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Genealogy Do-Over – Week 13, Cycle 3: 25 September – 1 October 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 13 Topics: 1) Securing research data and 2) Reviewing the journey

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 13 Topics: 1) Securing research data and 2) Reviewing the journey

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[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 13 posting on March 27, 2015, except for my personal updates.]

Topics: 1) Securing research data and 2) Reviewing the journey

This is it: the final week of the Genealogy Do-Over. We wrap things up by discussing the best ways to preserve and secure our genealogy research and then review the 13-week journey.

The Genealogy Do-Over: Cycle 4

Do you feel you got a late start on the Genealogy Do-Over? Perhaps you didn’t find out about us until Week 6 or even Week 12? Or you just want to hop on for another ride? No matter your motivation, the Genealogy Do-Over will start again with Week 1 on Friday 2 October 2015. We’ll call this “Cycle 4” and it will run through Thursday 31 December 2015. Stay tuned right here for more information!

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Securing Research Data

Whether you are brand new to genealogy and the Genealogy Do-Over is your first serious effort at research OR you’ve accumulated years and years of research, let me ask you this question: What have you done to preserve and “future proof” all your hard work?

More difficult questions include:

  • If you lost all your data, would you be able to recreate it?
  • Would you even know where to begin?
  • If you died today, do you know what your family would do with your research?
  • Have you made plans to preserve your research for generations to come?

Backing Up Your Genealogy Data

Your genealogy research data is an investment reflecting the time and effort you’ve spent tracing your roots. Like any other investment, your genealogy data should be safe and secure for future use.

The best way to get started on backing up your genealogy data:

  • Create a backup plan. Just like a research plan for your genealogy, you need to determine what data needs to be backed up and how.
  • Identify data for backup. Sounds familiar . . . like one of the topics in Week 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over, right? Don’t forget that as genealogists we tend to store data in many different places. Do you have emails and Internet favorites related to genealogy? Are you certain that information is backed up?
  • Identify a backup method that works for you. Don’t select a backup method, such as copying data each week to a flash drive, if you aren’t going to perform the task on a set schedule. Look for automated backups such as cloud backup or an external hard drive with auto-backup software.
  • Test your backup data. Why bother backing up data if you can’t prove it works? Run a test restore on data and make sure you’re covered.
  • Future-proof your technology. Don’t rely on outdated tech such as backing up to CDs and DVDs (did you know the coating degrades on these items after just five years?). Upgrade to current technology that has been proven and tested, not the “latest” new thing just on the market.

Future Proofing Your Genealogy Research

Do you have concerns about what will happen to your research once you’ve passed on? More and more genealogists are realizing that they haven’t put safeguards into place to ensure that their years of work won’t simply be discarded by family members and friends.

Here are areas that require your attention:

  • Take inventory. Determine what you have and this includes hard copy as well as digital assets and online sites.
  • Include in estate planning. Create a codicil to your will or make sure there are some form of instructions concerning your genealogy research.
  • Have that conversation with family. Be very clear about where your genealogy research is located, why it is important, and what you want done with it.
  • Contact organizations. Determine which libraries, societies and archives will accept all or part of your collection. Donate items you don’t need NOW.
  • Post items online. Consider starting a blog – even a private one – to preserve your family stories. Do the same with a family tree on Ancestry or one of the popular genealogy sites.
  • Do stuff NOW. Tell your own stories NOW. Write that genealogy book NOW. Interview family members NOW.

I’ll admit that none of this is easy to do. It is easy to talk about and give advice on the topic, but many of us just tend to put it off . . . until it is too late.

  • What I Plan to Do: Right now I am very comfortable with my current data backup plan which follows the recommended 3-2-1 plan: 3 copies of my data, 2 different backup media and 1 offsite copy (cloud). In addition, I already have made provisions in my estate planning papers for the disposition of my genealogy research materials once I’ve passed on.
  • “All-In” and Modified Participant Options: Seriously consider creating an action plan for both backing up your genealogy research data and ensuring that it is preserved for future generations.

