documents, photos, and videos as you can imagine.

This past year I retired and began the task of scanning all of these items for a couple of reasons:
1. I wanted them to be protected.
2. I wanted everyone to be able to use them and benefit from my lifetime of research.

I purchased a few external hard drives for storage but couldn’t bring myself to toss much of the physical items at all due to fear of the hard drives failing. I tried several cloud services but none of them fully met my needs. Then (on The Genealogy Gems Podcast) I heard your endorsement for Backblaze and tried it out. I knew immediately this was the service for me, especially because you vetted it out and I trust you completely. Now I can finally toss all that unnecessary paper and almost live a paper-free genealogy life!

Thank you for all the wonderful things you do for the genealogy community. You are a hero in my eyes.

A loyal friend and listener,

Michelle”

Thank YOU Michelle for writing in, sharing your story about how you are using cloud backup as part of your paperless strategy, and your kind words. Backblaze is the official cloud backup of Genealogy Gems and we truly appreciate their sponsorship which helps keep The Genealogy Gems Podcast available for free to all genealogists.

And Michelle is very lucky because she even has a record, in the  handwriting of her youth, of when she first caught the genealogy bug. Below Michelle shares the rough draft of the foreword to her paper that describes her first encounter with her Grandma on the subject of family history.

“Grandma, how do you remember all this? Do you have it written down somewhere?” 

“No,” she replied, “It’s all in my head”

I couldn’t believe how she knew everyone’s extended family – names, dates, places, and a biography of each one. She had a whole family history living in her head.”

And now Michelle does too! Do you?

kolbe