The Paperless Genealogist

Too many genealogists are addicted to paper. In this day and age, that’s sad. I have no statistics about the amount of paper, ink, and toner consumed by genealogists every year, but I am sure we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars purchasing printers, paper, and supplies. That’s a huge waste of money, in my opinion. I wonder how many filing cabinets are sold to genealogists for in-home use. I will suggest there is a better way to store personal copies of genealogy records and related information.

The “paperless office” was an early prediction made in the June 30, 1975, issue of BusinessWeek. The article quoted George E. Pake, then head of Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto (California) Research Center:

“There is absolutely no question that there will be a revolution in the office over the next 20 years. What we are doing will change the office like the jet plane revolutionized travel and the way that TV has altered family life.”

Pake says that in 1995 his office will be completely different; there will be a TV-display terminal with keyboard sitting on his desk. “I’ll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button,” he says. “I can get my mail or any messages. I don’t know how much hard copy [printed paper] I’ll want in this world.”

The same article also stated:

“Some believe that the paperless office is not that far off. Vincent E. Giuliano of Arthur D. Little, Inc., figures that the use of paper in business for records and correspondence should be declining by 1980, “and by 1990, most record-handling will be electronic.”

Of course, the predictions never came true by 1990. In fact, the phrase “paperless office” became a joke, frequently used in offices around the world, usually in offices that are drowning in more paper than ever before.

However, “paperless office” is much less of a joke today. The transition took longer than what Vincent E. Giuliano predicted but many offices are paperless today. That includes many in-home “offices.”

The adoption of computers by office workers and home consumers alike has placed a highly flexible tool in the hands of individuals. Computers are flexible in that they can be used either to eliminate paper or to easily create paper – far more paper than ever possible before the introduction of personal computers and networks.

Most people are creatures of habit. Since these people are accustomed to using paper, they use computers to generate even more paper than what might be reasonably required to meet everyday needs.

Younger people who have grown up in the computer age are generally comfortable with electronic documentation and have little need or desire for paper. However, older workers who were reared in an age when everything was documented on paper often still cling to the belief that paper is required for nearly everything. In my conversations with those over the age of 50, I find many still claim that they “need” paper documents and cannot do the same things by reading on a screen.

Of course, such “needs” are ridiculous. These aren’t needs at all; they are simply ingrained habits. I am reminded of one famous saying:

“We do things this way because we have always done things this way.”

Could there ever be a worse reason for doing something?

As has been proven millions of times by the younger generation, there is no “need” to read paper. Reading on a computer screen or an iPad screen or a Kindle screen or even a cell phone screen is perfectly acceptable to anyone with an open mind. Millions of people do it every day. It makes no difference if we are talking about an entire book or a one-paragraph note from Aunt Millie: reading text on a screen is always as effective as reading it on paper.

For those with vision problems, optometrists and ophthalmologists often recommend the use of e-book readers or tablet computers instead of large-print books. When adjusted to use larger fonts, e-book readers and tablet computers typically are easier to read than anything published on paper.

Trying to imagine the expenses of using paper, toner, and ink is an easy task. However, I find there are even additional “costs” that are not easily measured in dollars. In the case of printed books and magazines, what is the cost of the required bookshelves? If you collect photocopies of documents, what was the expense of purchasing a filing cabinet and related supplies? I also know people who purchased larger homes in order to have room for their books. I would estimate the cost of “upsizing” to be $100,000 per home or more, and yet this happens thousands of times every year. The bottom-line total? I don’t know. The number is probably so large that it would boggle the mind if we could calculate it.

In fact, I will suggest there is no demonstrated need for a large storage space for a personal library.

Many of us learn another term as we get older. Once the children leave home and we near retirement age, we start thinking about “downsizing.” Why pay thousands of dollars in heating bills, air conditioning bills, maintenance, and property taxes for a big home that is no longer needed? Once the children are gone, many people start to think about moving to smaller homes, apartments, or condominiums.

In my case, the “downsizing” was even more extreme. Some few years ago, I purchased a Winnebago motor home with the intention of living in that vehicle full-time at least part of the year. I didn’t plan to halt my genealogy research while living in the motor home; I wanted to continue as normal. Not only did I plan on full Internet access, but I also wanted full access to all my genealogy papers, books, and magazines, wherever I am. In a 31-foot motor home that moves frequently, that is difficult with the 200+ books and hundreds of printed magazines I owned at the time. (I own even more books and magazines than that today although most of them are now digitized.) Then there’s a 4-drawer filing cabinet to think about.