Reviewing the Journey

Wow . . . 13 weeks and didn’t it just seem to zoom by? I can’t speak for those who either participated in the Genealogy Do-Over or who just watched from the sidelines. I can, however, relate what I’ve learned and discovered during this cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over:

  • There is a need for change: Folks who have been doing genealogy for years and years have begun to realize that their early genealogy research may not provide the foundation that they want for a solid family tree.
  • No guilt, no shame, and no regrets: More importantly, we’ve had an honest discussion about our past practices and ways to improve them. With your input, we’ve created a “safe space” where anyone can admit they were a name collector or didn’t cite their sources.
  • Collaboration counts: Genealogists have always been collaborators; this is nothing new. In years past we would gather at society meetings and exchange information as well as research tips. We would attend conferences to improve our research knowledge and to network with others. Now with social media and groups such as the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group, we’re continuing the collaborative tradition. Remember this: very few of our ancestors arrived in a new place and could survive on their own. They counted on the wisdom and knowledge of those that arrived before them.
  • Honor and respect: I’ve also learned that genealogists are people (amazing, right?) We all have our quirks, our biases . . . we are human after all. Even with close to 10,000 members in the Facebook Group, we’ve managed to agree on many issues and yet disagree on how to approach them. Many people told me I was crazy to try and “supervise the sand box” and that doing so would just suck the life and energy out of me. It turned out that the opposite has been true: I’ve enjoyed the dialog and I’ve gained real insights as to what drives and motivates genealogists. There have been less than five times when I’ve had to delete a post or ban a member of the group for various reasons such as being rude or hijacking posts. I think this track record says quite a bit about the genealogy community.
  • A big thank you to the professionals: One of the most amazing aspects of the Genealogy Do-Over is how the concept has been embraced by various professional genealogists. And I don’t mean that they’ve “capitalized” on an active audience or tried to sell their own products and services to the crowd. Many of them have spent hours posting advice in the Facebook Group on citing sources, locating records, tracking research and more. In particular, Elizabeth Shown Mills has been a regular presence and I’m grateful for all her contributions.
  • Genealogy was meant to be fun: Have you had fun during the Genealogy Do-Over? I have and it has been due to the combination of energy and humor contributed by group members. Thanks to everyone who posted a funny cartoon or quotation. Thanks to those who were able to tell their funny and even most embarrassing stories about their early research. If genealogy isn’t fun, I just don’t think I’d be doing it.
  • A continual journey: And finally, I’ve come to realize that you just can’t do the Genealogy Do-Over in 13 weeks. No one can – not even me. When I created this program, I wanted something short and sweet and that would serve as a foundation for constant and continued improvement of genealogical research skills. I think that has been accomplished. Starting in January 2016, the Genealogy Do-Over will switch to a “once a month” post of topics over the course of the year.

Once again, thank you for being a part of this amazing journey. Your participation, your input at the Facebook Group, your comments on live lectures and webinars and more – all of these have energized me and have made me even more committed to continue leading a discussion on improving genealogical research habits.

  • What I Plan to Do: I plan to continue with the good research habits I’ve acquired over the past three cycles of the Genealogy Do-Over. Right now I am still working on researching complete all four of my grandparents – it is slow going, but the work and the pace is just right for me.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: Evaluate how the Genealogy Do-Over has improved your research habits. Consider participating in Cycle 4 and focusing on those topics where you feel you still need improvement.
  • Modified Participant Options: Evaluate how the Genealogy Do-Over has improved your research habits even in a “review” perspective of your existing research.

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And that’s all I have for this week’s topic of the Genealogy Do-Over. For those of you who are stepping off the Genealogy Do-Over train now that we’re at the end of the ride, thank you for being part of this amazing experience.

Next Week: Week 1, Cycle 4: 2-8 October 2015

  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research
  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.