Multiple Redundant Backup is the Best Way to Safeguard Your Photo Collection

I have written numerous times about families who lost their photo collections due to a disaster. That includes physical photographs as well as digital images. Yet when I read about the recent loss suffered by Oakland, California photographer Jennifer Little, I gasped.

Jennifer had 21 hard drives — containing some 70,000 photos spanning more than 10 years — stolen from her apartment. Gone. She had no other backups. Her multiple hard drives WERE her backups. Unfortunately, they all were kept at the same location and all disappeared at the same time. She had no off-site backups.

If You are Going to Make a Time Capsule, Make Sure it is Waterproof

The John F. Kennedy Peace Capsule was built by a crew at Defoe Shipbuilding Co. and buried by the Bay County (Michigan) Labor Council in 1965 as part of Bay City’s Centennial Celebration. Crews unearthed the capsule Wednesday and it was opened Thursday at the Bay County Fairgrounds. There was but one problem: it was half full of water. Some of the papers inside were destroyed although a few apparently remained above the waterline and are still readable.

You can read the details in an article by Pati LaLonde in the web site at Promises to Preserve Photos, Files 100 Years Beyond Your Death

Are you concerned about preserving your genealogy database and digitized family photographs for future generations? One company says it has the solution, using technology that will last much longer than paper, magnetic tapes, flash drives, or CD-ROM disks.

Forever_box_webGlen Meakem has launched, which Meakem says is the world’s first permanent online media storage and sharing service.

Forever claims to offer you one home for all your stories and special moments. The web site makes it easy to store, organize, share and print your family photos for generations. The web site also offers a “Forever Guarantee.”

Your Guaranteed Storage is backed up in multiple places across multiple regions, ensuring you will never lose any of your photos. Over time, will even migrate your files to newer formats as old formats become obsolete.

The Massachusetts State Archives is Running out of Room

The Massachusetts State Archives’ modern building, erected in 1986 with the expectation that it would exhaust its space within 25 years, is bursting at the seams. Officials say the two-story facility at Boston’s Columbia Point has simply run out of room to store the state’s most valuable and timeless records. Even worse, Massachusetts has received failing grades from government watchdogs who complain that public records requests are often must met with lengthy waits and exorbitant costs for the material.

New Storage Facility for the Australian National Archives to be the Last of its Kind

Construction has begun on the National Archives of Australia’s new preservation and storage facility at Mitchell. With enough shelving to stretch from Canberra to Cooma, the purpose-built repository will house around 10 million Commonwealth records when it opens in 2017. The 18,000 square-metre facility will include a conservation laboratory, digital archives for classified and unclassified records, cold storage areas and 114 kilometres (70 miles) of shelving.

The facility will maintain paper records at an ambient temperature of around 20 degrees Centigrade (68 degrees Fahrenheit) and around 50 per cent humidity

Irish American Family Saves Their Ancestors’ Pub in Ireland

What do you do when you inherit a run-down pub in Raphoe, County Donegal? Despite the advice of “Put a match to it all,” the McGranaghan family decided to restore the Tirconaill House and five small rundown houses around it.

18 American McGranaghan cousins and spouses traveled to Raphoe, County Donegal, and restored the buildings in an effort that would have made their grandparents proud. You can read the story by Michelle McGranaghan Pabon and see a number of pictures of the effort at

Preserving Memories for Decades to Come

Generally speaking, people take and share far more photos today than at any other point in history. It’s only natural to want to capture as many precious memories as possible. Digital content is fragile. Every computer user has experienced the sting of losing photographs due to changing phones, accidental deletion or a computer failure.

Millionaire Property Developer Used Children’s Gravestones to Build a Patio

Here is another “misuse of tombstones” story. You would think people would have more common sense than to desecrate graves.

Kim Davies took tombstones from a derelict chapel and cemented them to the walls of Llanwenarth House in Abergavenny, South Wales, where Cecil Frances Alexander penned the famous hymn. Planners were horrified when they saw the ‘decorative stone plaques’ had been used as part of a gaudy £1m makeover to the Grade II-listed home, turning it into a ‘palace for an Iron Curtain dictator’.

One of the 150-year-old gravestones was even engraved with the names of three brothers and a sister who all died while under the age of four.

Conservationists Preserve Tennessee Land Records

For decades, heaps of land records laid untouched in the state Capitol’s attic before being moved to the Tennessee State Library and Archives when it was built in the 1950s. Now workers there are preserving the documents that detail land ownership and exchanges as far back as 1779. Carol Roberts and Kat Trammell are delicately piecing together Tennessee history.

Roberts, the archives’ head conservationist, says the pieces of paper filled with hand-drawn sketches and detailed descriptions of property boundaries are dirty and fragile, with some left as brittle as dried leaves.

Monmouth County, New Jersey, County Clerk to Preserve Naturalization History

Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon recently found a treasure trove of Monmouth County history when she came upon books documenting thousands of applications for naturalization that date back to the 1800s. The records of 34,677 applicants for naturalization to be moved to Archives, located in the Monmouth County Library Headquarters in Manalapan.

You can watch a YouTube video of the preservation process at or in the video player below:

How to Store Films and Documents on a Large Scale

If you want to store documents, microfilm, microfiche, movie films, or computer files, there is one place that can handle any size requirements you might have: Iron Mountain. Hidden away in the hills of rural Butler, Pennsylvania, Iron Mountain houses some of America’s most amazing, priceless treasures in a temperature-controlled and humidity-controlled underground storage facility.

