Saturday, January 30, 2010
If your answer to the above question was "cry", then it is time you change your ways. It is time to make a plan to insure that your genealogy files are safe no matter what happens. Adopting "better safe than sorry" as your motto is a must!
But how should you go about doing this? Good news is that there are lots of options for all of your needs.
1.) Remote Backup Services:
A remote backup service is a great way to backup your files. In this type of backup service, you select the files on your computer that you want to be backed up and how often you would like your files to be backed up. The files that you selected are then backed up to a remote server. If you need to use your back up, you can easily download your files from the remote server.
There are two popular companies that do remote backup services: Mozy and Carbonite. I am a user of Mozy and I really love it. I started off with a free account that gave me 2GB of space and I fell in love. Once my needs increased, I upgraded to Mozy's $4.95 a month unlimited plan. I love that Mozy provides me with peace of mind for very little money (which is important to a broke college student like me!). I've also heard really great things about Carbonite, but I've never used the service so I can't personally recommend it.
2.) Flash drives/CDs
Using a flash drive or CD to backup your files is another popular approach. I use a flash drive to backup my files once a month. This is also really useful if I want to take my genealogy files with me without lugging around my laptop. Since I use RootsMagic4 and have the RootsMagic To-Go program also on my flash drive, it is really easy to show my ancestors to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.
CDs are also a very popular way to backup your genealogy files. It is extremely easy to do and the CDs are pretty cheap to buy. Plus, the CDs are portable and can be sent to a friend or family member so that you have an offsite backup.
However, the downside with this method is that you have to manually back up your files - this can take time to do and can cause inconsistent back ups if you aren't careful.
3.) External Hard Drive
Using an external hard drive is another easy option to back up your files. An external hard drive is an easy place to back up your genealogy files. You can schedule to have your files automatically backed up to your external hard drive. Another plus is that the costs of external hard drives has dropped over the last few years. For example, you can get a 1 TB external hard drive for under $100 bucks.
However, the downside here is that the external hard drive is not away from your house. If a tornado strikes your home and your external hard drive is destroyed, then you no longer have a backup. Or if your house is robbed and your external hard drive is stolen, then you once again no longer have a backup.
But What Should You Back Up? Everything that relates to your genealogy. Therefore, that includes your database files, pictures, documents, bookmarks of your favorite genealogy websites, your blog and blog template, your notes - everything that relates to your genealogy.
Data Back Up Day is on the first of every month. It is so easy to back up your files these days - so there is no excuse. Back up your files!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
What If The Paper Mountain Takes Up An Entire Room?
If your paper mountain looks like Randy Seaver's Genea-Cave, then this section is just for you. In this case, it is all about breaking the mountain up into smaller, more manageable chunks. For example, conquer one corner of the room or one bookcase or even just one shelf. It will take a big dose of patience and some time, but no matter how large the paper mountain is you can tackle it!
Think of it this way: When one of my professors assigns a long research paper of about fifteen pages, the first thing I do is break it down into manageable chunks. For example, I'll make a deadline for myself to have the notes done by one date and then to write a certain number of pages every week. By doing this, the huge research paper seems manageable. I am no longer overwhelmed by trying to write a fifteen page paper.
How Do I Take Care Of My Original Documents?
The original documents that we collect in the course of our research needs to be preserved and protected. Often times, placing these documents into our regular filing system is not a good idea because our filing systems are not made with all archival quality materials. So what is a researcher to do?
Denise over at the Family Curator blog discusses a great way to keep our original documents safe while also having the information in our filing system.
How Do I Go Paperless?
The new trend these days is to go paperless. People now pay their bills online, shop online, and even order pizza online. This trend is not only environmentally friendly, but it also saves a lot of space and is really easy to back up. It also has the added benefit of being uploaded onto the internet and therefore can be accessed from anywhere with internet access.
Here are some tips to make your move to paperless as easy as possible:
- An excellent back up plan is absolutely necessary. I highly suggestion a remote back up program like Mozy or Carbonite to ensure that your information is safe, even if your computer dies. To be extra careful, you might also want to back up to an external hard drive.
