My genealogy data won’t be lost when I die.
After exploring every option I can think of, one of them presents the solution I desired at the beginning of my quest. Where could I put a copy of my genealogy data and be sure that my years of work would long survive my passing from this world?
The answer was FamilySearch.org
The records on FamilySearch are not only backed up with an extensive backup and recovery system, they are stored on digital tapes and other archival storage media inside a granite mountain. The focus of FamilySearch is to find the names of everyone who ever lived on this planet, organize them into families and to ensure that data is never lost.
I have no idea what the budget is for the FamilySearch organization and all of its related endeavors, but it must be substantial. Adding to the cash investment, there is the investment of billions of volunteer man-hours in projects, researching, indexing and a myriad of other community-based, salary-free, contributions to FamilySearch. If a cash value were assigned to the massive volunteer effort, it would undoubtedly make the organizational budget look like a Cracker Jack prize next to a Tiffany’s jewelry case.
Now that tree.familysearch.org is functioning and allowing users to add sources to each fact about our ancestral families, much of my earlier dilemma about others recognizing the validity of my research has been resolved. If you don’t’ have access yet, you will eventually.
Additional features that allow the addition of ancestral images, timelines, map links and histories are still needed but the FamilySearch is headed in the right direction and has them on the planning and development calendar.
What long-term storage options did I explore and to a degree abandon?
1. Local storage on hard drives.
Yes, I have 8TB of genealogy data and images now but I have no illusions that I can pass the information on to my descendants and expect them to engage in the genealogy quest that I’ve enjoyed during my lifetime.
No, I don’t expect my hard drives to last forever. In fact, I expect them to die in less than a year, or at least that has been the mortality rate that I’ve enjoyed with them on average over the past fifteen years.
Yes, I know that having all my data in "one basket" is foolish to the extreme, which is why I don’t do it.
Yes, I know that my genealogy program formats will eventually be superseded by something better or different an my data in its native file format may become useless to future genealogists, hence the frequent GEDCOM format exports of my data to storage locations both at home and off-site. I just wish the GEDCOM format would capture the huge quantities of events and other special information that I’ve added to the records in my databases.
Yes, I know that most of my data is actually digital images of photographs and the hundreds of thousands of documents, records and other ‘hard copy’ pages that support my genealogical research and data. It isn’t being backed up on FamilySearch. Another solution is needed. Hopefully, FamilySearch will address the need to link the images on its site to specific individuals in the FamilySearch database before too much longer. That will help mitigate this backup shortcoming.
2. Backup to archival quality DVD’s.
Way back when, CD’s and then DVD’s were an integral part of my backup plan. Then the size of my data and image files exploded into monsters that make the tiny storage limits of either of this type media inadequate to be a valid selection. Yes, I know all about the life of this media. I’ve invested a lot of time learning about it.
3. Backup on memory sticks
Even with the larger memory sticks available today, they are tiny in comparison to my data files. Yes, I have them. Yes, they contain very stripped down selections of my data. Yes, they are scattered in various locations including in my 96-hour bug out kit, but they aren’t’ the answer. And yes, I know that they ‘leak’ memory over time. Not a lot but the memory chips in them do degradate over time.
4. Cloud Storage
Cloud storage is a terrific short-term solution for your data. Short-term you say? Yes, short-term. I’m excluding FamilySearch in this statement. I’m saying short-term because you have to pay for the data storage. Eventually, you or your descendants will stop paying the monthly bill. It is going to happen. It’s not an ‘IF’ question but a ‘WHEN’ statement.
Granted, you can give your data to businesses like Ancestry that charge you for the privilege of populating their databases for use by others (don’t kid us Ancestry, we know how it really works) and the data may survive but it won’t be my data and it won’t have my sources, my notes, my source arguments. Trust me on this. Go back and look at data that you submitted to earlier Ancestry properties like RootsWeb, etc.
Why should they guarantee ‘my’ data, notes, sources, etc., should survive? They are in business to make money. The long-term survival of my data is not a priority, if I’m not paying for it. It’s business. That’s how it works.
5. Hard copy
Yes, I have a room in our house full of file cabinets that are full of hardcopy genealogy records. The represent much less than a tithe on the total volume of record and book source images in my digital library. Will I ever print the digital images to hard copy? No. There isn’t a chance in the world of me doing that.
Hard copy is great if printed on acid-free archival paper and stored in an archival binder, standing upright in a cool dark location. It isn’t worth much if you are passing it on after your death. Which of your children, grandchildren or another family member has the room or even the desire to store the file cases that contain your hardcopy treasures?
I’m reminded of a note that I sent to one of our sons-in-law last week. "Please find attached the latest copy of your ancestry in book form." "DON’T HIT THE PRINT KEY!" "If you decide you want to print the 2500+ pages in the report, take it to Kinko’s, but don’t waste your money." "The next report I’ll send you will make this report out-of-date and you know that I’ll send you another one at some point in the future." "Until then, just look at your data on my site."
As much as I’d really like to have a nice leather bound collection of books that contain my genealogy as created from my databases, I don’t have a home large enough to store them, nor the money to print them and no, I probably wouldn’t read them anyway… they’d quickly be out of date!
6. Give a copy to libraries
Depending on the size of your research collection, some libraries may accept your donation. NOT. They don’t want your file cabinets and stacks of research. They probably will accept hard bound, well written books that you’ve created from your research. Even the Family History Library in Salt Lake City won’t accept your research unless it is in this format and even then there are restrictions. If you want to read about donating to the Family History Library in Salt Lake, read this document. bit.ly/LvHeZG
That’s the list I ended up with after a lot of thought. My images are still at risk, but I’ll come up with something.
There are a lot of variables, company names and technologies that you’ll find when you look into long-term storage yourself but it all comes down to one thing.
Who is going to offer storage and access to your data basically forever at no cost? FamilySearch. There really isn’t another answer if you take the time to analyze the question.
FamilySearch is in the business of preserving the data for religious reasons. There isn’t another agenda. They never have to make a profit from their venture. They already work under a process that will ensure its survival even in the event of a nuclear war or a TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as we Know It) disaster.
Can anyone else make the same claim?