Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Is Going Paperless Too Dangerous?

Hard to believe it's been 7 years since my post about using OneNote for genealogy and my quest to go paperless in my genealogy.  Since then, my YouTube video Intro To OneNote For Genealogists has been featured in several other posts and even some magazine articles. It's now been viewed more than 19,000 times and every once in a while I still get a comment from a thoughtful visitor.

I wanted to take a quick moment to address the most recent comment, which was

Hard copy my man. Had recently had a Ransomware attacker hit my computer wanted $1400.00 I lost everything all my notes on my PAF5 and the PAF5 itself always use a Hard Copy in binders in this day an age

I've had a few people ask me about the danger of going paperless over the last few years and this latest comment prompted me to address the question with a larger audience.  The assumption here is that paper is safer for keeping records and research.  The truth is, no matter how you store your research and documents, the most important thing to ensure your ability to access these files is not the primary method you use for storage as much as the back up plan.

Take it from someone who lost everything in a house fire and whose parents lost many family photos in a flooded basement - paper has it's own set of issues.

The key to any system is to know the limitations of the system you have set up and plan for the bad things that will inevitably happen.  If you are using a paper based system, consider keeping an additional copy "off site."  This means outside of your home, so if you have a catastrophic issue in your home, you can rely on those off site back ups to recover some, if not all, of your research.

Going paperless doesn't mean you get a pass on thinking about backup solutions. The commenter above was right in that you could lose everything very quickly if you have a single copy sitting on your home computer and something happens to that machine.

I always point people to the 3-2-1 genealogy backup plan which breaks down as follows:

  • Always store at least 3 copies of your files
  • on at least 2 different types of media
  • with 1 backup being off site
The key here is multiple repositories...  multiple media types  means if one type of media goes out of favor (think cassettes - yes they used to be used for saving computer data too!) you have another option and can create a new backup on whatever the latest and greatest media is.  An off site backup is crucial to any backup plan. I suggest storing things in the cloud using a cloud service like OneDrive or Dropbox, but you could also look at a full backup solution like iDrive if you want to take things a step further and do a full offsite backup of all the files on your computer.

The bottom line here is, as I said, don't be lulled into a false sense of security thinking your method of saving data is more safe than another. The truth is they all have their downfalls. If you want to be sure to be able to get to that data at a later date, you need to save it in multiple places, multiple ways and make sure one of those copies is as far from where you are as possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are Town Offices Going Paperless?

I almost hesitate to put this out there for fear it gets back to someone that some protocol wasn't followed, but it brings up a good point in the fight against paper.  As a genealogist I am constantly sending inquiries to various local historical and genealogical societies as well as town offices asking for information and/or documents. Invariably I am charged a small fee for copying and sending the materials. Of course, when they come to me, I scan this information so I can have it on my computer (where I can find it) and I put the originals in a binder of some sort since I have them (and paid for the hard copies).  I don't need ceritifed copies of birth certificates, or notarized marriage certs.  I just want the document that has the information I am looking for so I can add it to my database or even just note it as a source document.

Recently I emailed a town clerk if it were "possible" to get a marriage certificate of one of my distant relatives and "if so, how much would it cost?"  I did this before heading to work. To my surprise, before I got home I had an email in my inbox with a scanned image of the marriage certificate and no bill.

Are more town offices going the scan and email route when it comes to sending out vital records docs to genealogists? Why not?  It works for me :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paperless Genealogy - Status Update

Even though I haven't been very active in the blogosphere lately, work HAS continued on the paperless journey.  Of course, I have had to remind my wife a couple of times that this is a marathon, not a race to the mailbox...  but overall things are going well.

A few key updates to mention:

1) (this is mostly for my wife if she stumbles across this blog :) My paperless journey started with genealogy because that's where the bulk of my papers come from. I do continue to have paper in and around my desk, but FAR less than before. Once we get the genealogy system ironed out, other things will fall in place.  For now though, I will still have some work papers floating around, a few emails I've printed off and of course, my most favoritest paper... bills.

2) I have had great progress on the genealogy front. In the past serveral weeks I have printed only 4 new papers, despite working on a new 30 page section on our family history for Christmas gifts.  In past years, when taking on a project like this, I type, print, edit the hardcopy, make changes, reprint, etc.  This year, I've taken a new approach.  Using One Note, I write a paragraph at a time in a "block."  I can easily treat each paragraph as it's own entity and move it around at will until it fits the story just right.  For a particularly difficult passage, I have found it helps to add a new page and look at that section on it's own without anything else distracting me.

3) (this is mostly for my wife if she stumbles across this blog :)  I'm still hoping for a FlipPal scanner for Christmas.  I see great progress in my future with the Flip Pal in my life.   Just Sayin'...

So, the obvious question on everyone's mind (everyone that cares, that is) is... "After annoncing to the world a little over 2 months ago that you were going paperless, is there any significant change?  Is it working?  Are you sticking to it?"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Birth Mother's Letter

In my last post, I mentioned how I was working on writing up a new "paper" to share with the family this holiday season, but I wasn't sure what to focus on. I finally decided I need to share the current state of my search for the birth families of my Great Grandmother, Frances Marion (WILLIAMS) KNOWLTON (DOW) MONTGOMERY.  So... yeah, I'm not quite sure the proper way to put that on paper.  She was born Frances WILLIAMS.  Adopted by a KNOWLTON family when she was about 2 years old. Later, she married Raymond A. DOW, but Raymond died before their only child was born (my grandmother) and then she remarried Floyd MONTGOMERY.  I don't really expect anyone to follow all of that. It's confusing enough for me sometimes, but it sets the stage for what could be a messy research project.

Frances was born in 1914 in New Jersey.  All the rest of my mother's family was from Maine... all the way back to 1790 and earlier, so in addition to the adoption, this is my first project where I've had to do some long distance research.  It's been a long road, and I think I may have found the right family, though I am still trying to get some supporting documentation.  What's made it more "fun-strating" (that's my name for something that is fun and uber frustrating at the same time) is that this whole time, I've been guided by a letter from my GGrandmother's mother, Louise HARDING to my GGrandmother written sometime around 1930.  For anyone that's researching adopted children's ancestry, this letter would seem like a gold mine, but until recently it has raised more questions than solved problems.

As I think about the Geneablogger's blogging prompt, Amanuensis Monday, and my most recent project to document what I've been able to find, it seems only fitting to share the context of this letter today ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow Friday: Nutfield Genealogy

Well it happened today...  I got a new comment, "Where have ya been?"  Ya, I know it's been a while since my last post.  I'll go through spells. It happens when you have 5 kids and "other" things you want to do, too...  like doing some actual research.  This time of year gets really busy for me, not only because of the holidays, etc.. but its about the beginning of November each year that I start writing up another aspect of my family's history to share with family at Christmas.  It's something I started doing a few years ago, and each year I seem to find some new interesting story to share.  I'm not sure which it will be this year yet... Maybe something about my paternal Great-Great Grandfather who was convicted of murder in the woods of Maine around the turn of the 20th century, in a case that was covered internationally by the press... or maybe it will be how I (actually a friend of mine) was FINALLY able to crack the mystery of my maternal Great Grandmother's birth parents.  At any rate, my time for doing a lot of blogging has been limited, and probably will be for a little bit, so I thought I would share someone else's blog that I often stop by to watch when I have some time...