- The way you organize on your computer is very similar to the way you would organize your paper files. The big difference is that everything will be in virtual folders. There are other options to organize your computer files that should be explored before you decide to make the switch.
- You will still have to take care of your original paper documents in an archival safe way.
- Is there a website or database where you can access the information? For example, Family Tree Magazine offers the past issues of the magazine on a CD. Each CD has a year's worth of magazine issues. An added benefit about this is that they are searchable.
- When was the last time you actually looked through these newsletters, magazines, and periodicals? If it was more than 6 months, then you probably won't be looking at them again. Therefore, it might be worth considering donating these items to a genealogy society, library, or archive. You can even donate them to a friend or sell them on Ebay.
- If there is an article that you couldn't imagine letting go of, then by all means make a scanned copy of it and keep it on your computer for reference. Then donate the paper item.
- How long will you keep each item? Six months is a good rule of thumb.
- Store these items in labeled magazine boxes. That way you can quickly find the issue that you are looking for.
- Stick to your plan. If you say that you will get rid of that document in six months, then actually do it! Your plan is useless if you choose not to stick with it.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
- Think of how you divided up your papers. In your mind, picture how you think about the details of your ancestors. Do you think about them by the types of records you have? Do you think about them by individuals or couples? Your answer to this question will determine how you will further subdivide your piles.
- Do you want to color code? This is by far not a requirement, but some people really find it beneficial. For the most part, I've only ever heard of people using color coding when they divide their papers by surname. Most people will divide their surnames into four or eight categories; these categories correspond with your four grandparents or eight great grandparents. The four or eight colors that you choose are really up to you - just be sure that these are colors that you can always find at a store. You don't want to try to expand your organizational system someday only to find out that the colored supplies you need are no longer being made.
- Do you want your organizational system to be archival? This is not a cheap option but rather an investment in your papers so that they will last into the future. The archival safe organizational supplies that you use will keep your papers from yellowing and fading over the years (although, eventually the papers will yellow and fade - the point is to extend your paper's lifetime).
- My aunt used to have this three drawer black filing cabinet. The two bottom drawers are made for holding your files, while the smaller top drawer can be used to store the box of extra file folders. The only reason she got rid of this cabinet is because she needed a bigger one.
- If you don't have too many files yet, then I would recommend getting this stackable filing drawer. I like these because they are lightweight and easy to store out of the way.
- Archival file folders are the way to go if you want to try and prolong the life of your files.
- If color coding is your thing, then these colorful file folders are for you.
- I love binders and I use them for just about everything from school, calendars, bills, and organizing my paper files. I really like this heavy duty one inch binder, although you could always get a two inch or three inch binder. However, if you use a binder that is more than three inches wide then it will be bee too heavy and the pages will be hard to turn.
- If you get binders, you'll also need dividers. I highly recommend getting over sized dividers so that you can see the divider even if you are using sheet protectors. You also might want to consider getting archival quality sheet protectors to prolong the life of your files.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
- How do you think of your ancestors? Do you think about them in terms of surname, couples, or record types? Your answer to this question will determine how you will divide your paperwork.
- Do you like file folders and a filing cabinet or do you prefer binders and dividers? Each method has benefits and disadvantages, so it is really a matter of preference.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
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Monday, January 11, 2010
- One size does not fit all. What works for one person may not work for you and what works for you may not work for someone else. You have to find a system that seems natural and makes sense to you. You might even need to tweak some systems to make them work for you.
- Look at the pros and cons of each organizational system you find. This one is very similar to #1. It is important to analyze the pros and cons of each system and pick the one that fits you best. Some things will matter more to you than it does to someone else. Some things will be deal breakers that aren't to someone else. Pick the one that fits your needs and your organizational priorities.
- It takes time and work to stay organized. But the time that you put in will be small in comparison to the time that you save. Being organized means that you can find what you need to find when you need to find it. You'll be more efficient and get more research done.