Where do I put all my bookcases and filing cabinets in a 31-foot motor home? Where do you put your personal library in a condo or smaller house?

I eventually sold the motorhome and moved back into a traditional house, one that was smaller than the last traditional house I had lived in. I have since maintained my “downsizing” lifestyle and have avoided the accumulation of paper, books, magazines, bookshelves, and all the other space-consuming items required when reading information in the traditional way: on paper. However, I probably read more these days than ever before. That’s easy: today I read almost everything on a computer screen, including desktop, laptop, tablet and even cell phone computer screens.

Downsizing is a fact of life for many of us, and we cannot escape it. I would suggest that downsizing is, in fact, a desirable goal for many of us. Even those who plan to remain in their present homes can benefit from downsizing their personal libraries. With today’s technology you don’t have to throw away any books, papers, or magazines. In fact, your collection of printed materials can become more accessible than ever before. Would you like to be able to search EVERY word in EVERY book and in EVERY magazine in your collection at once? You can do that if you digitize, but don’t try doing that with paper!

Digital libraries consume a fraction of a square inch on a computer someplace. The amount of space required is so small that we can ignore it completely. Compare that to the hundreds of dollars worth of bookshelves required to store the same information in books and magazines and filing cabinets. Of course, with digital libraries, you will always want to have backup copies stored in multiple locations to protect against a disaster of any kind. If you still have books in bookshelves, what protection do your books have from a fire or a burst water pipe in your home? Printed books and papers are easily damaged by disasters while proper storage of digital libraries can be safer and much more reliable than any paper-based libraries. A disaster in the home won’t destroy multiple backup copies of digital files that are stored “in the cloud” or on digital media at a friend’s or relative’s house. The same disaster will wreak havoc on your printed books and papers.

Next, digital libraries are easier to access wherever you are. Cloud-based storage is cheap these days, even if you are traveling. Want to look up something in a book at home when you are in a library, at a courthouse, at a genealogy meeting, or traveling in New Mexico in the motor home? If you have a digital library, you can access any book or document from an iPhone, iPad, or laptop computer, wherever you are. Try doing that with a paper book sitting on the shelf back home!

An acronym that is becoming well-known amongst computer owners is L.O.C.K.S.S. That is, “Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe.”

In summary, digitizing your books, magazines, and papers provides:

  • a reduction in storage space requirements
  • a reduction in expenses
  • quick search capabilities
  • easy access from anywhere, anytime
  • increased protection of your valuable books and papers due to multiple backups stored in multiple locations

What’s wrong with this picture? Why isn’t everyone digitizing?

Obviously, a big reason why people are not digitizing is inertia. It is too “difficult” to get started. Next is the perceived lack of need. Many people don’t yet realize the advantages.

In my case, I am not just digitizing genealogy materials. Instead, I am attempting to digitize EVERY PIECE OF PAPER of importance in my life. I haven’t yet finished the backlog of thousands of pieces of paper from years past that are still in my old filing cabinets but I am making progress towards that goal. All NEW paper received in the past 5 or 6 years has been digitized and the original paper has been shredded and recycled.

I now use a sheetfeed scanner when opening my mail. I scan any bills or other documents that seem important, and then I throw away or recycle the paper. I save the results to a private file space in the cloud (and sometimes to Evernote, depending upon the document in question) so that each image is available within seconds on all my computers: desktop computer, laptop computer, and iPhone. With the use of proper keywords, I can find and retrieve any document within seconds.

I once stored the Winnebago motor home for a few weeks in a facility in Jacksonville, Florida. As I was filling out the paperwork in the storage facility’s office, I was asked for a photocopy of the insurance papers to prove that the motor home was insured. Insurance papers? Here? Now? I don’t carry a hard copy of the insurance papers with me. Yet with digital storage, the answer was easy. I took my cell phone out of my pocket, opened Evernote, and entered “winnebago insurance.” An image of my insurance policy appeared on the screen within seconds since I had previously scanned the policy when I received it in the mail. (The image was stored on Evernote’s servers but was easily retrieved to the cell phone.)

The Jacksonville storage facility manager wanted a hard copy of the policy. Obviously, he has not yet converted to an all-digital life. In the cell phone version of Evernote, I pressed EMAIL and then asked the manager for his email address. As he told me, I entered the address into Evernote and then pressed SEND. The storage facility manager received the copy of the insurance policy a second or two later in his email in-box. Total time consumed? A minute or two. That’s much easier than trying to obtain a copy of a piece of paper that is back home.

