The first consideration when starting to research your genealogy is creating and safeguarding a digital library.
I have been a computer user from the day of the old single-use word processors. Therefore, I tend to digitize everything into my own digital library of valuables from family photos, tax documents, bills, bank records, correspondence – and of course, genealogy records, genealogy databases and data.
I’m not a novice. I’m well aware of the pitfalls of relying on a digital library, but I’m as guilty as the next person for procrastination and rationalization. When it comes to doing the tasks necessary to ensure my genealogy records are secure and permanent, I tend to think, “It’s OK, I’ll do it later.”
There are, however, some very serious pitfalls of putting these things off.
Some of the compelling reasons for digitizing records include:
- Immediacy of sending genealogy records digitally over the internet.
- Ease of organization, storage, searching and reproduction.
- Ability to share family genealogy records between yourself and others.
- Retain genealogy records in condition at the time of scanning to safeguard against the inevitable ravages of time on physical documents, etc.
- More and more genealogy records are “born-digital”, never having been in physical form at all.
The digital backup we are used to is not sufficient to safeguard and archive records. The process required includes:
- Storing with background, technical and descriptive information
- Storing records in several locations
- Archiving for a very lengthy period of time
- Saving genealogy data at a very high resolution
- Periodically transferring stored genealogy records to new media to prevent loss of data
- Converting file formats and media to new ones to avoid obsolescence
- Ensuring access to the digital genealogy records collection
For my own digital archive storage, I am using a 1 terabyte hard drive and save all important genealogy documents and photos to it. If my sum total of research at this point wasn’t as large as it is, I would use the ‘cloud’ as a backup. But there are limits to the quantity of data it will hold.
After a couple of years, I transfer the archived files to a new backup using the newest technology and format, and use the older hard drive for every day computer backups of less important ‘stuff’. I don’t believe in using CDs or DVDs for permanent storage at all. I’ve had too many fail.