- Buy organizational supplies after you have assessed what you have and what your needs are. Too often people get all excited to get organized that they head straight toward the stores to buy supplies when they don't even know what they need. Until you've assessed what your needs are and figured out a plan, you can't go buying supplies.
- Reassess your needs every so often. Needs can change as your research progresses or as time passes. Therefore, every once in a while, you'll need to assess whether or not your organizational system is still working.
- De-Cluttering Your Genealogy Challenge Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
- Organizing All Of Those Digital Pictures
- Using Research Binders
- The Organized Family Historian by Ann Carter Fleming. (I love this book because of the great ideas and tips. I love to adapt them to fit my needs and style)
- 30 Seconds: A Guide to Organizing Your Genealogy Files by Robert R. Langdon.
- Thomas MacEntee of Destination: Austin Family and Geneabloggers
- Linda McCauley of Documenting the Details
- Researching O'Connells of Finding Our Ancestors
- Leslie Ann Ballou of Ancestors Live Here and Lost Family Treasures.
- Breaking down a brick wall.
- Reading about someone breaking down a brick wall
- Going to genealogy conferences
- Meeting other genealogists and bloggers
- Talking with older relatives about our ancestors or themselves
- Facebook. I love Facebook.
- My cat. She is wonderful and my partner in research.
- Reading Genealogy Magazines
- My boyfriend - because he always supports me.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
- Fredrick Harney was born about 1845 in Austria.
- Both of Fredrick's parents were born in Austria.
- Fredrick is a blacksmith by trade.
- Margaret Harney was born about 1842 in Prussia.
- Margaret is ill with a disorder called Neuralgia, which causes pain in nerves for no reason.
- Both of Margaret's parents were born in Prussia.
- The two oldest children, Mary and Frank, were born in Austria.
- The two youngest children, Edward and Fredrick were born in Indiana.
- Based on Edward's age and place of birth, the family has been living in Indiana for at least 2 years.
- George Becker is probably Margaret's father.
- Fredrick Harney was born in November 1846 in Austria or Germany.
- Fredrick Harney is a blacksmith by trade.
- Fredrick Harney probably married his wife, Margaret, around 1876.
- Fredrick immigrated to the U.S. in 1872 and is naturalized.
- Frederick Harney was born in November 1880 in Indiana.
- Mary (Harney) Hemstreet was born in September 1865 in Austria.
- Mary (Harney) Hemstreet immigrated to the U.S. in 1873 and is naturalized.
- Mary (Harney) Hemstreet has four children, all of which are born in Illinois.
- Mary Hemstreet is most likely married to M.T. Hemstreet, born April 1864 in New York. The couple was probably married about 1891, possibly in Illinois.
- If Fredrick really is naturalized, then where is his record?
- Where is Fredrick and Margaret's marriage record?
- Where are Fredrick and Margaret buried?
- Where are the passenger lists that list Fredrick, Margaret, and the kids?
- Where is Fredrick on the 1910 census?
- Are the rumors true that Margaret was previously married? If so, then to who?
- Did Fredrick marry a second time after the death of Margaret?
Friday, January 8, 2010
- The Armchair Genealogist: I always learn so many useful tips from this blog. The title is wonderful and I definitely consider myself an Armchair Genealogist.
- We Tree by Amy Coffin: Amy is a very talented genealogist. Her blog is very well written, humorous, and always educational. I'm expecting to "experience" the Family History Expos in Mesa, Arizona through her posts. Also, her 52 Weeks To Better Genealog series is going to be a fun learning experience to participate in.
- The Educated Genealogist is another wonderful blog. It is always so full of humor and creativity. I love how practical she is when it comes to researching her ancestors and I learn a lot from her methods.
- BONUS: Okay, this last blog that I will suggest is not a genealogy blog. Instead, it focuses on creating and maintaining a blog. I know a lot of people probably made a New Years Resolution to start a blog, and this is the perfect resource for any blogger. So check out Problogger for all of your blogging needs.
Monday, January 4, 2010
The image to the left is by TimOve, used under Creative Commons License.
