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Month: December 2007

Securing the Data – Backup! Backup! Backup!

Securing the Data – Backup! Backup! Backup!

Going Digital 3

I live in hurricane heaven. I used to live in tornado territory. Some live where earthquakes threaten. Fire and flood can happen to anyone. Digital files are so much easier to protect from such disasters than paper files and books.

I keep all my files on external hard drives. I find it easier to have one hard drive for work files which are confidential, one for genealogy files, one for personal files, etc. but that’s a preference. Having one drive would be easier for most people. I bought a small powered D-Link hub that efficiently handles seven USB items and takes up only one USB port on the laptop. Hard drives are getting smaller in size and larger in storage space. They also get less expensive almost daily. My WD Passport drives plug into any USB and do not require a separate electrical supply. They also fit in a large pocket, a purse, a briefcase, etc. I call them my “grab and go” drives. Several times a week they back up, independently, to a large portable hard drive. Once a week the large portable hard drive backs up to a MyBook hard drive. The MyBook is stored away from the computers and other portable hard drives.

With hurricanes you have plenty of warning if you are paying attention. It also works when you are going away for vacation. One drive goes to the bank where it fits nicely in the bank box. One drive is wrapped securely and goes into a secure container placed in what is deemed to be the safest place in the house along with other valuables. The small portables always stay with me. If I evacuate they go in my bag with the laptop. [What? Travel without a laptop? You are kidding, right?]

Backing up is a lesson you can learn the hard way or the easy way. Develop a system for backing up your files, then do it more often than you think is necessary and you won’t learn the painful hard way.

Books – Will It Happen?

Books – Will It Happen?

Going Digital 2

I had to remove all the books in my office so new carpet could be installed. It was a back breaking task that took several days. Along the way I noted, despite several moves and heavy handed weeding out, there were still books I don’t need. I made piles of them. Now as I place the books back into the bookcases I am attempting to sort by subject and do further weeding. Since my dogs do not object to the disarray I can afford to take my time going through the books. Unfortunately I have a list of books I still want to purchase…

Books undoubtedly take up the most space of all my “necessary” paper. Obviously I have a computer which can play audio files including books and podcasts as well read many file formats. I also have Palm LifeDrive which can play audio books in several formats as well as read files in four or five formats — making the available library of books and articles portable. There are many other devices that do that including some cell phones.

Several years ago through a promotion I got a copy of Val Greenwood’s Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy in pdf, all 660 pages in the palm of my hand. A friend read parts of her copy on a plane during a long flight. I’ve read a bit while waiting in a doctor’s office but, frankly, I don’t like reading on a 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ screen all that much – and that’s a larger than normal screen. Recently I purchased a 22″ monitor for my laptop. That’s more like it.

This year I purchased Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained in pdf. I confess, it is still no joy to read on the LifeDrive but it is incredibly handy to have that book with me while researching. And it is word searchable. Next June I am taking her course at IGHR so, after I registered, I bought the book too. In that scenario it is probably easier to have the book.

A couple years ago, as a project for a genealogy society, I tore apart some reprints they had made of old public domain books, ran them through a high speed scanner at a law office in Chicago, converted the output to pdf and made it word searchable. [This now doable in one step.] The final document was burnt to CD. The society now sells the CDs and doesn’t waste space or money storing books to sell. They can literally print a book on demand. Digital books are attractive to sellers because they don’t represent an investment in storage space or paper.

There are many already digitalized books online, often free to download, of interest to researchers. Google Books is a treasure chest of such books. And the word searchable benefit is hard to top.

Having the digital book — and you can easily keep the whole book, not just a few pages — on your computer means you never having to kick yourself for not looking up one more thing when you had the book in your hands 10 years ago.

Until your library is digital list your books on LibraryThing so you know what you have. I’m using a printout of my LibraryThing books to make sure I have all my genealogy books together as I put the office back together. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I still have more books than space in the bookcase assigned to genealogy.

Swimming in Paper? Empty the Pool

Swimming in Paper? Empty the Pool

Going Digital 1

We all have way too much paper and genealogists have more than most. I welcomed the opportunity to get statements, bills and other documents of day to day life electronically — don’t even have to scan, just rename and save. Any document not smart enough to come electronically — tax bills for example — are scanned as soon as paid. My personal life is now fairly paper free.

But what about all those records, carefully collected over many years, of our ancestors? I know a woman who has eight file cabinets of it — one each for mother’s maternal line, mother’s paternal line, father’s maternal line, father’s paternal line and then the same for her spouse’s ancestors. I hope she never moves or has a fire, flood or other disaster.

In 2002 my cousin decided she wanted to add more ancestors to her DAR membership. Mine lapsed but she keeps hers up. I advised I could do a couple without much effort so she chose those two. Guess what? DAR wants a copy of the vital records — not the ones with an embossed seal but a copy. [More and more jurisdictions are giving up the embossed seal anyway.] I scanned all the documents, census records and vital records, printed them out and sent them to DAR. I saved the census records and other documents on my computer and tossed the paper. My cousin wanted to keep the vital records. As long as she is filing them it is fine with me.

I began scanning documents — pages, including title page for citation, of multiple histories of counties where my ancestors were mentioned, pages from many books, stacks of email [carefully printed out] from other researchers on various lines, web pages [carefully printed out] with information or clues.

Publications are nice but generally there are only a couple items I want to keep. So I read them all, then I scanned the articles I wanted to save and tossed the paper. Why aren’t journals available electronically? Some older ones are actually. You can obtain the NEGHR online as a member. The same is true of NYGBR which also has the complete collection on CD through 1960 available for purchase. There are undoubtedly others. I haven’t developed whatever it takes to tear TAG apart just yet but I heard they have discussed making it available electronically too.

I have eliminated two file cabinets. I have one over sized file drawer with documents still to sort through and a stack of legal size papers. My legal size scanner is elderly and prefers to work only in small batches. As soon as that stack is gone it will be retired. After that it will more efficient to go to a copy service — or to photograph them with a digital camera.