Of course, the storage facility manager had to print the insurance policy on his local printer if he wanted a hard copy. Had it been me, I wouldn’t have printed it.

How to Digitize

Digitizing your collection doesn’t mean that you must physically do the work yourself. In fact, there are other solutions.

Anyone with a Kindle, iPad, or other “tablet” computer has access to tens of thousands of books that are already available as digital downloads. This includes hundreds of genealogy books. In many cases, digital books are cheaper than physical books because of the reduced costs of printing, warehousing, and shipping.

Google Books at has thousands of genealogy and local history books available. Those that are out of copyright can be downloaded and saved on any computer or saved to an online service or to disks or flash drives. Downloading out-of-copyright books is free of charge.

The Internet Archive at has millions of out-of-copyright books available at any moment, including genealogy books. The same non-profit also has images of the U.S. Census records although those images are not indexed. The Internet Archive never charges for any of its services.

Archive CD Books USA had thousands of genealogy and history books but has since been shut down. However, most of the books are still available through the company’s former partners and dealers at prices that are much cheaper than buying printed reprints, probably cheaper than buying the bookshelves required to store printed copies of the same books. Start at to find these e-books.

Heritage Books sells thousands of ebooks on line and on CD-ROM disks. More “books” are being added to the list every month. Details can be found at

Genealogical Publishing Company continues to sell books printed on paper but of the company’s newer releases are also available as digital downloads. Start at to find the many ebooks,.‘s classic book, The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, is available online at while the Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources is available at,_County,_and_Town_Sources. These thick reference books used to be very expensive as printed books and consumed a lot of space on the shelf. Now they are both available online to everyone FREE of charge, and they are updated frequently. They now require no shelf space at all, not even in my compact motor home.

I suspect that we will see even more magazines and books become available as digital downloads every year. As paper, printing, handling, and postage charges continue to rise and electronic publishing expenses continue to drop, I believe we will see fewer and fewer printed books and magazines become available every year. It won’t happen for a few years yet, but someday electronic publishing will become the norm, and printing books on paper will only be performed by a very few small, “boutique” publishers.

For those books you have already purchased in print, you can find a number of services that will digitize them for you at reasonable prices. I have used One-Dollar-Scan at and was pleased with the results. You package your books and send them to the company in California, where they charge an average of one dollar per book to scan the books and create indexed PDF files. You then download the files from the company’s servers. You can store the digitized books on your laptop computer or flash drive or external hard drive or cloud-based backup service or even in your tablet computer, as you wish. Of course, you are encouraged to make multiple copies and store them in multiple places for backup purposes.

At one dollar per book, digitizing books is probably cheaper than buying another bookshelf for physical books!

For scanning of individual pieces of paper, you can find many services that will do the work for you for modest fees. You place the loose pieces of paper into an envelope and mail them to the scanning service. Some of the services even have extra-cost options, such as indexing the papers or performing OCR conversion to text.

You can also use your “smartphone” as a scanner. See my earlier article, The Best Portable Scanner, at

Indeed, technology is changing the world around us. We have options today that did not exist even ten years ago. We can now carry an entire personal library of thousands of books in a Winnebago or even in a flash drive that is in your pocket. We can also easily access thousands of books, magazines, and individual papers from an iPhone or Android phone that has Internet access. Doing so is easier and cheaper than storing books published on paper.

The “paperless office” no longer needs to be a joke. The capability is here today if we are smart enough to use it. You can have a paperless office and a paperless home.

The next time you think about purchasing a book or magazine, please ask yourself, “Paper or plastic?” In this case, “plastic” refers to a CD or DVD disk. Probably the best option is “download.” Plan for the future: make sure you will always have physical room and easy access to whatever information you choose. Downsize!


Years ago I attended a genealogy conference where a speaker talked of going all digital. I took it to heart and have been doing so since. I have several binders of vital records and obituaries that I want to scan, but so far I prefer actively researching, so they remain in binders. I had always typed the full obituaries and summarized vital records in the database narratives, anyway, so that is not critical.

Besides backing up our data to external drives and each other’s computers, we have two small external drives and we do a full backup and put one in the lockbox, then exchange the other quarterly, so the worst would be a loss of three months data.

Our databases are backed up on the cloud, so available anytime, with all the references in place. I am not so sure I need even a digital copy of a marriage certificate if I already summarized it in a narrative and referenced the source.


