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               April 2011

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  Data Preservation
  — by Charles Hansen

       I just finished reading an article on Rootdig.com by Michael John Neill called Ken and Martha a Lesson in Data Preservation ( http://rootdig.blogspot.com/2011/03/ken-and-martha-lesson-in-data.html ). The article tells of Martha saving all her genealogical data in folders and notebooks and Ken using an early computer that used punch cards to store the data. Ken laughed at Martha for being so old fashioned and taught a class on doing your genealogy on computer. Thirty years later both Ken and Martha are gone and their data is donated to the local genealogical society. Martha's notebooks and pictures are all easy to follow and so with a little work it is added to the societies other holdings. Ken's punch cards are completely worthless as no one has a clue how to read them so they are trashed.

       People have asked for records of former members of our society and the early ones are much easier to trace that the later ones. What will become of the records of the genealogists of today? Are your records stored on a 5.25 floppy in a format no one knows today? Even if you saved it in a program that is still in use today no one may remember how to run that program today or be able to find an instruction book on that program.

       I have been using Ancestral Quest since version 1 but when I got version 3 it ran so slow on my computer I removed it and continued with version 2. It was a Windows 3.1 program, and while it works on Windows XP it does not work on Windows 7, so when they announced version12 (I guess I missed a few versions in between 3 and 11), I bought it. I was surprised how similar it is to version 2, and it is faster than version 3. It found my version 2 database and quickly converted all my database so now I have two copies of my database, and version 12 is up to date and easily converted to the next version.

       I also spent an hour today copying data from several CD's to a flash drive, that will make researching the data that was on those 6 CD's a lot quicker, but I kept the CD's for backups. Computers and data storage today is so much better that a few years ago, but you need to keep up with the latest technology to keep your data available for use.

       When I began researching genealogy, few people used computers and so everyone had folders or notebooks full of paper copies, pictures, certificates, etc.. I still keep paper copies of my records and pictures, someday I might even sort them so they will be easier to look through, but I hope my data is not trashed like Ken's if something happens to me. I know computers are great at organizing the data, printing the data and doing searches, but I have never been convinced they are the best medium for long term archival storage. Pictures from the Civil War survive to today, will your data survive 150 years?






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