Geni Podcast: Securing Your Genealogy

Posted June 23, 2011 by Geni | 4 Comments

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Geni Podcast: Securing Your Genealogy by Geni, Inc.

In this episode, Thomas MacEntee and Grant Brunner discuss making sure that your genealogy is secure. We don’t want to lose any of our hard work, so listen to some of these great tips about security.

Show Notes:

How should I preserve original documents and photos for future generations?

Preserving documents and photos is getting more and more attention these days, especially since not only has technology improved, but our awareness of what constitutes “proper archival procedures” has improved as well.

Some of us remember how we used to mount photos and newspaper clippings in an album with glue, cellophane tape or even those awful “magnetic” albums that were popular in the 1970s.  Try removing those items now!

For me, preserving my families memories via letters, photos and other items that age and become fragile over time is a three step approach I call “scan, stabilize, store.”

  • First, scan the item to create a digital copy. This can be done with a scanner, a camera or many other methods.
  • Second, stabilize the actual item using archival paper, albums and other materials that will preserve the item.
  • Third, store pertains to both the digital copy and the original document. Make sure the digital copy is secure on both a hard drive and offsite in a data cloud or other website. For the actual item, make sure it is kept in a safe place where it can’t be damaged by water or fire or the elements.

While there are many resources for archival supplies and to learn about proper archival techniques, one website I follow is The Practical Archivist ( At this site, Sally Jacobs dispenses great advice and actually has links to places where you can purchase archival supplies online.

What should I know about scanning documents and photos in order to share them with family? Is there a right way and a wrong way?

There are actually some “best practices” when it comes to digitizing and scanning your old letters and photos. The best way to learn is to watch others and ask questions. While most of us don’t have the luxury of having someone close by to do this for us, there is an online community which meets monthly to scan family heirlooms.

Scanfest ( usually meets the last Sunday of each month in an online “room” where each participant discusses what they are actually scanning and can ask for advice. Scanfest is where I learned that your scanner should be set to a minimum 300dpi (“dots per inch”) when scanning. Many of the participants in Scanfest are folks you know from following their blogs and websites.

What I love most about Scanfest, besides being able to “chat” with colleagues, is the learning environment provided.  At each session I attend, I pick up a new trick – such as using dental floss to remove photos from those horrible magnetic albums!

Should I keep my family tree in the cloud?

The concept of “cloud computing” where you store your data online using a website such as Geni, is becoming more popular. Yet many people are still hesitant about placing such personal information – including genealogy research – at these sites.

Collaboration sites such as Geni make sense in terms of storing your data for several reasons:

  • Your data is safe in case your computer is lost or stolen, or worst yet, your home is hit by fire, flood or some other physical calamity.
  • Your data is totally portable. You can travel to a research repository, get online and access your data.
  • You can share your data with family. Invite Cousin Ruthie to join you on Geni and you’ll be surprised at what new information she might be able to add.
  • With new applications such as AncestorSync (, you can soon synchronize your genealogy data stored on your computer with your Geni data.

So what about security? Just use the same guidelines you do when surfing the web or checking email: make sure you know the people who want access to your tree, make sure you understand the privacy features at Geni, etc.

What is the best way to back-up my genealogy data?

Just as we discussed at the beginning about preserving documents and photos, you can implement a three-step approach towards backing up your data: original, physical copy, online or cloud copy.

  • Original data is usually the data in your genealogy database program, your research logs and images of records. Make sure it is well organized and easy to get to. If your genealogy database program prompts you to create a backup, don’t put it off! Create the backup when asked and you’ll be better protected against data loss.
  • Physical copy means copying your data to a CD or DVD, a flash drive or an external hard drive – anything so that a copy exists on physical media outside your computer. Don’t limit yourself to one method – many people copy to an external hard drive weekly and then copy to a flash drive or DVD monthly.  Just develop a system that works for you. In addition, another layer of security is the ability to place that media in a safe or firebox. Why place it next to your computer especially if your geographical area is prone to tornados, wildfires or hurricanes?
  • Online or cloud copy means copying your data to an online storage site. While most of us think of popular sites such as Dropbox or Carbonite, don’t forget that an online program like Geni also serves as an storage site for your genealogy data.

To learn more about backing up your genealogy data, check out the Resources for Backing Up Your Data ( at GeneaBloggers. And don’t forget that the 1st day of each month has been designated as Data Backup Day in the genealogy community. Place a reminder on your calendar and follow your favorite genealogy blogs for articles and reminders on backing up your data.

More About Thomas MacEntee

  • The Great Illinois Genealogy Scavenger Hunt: my local genealogy society – Illinois State Genealogical Society ( has partnered with FamilySearch ( to gather Illinois genealogy sources for the FamilySearch Research Wiki ( Anyone can participate and win prizes including a free RootsTech 2012 registration, a free ISGS membership and neat stuff from FamilySearch. Visit the ISGS website and look for “Genealogy Scavenger Hunt” or click here for more information:
  • GeneaBloggers Radio: Every Friday evening from 9-10:30 pm Central time, Thomas MacEntee hosts an Internet radio show – GeneaBloggers Radio ( Via your computer, you can listen to interviews with interesting genealogists and companies involved in the genealogy industry.