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11 November 2005 @ 12:16 pm
I've read lots of articles on filing systems for genealogy but nothing on storing your databases. Well, now you have an article on this important subject. This is a follow-up on yesterday's article "Backup vs GEDCOM". http://www.livejournal.com/users/rzamor1/2005/11/10/

Yesterday I mentioned the importance of long term storage of your genealogy database in a GEDCOM format. The reasoning behind this is programs change over time. You won't always have access to the original program; to restore your backup to. If you have a GEDCOM you can recover it from a number of different genealogy software programs. Of course if it's being stored long term you need to make sure you have several GEDCOMs made in as many different types of media as possible. Store several copies in locations away from your home. It's also good to have it stored on a site like RootsWeb or GenCircles.

GEDCOMs are great for storing your information long term or sharing the information with others. But, GEDCOMs are NOT so great as a means of storing a working copy of your database. Any time you store your database in a GEDCOM format your RIN numbers might change. (That can be a real problem for some people.) There is also the issue of some genealogy programs having extra fields to enter your information into; that might not transfer correctly from a GEDCOM. So, for your working copy I would recommend you use the backup function in your genealogy program. Most genealogy programs create backups in a zip format. The purpose of a backup is to make copies of your database that you can later restore from. If you are doing a lot of data entry it's important to stop and make periodic backups. You never know when your computer might hiccup and cause all sorts of problems. Before you merge people in your database make a backup. Then if you make an error your can use the backup copy to restore from. You just never know when your database might become corrupted and you need to restore from an earlier copy of the database. But, also remember to periodically make a GEDCOM of your information so you will have that as an emergency backup plan.

When I first started using a genealogy program (PAF), I stored my backup on 5 1/4" disks and then 3 1/2" disks. I would rotate between three sets of my backups. Next CD's came along and I started using CD-RWs (re-writable) to copy my database to. Having become more paranoid about my backups I had seven sets, one for every day of the week. I would put little sticky notes on them to show which one had my latest backup. That system was working great until I bought a flash drive.

You wouldn't think having a flash drive would be an issue but it was for me. I didn't know how to store multiple copies of my database on it and keep the sequence order straight. I do have two flash drives but I wanted each flash drive to have a current copy of my database. I was no longer using 3 1/2" disks for backup copies. I was burning CD-R's (one time use) to make frequent copies of my database.

So here is the plan I devised. I created in my genealogy program's (Legacy) data folder a separate file for each of my four databases, Harris, Miller, Weatherwax, and Zamora. So each time I was working in one of those databases I would save a backup to the folder it belonged to. To keep the sequencing order in-tact I started to date the backups. I went in the order of year-month-date. (0000-00-00) When you go in that order you will always have the dates file correctly. If I was working heavily on a database and needed to make multiple backups during the day; I added a letter to the end of the date. This is how the file now looked.


I think you get the idea. When I make the backups I create two, one to my hard drive, and one to my flash-drive each in their correct folders. When I was finished for the day I would then copy the Legacy data folder to my other flash-drive. The nice thing about copying the whole data folder was I now had a copy of the actual database .fdb extensions, not just the backup or GEDCOM versions. This enables me to run my database from my flash-drive on any computer, with Legacy installed on it. With no need to first download it to someone elses hard drive.

Of course, I make periodic CD's of my complete Legacy data folder. (It contains both zip and GEDCOM files.) Before making the CD I always run file maintenance on my database through my genealogy software program. I do this at other times too, but I always make sure it's done before I create a CD. Why? I want to make sure everything in my database is ok, not corrupted or something. The reason for the back up is to restore from it if something in your database goes amiss. Why store a CD with corrupt information on it. It's worthless then. After file maintenance and burning the CD all I have to do is label it with the date it was created. When anyone opens the CD they will see the folders containing the dated files of my backups. At this point if I feel the need to purge old backups out of my data folder I go ahead. I usually keep the last six backups in my data folder.

There are other ways I store my genealogy database that are on-line. Which is an excellent way to store your information off-site. I submit GEDCOMs to RootsWeb and GenCircles. This is where I have the ability when needed to recapture my GEDCOM. Not only are they excellent places to store your data you get the added benefit of sharing your information with others. You might want to read my previous article: http://www.livejournal.com/users/rzamor1/2005/11/01/. It gives important hints for submitting your information to RootsWeb & GenCircles. It's also a good idea to do file maintenance on your database before submitting your GEDCOMs to internet sites.

I haven't yet used the Pedigree Resource File on http://www.familysearch.org. I guess my problem with it is the records are not kept in real time. It takes forever to have your submission show up and then you can't correct it. Your only recourse is to make a new submission. I'm hoping they will improve that process with their new system. I guess I never feel my database is complete enough to submit. I will have to break down soon and submit to PRF so my information will be incorporated into their new system when it does comes out. You are able to retrieve your GEDCOM from the PRF if you need to. Plus they keep a copy of your GEDCOM in the granite mountain record vaults for safekeeping.

The finally way of storing your backup is using email. I use my email address provided by my internet service provider (ISP) to store the zip file of my backups. I simple send an email to it's address adding the backup as an attachment. I keep the zip files stored in my in-box. If your ISP's doesn't give you enough space sign up for a free GMail account by Google, they give you 2GB of storage space. The reason I use the email address provided by my ISP is that it's the only thing I use it for. I always give out my Hotmail address so I never have to worry about my address changing when I change ISP.

I should also mention, if you have your own website with your genealogy on it, it's a good resource for storing your database. You can always place a copy of your GEDCOM on your internet files to retrieve when you need to.

So let's recap the steps.
1. Make GEDCOMs for long term storage.
2. Make Backups for your working files.
3. Name and date your backups - zamora-2005-10-03c
4. Use multiple ways to store your data.
5. Do file maintenance on your database before burning to CD or submitting to internet sites.
6. Use regular CD's (CD-R's) not CD-RW for data storage, it's more permanent.
7. Submit your GEDCOMs to internet sites.
8. Use your email in-box to store a zip copy of your backup.
9. If you have a website, store a copy of your GEDCOM there.
10. Remember, if you have read this article, and applied it's principles, you will never have to cry to me that you lost your genealogy data. You have been forewarned.

Well that's all for today. I hope that helps you become a pro at storing your genealogy database. You just never know what life will bring you. Gotta go, I have a lot of genealogy work to get caught up on.

See you tomorrow for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!
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