I recently read a blog post by Thomas MacEntee that reminded his readers to back-up all of their genealogy data. I shook my head when I read the reminder, because I have personally suffered from a tragic data loss that left me empty-handed after several years of research. For whatever reason, most of us genealogists think of only how to locate and accumulate new material in our research – while completely overlooking the daunting task of protecting it all.
Why is it important that we back-up our genealogy data? It’s important to back-up your genealogy data for the same reason that it’s important to have health insurance: just in case. As mentioned above – I once had a laptop hard drive go bad and I lost about three years worth of research that had never been backed up. I lost photos and documents that I still haven’t been able to replace. I can’t imagine how much further I would be by now if I hadn’t lost so much data. Out of every tragedy arises a very important lesson, though. For me the lesson was that it takes a lot less time to back your data up than it does to start your research over from the beginning.
Why do we overlook the importance of protecting our hard work? I think there are several reasons that we fail to protect our research. I believe that while a lot of us know our way around on a computer well enough to do what needs to be done – many of us do not realize all the ways we can protect our work for free and with relative ease. Those of us who do know how cheap and easy backing up our data can be still don’t do it, because we do not want to spend all the extra time uploading our files to an outside source. However, denial is likely the biggest reason most of us neglect to protect our research. Denial is, after all, the reason most of us fail to plan for any potential disaster – we’d all like to believe that things like ‘that’ just don’t happen to us. The problem with that mentality is when things do go wrong… we tend to not be prepared for it.
How can you protect your genealogy data? There are so many options for data back-up and protection that I might write a post dedicated to it sometime in the near future. However, a good place to start would be to buy an external hard drive for your computer. An external hard drive is perfect to store duplicates of GED files, copies of documents, and copies of photos that are stored on your computer’s genealogy program. Another good idea is to upload your GED files to a genealogy site like Ancestry – which also allows you to attach family photos, documents, and other digital mementos to your tree.