Preserving and Digitizing Newspapers

Archivists using the latest conservation technology are racing to digitize 300 years of newspapers before they crumble to dust – and that’s just for starters. The Guardian has published a fascinating story about a huge project by a team from the British Library that is preserving newspapers. The article says:

A gigantic robotic vault, the National Newspaper Building in Boston Spa, near Leeds, is the British Library’s high-tech approach to safeguarding what it rather endearingly terms “the national memory” – 750m pages of news, covering more than three centuries of goings-on, as reported in papers across the nation. From political turmoil to humanitarian crisis, murder cases to local marriage notices, it’s all here. And it’s growing. “We’re adding something like 1,200 titles every week,” says Alasdair Bruce, manager of the British Library Newspaper Programme.

Preserve the Pensions July Initiative to Share a Document a Day

Here is a great idea from the several groups that are working to preserve, digitize, and make available online the War of 1812 pensions. I would hope every genealogist would help support this effort.

Welcome to July, 2015!

There is always so much to celebrate during the month of July. We spend time at family gatherings, picnics, and honoring our nation’s heritage. During the coming month, we are excited to celebrate our progress in the effort to digitally preserve the pension files from the War of 1812.

We have found some amazing material within the collection so far, and what better way to share it with our friends than in our Facebook group? We now have just over 1,000 people engaged in conversation, asking interesting questions, and assisting each other in their War of 1812 related research. Whether you are a genealogist, historian, or educator, we would invite you to be a part of that community.

Help for Texas Flood Victims to Salvage Wet Documents and Heirlooms

Conservators and students at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information are available to provide advice and limited disaster recovery assistance to help this weekend’s flood victims salvage damaged family treasures. Wet papers and photographs, textiles, scrapbooks, books and other sentimental objects should be frozen, if possible, and not thrown out, the conservators say.

Losing such items can be devastating after disasters such as floods. Luckily, many things can be salvaged with proper guidance.

World War II Spitfire Pilot Takes His Legacy Online

What will people know about you after you die? Some people are going a step further, and creating a virtual “shoeboxes” of family photographs, love letters, marriage certificates, priceless video clips and key documents, in an attempt to preserve their most precious memories.

One such person is Brian Bird, a former World War II Spitfire pilot who has lived a long, exciting – and at times terrifying – life. Now, at the age of 90, he is embarking on one of his most important missions, to create a digital record for his family to remember him by after his death.

Digital Files May Last Much, Much Longer than Paper or Microfilm

NOTE: This is an updated version of an article I originally published several years ago. A newsletter reader recently questioned the life expectancy of digital files versus paper. I referred him to my earlier article but noticed that it was a bit out of date. I have now rewritten part of the original article and am republishing it today.

I often write about digital products for use in genealogy. Here is a comment I hear and read all the time: “I am going to keep my files on paper to make sure they last for many years, longer than digital files.”

Wrong! Properly maintained, digital files will always last much, much longer than paper or microfilm. Let’s focus on the phrase, “properly maintained.”

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

In 1890, the Edison Phonograph Company manufactured dolls with wax cylinder records tucked inside each one. When cranked, each doll recited snippets from nursery rhymes. This was fabulous technology in 1890, a time when most people had not yet heard of phonograph records or any other method of reproducing sound. Sadly, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The purchase price of ten dollars also was much higher than what most families of 1890 could afford.

Virgin Islands Records to be Digitized

The Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pa., has received a $37,982 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conserve and digitize 120 linear feet of archival records documenting Moravian mission work in the Caribbean – specifically the territory now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The records are significant because they contain a treasure trove of information about the enslaved population in the Caribbean, information that is critical to many people doing genealogical research in the territory.

Details may be found in an article in the Virgin Islands Daily News at

New NEH Grant to Digitize Family Records

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced “Common Heritage,” the first grant of its kind, to make “light historical records and artifacts currently hidden in family attics and basements” available to the public. In announcing the initiative, NEH Chairman William “Bro” Adams said, “We know that America’s cultural heritage isn’t found only in libraries and museums, but in our homes, in our family histories, and the stories and objects we pass down to our children.”

The announcement states, “The program supports day-long events organized by community cultural institutions, which members of the public will be invited to attend. At these events experienced staff will digitize the community historical materials brought in by the public. Project staff will also record descriptive information—provided by community attendees—about the historical materials. Contributors will be given a free digital copy of their items to take home, along with the original materials. With the owner’s permission, digital copies of these materials would be included in the institutions’ collections. Historical photographs, artifacts, documents, family letters, art works, and audiovisual recordings are among the many items eligible for digitization and public commemoration.”

Tarrant County, Texas, is Digitizing Old Court Records for Preservation

Tarrant County, Texas, court files are continuing a years-long effort to make electronic copies of old case files and to destroy most of the paper counterparts. However, a few documents of “famous files” are being digitized but the paper is then preserved.

Tarrant County includes the courts for Dallas and nearby suburbs. Over the years, many famous cases have been aired in the courts of the county, including cases involving the late, famed attorney Melvin Belli who was prevented from representing Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Dozens of other famous files are being preserved, including the Cullen Davis trials in which he was prosecuted for the slaying of his estranged wife’s daughter and in a murder-for-hire scheme in the 1970s; and the Koslow trial, where Kristi Ann Koslow and friends Brian Dennis Salter and Jeffrey Dillingham were convicted of killing her step-mother, Caren, and injuring her father, Jack.


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