Pretty controversial and ambitious title, huh? We all know -- especially those of us raised in the digital age -- that the internet is the harbinger of global inter-connection and the golden age of information. You don't need to go to a library anymore; just Google it. Most of us are also familiar with the downsides of this hyper-connection and information overload, but we don't reflect on how it affects our genealogy.
Is the internet good for family history? Absolutely. There is a ton of potential beginning to be realized as the medium matures. But, on the flip side, e-vangelists say that every new wave of technology will cause radical paradigm shifts. This just aint so. This article will discuss common beliefs these e-vangelists hold, and give some ideas to get you thinking about how to truly improve the web.
The internet lets you learn about distant repositories, records, search indexes, etc.
Well of course it does. Assuming those records are digitized and indexed, the organizations have websites, and the contact info on them is up to date. Of course if the records are digitized and indexed, there will likely be a fee to access them. (How criminal, I know...In the age of BitTorrent, why can't I just swipe Ancestry's whole database? Information wants to be free!) And please don't get me started on the usability, privacy controls, or search algorithms that subscription and genealogy social-networking sites use. That's a rant for another time.
But plenty of repositories aren't really online. Sure they have a token website, but most don't even respond to their email. (They really don't. I've tried emailing more than one large repository, and it's painfully obvious they have no customer management system set up at all.) So really, most websites end up being a glorified white pages listing. This is still good and useful, but far from the informational utopia we are being told exists.
How You Can Help
- Find your local genealogy society or repository and offer to digitize records or create indexes.
- If your talents lie in CSS and web design, offer to create or restructure their website into something that does not cause viewers' eyes to bleed.
- Even just offering to man the email address and respond to or forward enquiries promptly can do a lot for an organization. (Make sure they advertise next to their email that all messages will be answered within X business days, so that people know you do actually check it!)
The internet lets you find cousins all over the world.
Oh, it absolutely does. Even if you are the type who sets aside the dubious connection most of these "cousins" have to you, you will find many distant relatives online. And many of them are among the nicest, most decent, honest people you will ever meet. But our shared blood doesn't mean we can throw away all our online privacy and protection knowledge -- in fact it's all the more reason to be wary, as con artists know the quickest way to get past your guard is to find (or fabricate) a similarity or connection to build rapport with you. I know we want to believe and often feel that we are building real relationships online, but we absolutely must keep regular internet safety rules in mind.
There will always be fraudsters, so be way. One of the most hair-raising moments of my genealogy adventures occurred when a lady gave me her portion of our family tree, complete with full names, birth dates and places of all the underage children in her branch. She did this knowing only my (self-disclosed) first and last name, e-mail address, and my assertion that we were descended from the same set of great-great grandparents. I did not specify how I descended, nor did I provide any of my database or information first. If I were these children's parents, I would be VERY upset.
How You Can Help
- Be wary about giving out your personal information online, as always.
- If you post your tree online or do database swaps, do up a separate, public version of your database that does not include people after the most-recent deceased generation. (I.e., my husband's father is still alive. My public database doesn't include any information on generations newer than my husband's great-grandfather.) You should leave this gap because although records pertaining to, say, my husband's grandfather, are restricted, he is still in public obituaries, other news stories, and websites. Those in turn give information about the living generation, which we want to protect as much as possible.
Family history blogs and websites let us connect with others researching our family.
They absolutely do...if anyone else is, in fact, researching the family and is also aware that they can use Google to find these sorts of sites, and if you further have a not terribly common surname. Now, assuming all those criteria are met and you do find the website of a fellow researcher, what are you likely to find? Something that's poorly designed, a bear to navigate, infrequently updated, unsourced, and badly written. Most family history websites just add to the digital flotsam that clogs up bandwidth.
How You Can Help
If you want to put up a website about your family history, here are some tips:
- Learn about web design and coding. Use a pleasant but contrasting colour scheme, avoid flash objects and moving graphics or sound, look for straightforward contact pages and navigation schemes, and avoid posting "walls of text" -- break it up with relevant photos and pictures where possible.
- Learn about search engine optimization. You want people to be able to find your site by typing in "[surname] genealogy". This means choosing your URLs, page titles, and headers accordingly.
