Do you remember that goal you set back in January? You know the one. That goal to get your genealogy records and files organized. This was finally going to be the year to get it done.
Well, I have a question for you.
How is that going for you? Have you met your goal? Are you progressing steadily toward that goal?
We are six months into 2016 and if you are like me, you need to little encouragement and/or help to reach my goal. For the next month I will be focusing on organizing our genealogy files, records, photos, etc. I will be offering organizing strategies, tips and resources along throughout the month. We have 6 months left in our year. Let’s reach that goal!
Recently one of my young adult children had a panic filled moment and I received a frantic text just before midnight! The old laptop would not turn on and there were important files needed for an upcoming presentation.
No worries, right? Where are your files backed up? Well…..these files were never backed up! Not in the cloud or on an external device. Eeek!!!!!!*
Could this happen to you? Are your genealogy files at risk for being lost if your computer gives out?
Sit back and get comfortable. We are going to talk about strategies for backing up your genealogy research.
Tips for Backing Up Your Research
Develop a habit of backing up your files the first of each month.
Give copies of your files to other family members.
Back up your genealogy files somewhere other than on your own computer. This could include on CD-ROM or DVD. This could also include cloud backup such as Dropbox, Google+ or a photo-sharing site such as Flickr.
Use the 3-2-1 system that photo organizers use: 3 copies of your photograph – 2 types of media (This could be an external hard drive and an optical drive) – 1 copy offsite.
External Device Backups
Here are some examples for backing up your genealogy files on devices other than your computer.
iDrive – iDrive is also a great option. You can back up multiple devices which is always a plus. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. I have just begun to use iDrive and am still learning all that it can do. So far, I am very pleased with it. (It came highly recommended to me by several friends.)
Online Genealogy Sites
Those of you who keep your family tree on one of the major websites such as FamilySearch or Ancestry.com also need to back up your trees. Just having your family tree on a website does not protect it if the website should go down. etc.
Organizing Your Back Up System
You will notice I used the word “system”. Backing up your genealogy files doesn’t just happen. Once you have your tools in place, you must create a system.
When will you back up your data? Get into a routine and back up on the same day each month. Put a reminder on your calendar.
Where will you store your off site copy? Placing a copy in your safe deposit box or giving a copy to a family member are good ideas.
*After much angst, the files were retrieved and a lesson learned.
Please note that this post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you decide to purchase a product/service. This does not cost you extra. Be assured I only recommend products/services that I use and think you would like too.
This month we are focusing on organizing our genealogy research. Genealogy organization includes more than just organizing your physical files. It can and should include organizing the events of your ancestors’ lives.
Let’s talk about timelines!
Placing your ancestor’s life events on a timeline does three things:
Timelines allow you to put your ancestor in chronological time and place to better understand his/her movements and connections.
Timelines reveal gaps in your research where more information about your ancestor is needed.
Simply by creating your ancestor’s timeline, you become very familiar with him/her and can possibly anticipate where to find more sources of information.
Tools to Create Your Ancestor’s Timeline
My favorite two tools to use when creating a timeline for an ancestor are paper and pencil. That’s right….just paper (notebook paper is fine for me!) and a preferably a mechanical pencil. Add in colored pencils and that’s a bonus!
More high-tech options are certainly out there. Check your family tree software for a timeline option. This can be a simple way to create your ancestor’s timeline.
Online resources are out there, too. Some are free and some are subscription based. I have not personally used any, but have seen Timetoast and Our Timelines as options other genealogists use.
One thing you will want is a good historical timeline. Placing your ancestor among national, state and/or local events can reveal important clues about your ancestor and places to search for new records. Online tools will often have this feature built in. The Animated Atlas of American History is one of my favorites. For state and local events timelines, I simply perform an internet search for “Timeline of [Location] history”.
Performing an internet search for “Timeline of North Carolina History” resulted in timelines for different centuries, timelines on women’s history, and timelines on healthcare/epidemics. If you have ancestors in North Carolina, any of these events could have had an impact on there lives.
Creating Your Ancestor’s Timeline
Timelines can take on many different forms. Let’s look at a few examples before you begin.
1. This is a paper and pencil timeline for William Haley (1861-1948) of Charlotte County, VA. This one is simple, quick and requires no learning curve.
2. This is an example of a vertical timeline for William Haley created using Google Sheets in Google Drive. You can use MS Excel to achieve the same thing. View the whole timeline here.
3. This is an example of a portion of William Haley’s timeline from a genealogy website. Ancestry.com displays an individual’s profile in a timeline format. While this style by Ancestry.com has not always received favorable reviews, there are advantages to it. Check the program you use for your family tree for instructions on creating a timeline. In the past, I have used FamilyTreeMaker and RootsMagic to easily create timelines as well.
There is no right or wrong here. Try different formats and find which works best for you. The best timeline is one that you will actually use!
Now, Get Started!
Grab those physical and digital files that you have already organized and readily accessible.
Decide which historical timelines to use for reference.
Filing genealogy records for female ancestors can be tricky. They typically exist by two surnames: the maiden name and the married name. Sometimes they had more than one married name. Continue reading →
Smartphones have changed a lot over the years I have been performing genealogy research. Actually, they did not exist when I started! Now my smartphone has become the most important organizational tool I use for on site repository and courthouse research . From keeping my research plan, my genealogy records and recording new finds, I can easily record and organize my research quickly.
6 Smartphone Apps To Keep Your Genealogy Organized and Accessible
Most of the smartphone apps used are not genealogy specific. These are all useful for other projects you may have going.
1.Dropbox- This is perhaps the most often used app on my phone for keeping my genealogy files organized and accessible. Within Dropbox, I use a nesting file organization system. Use a main surname file, then sub-folders by record types then the ancestor name.
Talbott (Main surname folder)
*Birth Record (Record Type Subfolder)
*Bossy Talbott (Individual Subfolder)
*Bossy Talbott (Individual Subfolder)
*Bossy Talbott (Individual Sub-folder)
*Bossy Talbott (Individual Sub-folder)
This is a brief snapshot of just one filing system in Dropbox.com. Individualize your system. Whatever system you use, be consistent!
Tip: If you keep your ancestors’ photos in a different digital location, use the same nesting file system for your ancestors’ photographs, too. That just keeps things simple. Use the same nesting file systems for digital and paper files as well.
3. Camera – Your smartphone’s camera is a wonderful tool in your on-site genealogy research. Use to take digital photographs of documents you need. (Note: Many courthouses and archives do not allow digital photos or scanners. Know the rules before you go.) You can immediately edit and file your digital files while the information is still fresh in your mind. Obviously your camera is a great for capturing impromptu genealogy stops at cemeteries and other family history “sights”.
4.Ancestry App (or app for whichever program you keep your family tree on) – Having easy access to your family tree is important when performing on-site research.
6. Trello – Trellohas become a favorite project manager app. Create research plans and break the plan into individual steps. Trello took some work for me to become comfortable using it for my genealogy research, but has quickly become indispensable in my research. I recommend you view the beginning Trello video before you start. [You will be seeing more on how Trello can be used for genealogy research soon!]
Organize your phone apps, too!
Create a folder on your phone for your research apps. Keep the folder on your phone’s home display page for easy access.
Remember….no organization system is perfect. The most important thing is to be consistent regardless of which system you use.
Do you have unidentified photographs of your ancestors? I think most genealogists do. How do we identify those individuals? Try these techniques and strategies to identify types of photographs, fashions and other important clues to learn more about your ancestors’ photographs.