- Browse the web for other family history pages and make notes on what you like and what you can't stand.
- Test your website on at least two or three (preferably more) differnet computers with different monitor sizes, resolutions, browsers, and operating systems to ensure your site displays properly, or at least readably, on all major configurations.
- Only upload your public database and ensure that you: a) are okay with it being duplicated around the web without your consent or any acknowledgment that you created it, and b) have sourced everything.
Any information I want, I can find with Google.
I wish. If you're looking for major records, you can probably find the repository via Google, although you still have to click through to the website to search their index. Anyone researching a specialized type of record, a more obscure ethnicity, a specific piece of local historical information, or more advanced genealogy techniques has dealt with this. You will try twenty different search terms and still get the same, irrelevant results. And we're already getting the skeezy kind of infomercial pitch pages for badly designed information products, too.
How You Can Help
If you have knowledge of a particular area or subject, give back to the community: write up a quick webpage or a blog post providing some helpful information:
- Even just a rough outline of how to proceed with the topic, or a list of good reference works and where you can get them (or their summaries, if the books are impossible to acquire) helps immensely.
- Think about the search terms people are likely to use when trying to find your information. Include these keywords in your page titles, headings, and text of the page so it is easy to find.
- Register your page for indexing and archiving at the following sites: Cyndi's List, Google, and The Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
The internet is here to stay. As the tech enthusiasts predict, it will change our lives in ways we can't yet imagine. I hope the above discussion has spurred you to think more critically about their claims, and what you can do to help improve the state of genealogy online. Please feel free to link to your projects in the comments below, or explore further pros and cons of online genealogy.
About the Author: Katrina McQuarrie is a Gen Y genealogist who believes in making family history more accessible to non-nerds and young people. She runs a genealogy blog of her own called Kick-Ass Genealogy.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Saturday, January 2, 2010
As part of Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog is challenging bloggers one week at a time in her 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy. Each week, a new blogging prompt will be given that will help sharpen our genealogy skills.
Challenge #1 says: "Go to your local public library branch. Make a note of the genealogy books in the collection that may help you gain research knowledge. Don’t forget to check the shelves in both the non-fiction section and the reference section. If you do not already have a library card, take the time to get one. If you have a genealogy blog, write about what you find in your library’s genealogy collection."
Here are the books that I am planning on checking out:
- Social Networking for Genealogists b"y Drew Smith (you probably know him from The Genealogy Guys Podcast). I've been meaning to read this book for a while. So this week, I am going to check it out.
- Secrets of Tracing Your Ancestors by W. Daniel Quillen. I want to expand my genealogy education this year just to make myself a better genealogist. This book has a great title that just pulls me in and I am bound to learn something. (A new edition of this book is currently available for pre-order from Amazon and will be available on February 2, 2010)
- How to Trace Your Family Tree in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: The Complete Practical Handbook for all Detectives of Family History by Kathy Chater. It is about time that I get over my fear of tracing my Welsh and English ancestors. I have them documented in America, but I really want to finally jump across the pond.
- The Genealogist's Question and Answer Book, 1st Edition by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk. Once again, this book seems like a perfect read as I am trying to expand my genealogy education.
- The Weekend Genealogist: Time Saving Techniques for Effective Research by Marica Yannizze Melnyk. As someone who has little time for genealogy during the school year, this book is a must read.
I am so excited to head to the library on Monday or Tuesday to check these books out. All of these books are thankfully in stock at my local library.
Note: I have a store on Amazon.com in which I recieve a small percentage of the sale when you buy something from Amazon by clicking through my links. I am not trying to push you to buy these books. But if you are going to buy these books anyway, then why not do it through the links provided on this blog. You pay the same price as if you had bought it by going straight to Amazon.com.
Disclaimer: None of the authors of these books have asked me to promote their books. In fact, I haven't even promote their books. I haven't met any of the authors (with the exception of Drew Smith).read these books yet - so I cannot provide a review. None of the authors have paid me or given me any products to promote their books.