I love this post!!! For some time I had pondered just how to reasonably “downsize” and simplify my life. This includes my family history research work. I feel like you’ve really helped to reinforce my decisions to go paperless. You are right about all the online resources. I am in my sixties now and I need no hoard of any kind weighing my life burdens. Plus, my offspring don’t seem to have the same interest I do to save artifacts of the past. I put everything I can online so if in the future the information is needed it hopefully will be there for future generations. Then I let go. I am going to save your post for reinforcement when I am making decisions on what genealogy stuff to keep and what to discard. THANKS SO MUCH!


Do you ever encounter problems getting access to the internet in rural areas of the US and Canada? I have cousins who can’t get access at their rural home. None of the companies want to go to the expense of building out the necessary infrastructure because the potential customers are so few and spread so thinly over the territory that it is not profitable enough for the companies’ liking. When I visited them, There was only one spot where I could get a cell phone signal — a picnic bench set up in the middle of a field behind the hotel where I was staying. No signal in the hotel itself. No signal in the parking lot or the nearby street. No signal anywhere else in the field except right at that picnic table.


    —> Do you ever encounter problems getting access to the internet in rural areas of the US and Canada?

    Rarely. High-speed Internet access is now available to more than 90% of all American households and that percentage is increasing every year. It will be 100% before long.

    However, I have had problems in mountainous areas when using a mobile Internet connection. When traveling in deep valleys, it is often difficult to obtain a reliable cellular data connection. Of course, the same problem exists with voice cellular connections as well.


Mr. Eastman:
Am still enjoying your Seminar in Roswell, NM. Have taken your recommendation for the special book scanner funded by presale investors and it arrived last week.
You make a number of good points, particularly as to why going mostly digital is good for you.
As the current possessor of 25,000 digital volumes and 25,000 print volumes I’ve evaluated the use of both. For me the digital excells in using dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc. which present generally short pieces of information. However, as much as I like saving funds and having NO place for further print storage — I find digital has limitations for me in several areas.
So while agreeing with you in the main, I would note that some of us may legitimately find a use for both — that is unless we are living in a Winnebago.


A problem with Google Books is disappearing books. Books that go from being available to unavailable in a matter of weeks to months. My guess is that this has to do with on-demand publishers.

Remember the early days of Google Books, when the companies reprinting genealogy books complained that for years they had sold reprints of old hard-to-find books, and that Google Books would put them out of business. Google Books agreed not to provide free online copies of the reprinted books. (I’d say, fair enough. Most readers here probably
know of these publishers and have bought their reprints.)

I suspect that the on-demand publishers are exploiting this agreement. If
a book gets a certain number of clicks, an on-demand publisher scarfs it
up, offers a reprint online, and the book is made unavailable on Google. We end up having to buy an unsearchable paper version instead of getting a free searchable pdf.Google Books is reduced to an input data base for the on-demand publishers.

One time I was researching European train schedules from the late 1800s — how did my GGP get from home to the port they emigrated from? I ended up accessing the Google version repeatedly, and soon it disappeared.

Same thing happened with an index to US Army Corps of Engineers reports. Months ago I printed out the pages for one locality, but when I went back to search with a different index term, the book was unavailable. Fortunately this was a government publication accessible online through a different data base at a university library.

I hope that some reader can supply better info than my speculation.

Workaround: If you think you’re going to need the Google Book, download it immediately.


I wouldn’t mind paying a dollar a book to have it digitized. Mailing it to California (I imagine) would add substantially to the cost. I have been digitizing key books starting with a service Staples provides – chop off the binding. Then I use a sheet feed scanner (even our public library has one) to process the stack & file the results on a flash drive. I have a less heavy duty sheet feed scanner at home for smaller jobs. Some of my genealogy references have such an ungainly design & binding that they are very difficult to use on a desktop as a reference. Even if books processed this way don’t go through the OCR process, it still is far easier to flip through digital images taken from a printed work than it is to pry open the binding of the real thing & force it to stay flat on a table top.


I would appreciate any leads Dick or readers could provide for articles, blogs, forums, etc. that are dedicated simply to the process of digitizing old printed materials in large quantities.


Then there are all the paper records that once existed but exist no longer because the home, office, courthouse &/or government warehouse simply burned down – and there were no other copies of any kind anywhere. My mother had her family home burn down twice in her lifetime.


A library I regularly consult has (to the best of my knowledge) the only non paper copy of the early sacramental records of a native American mission. The data is priceless and still available in its original format at the mission and in microfilm format at the library. When I go there on vacation I have been digitizing, page by page, everything on the microfilms so then when the library / parish hall burns down or goes out of business, there will be a copy somewhere. I wonder if there is an easier way to do that. Elsewhere in Michigan I know of a mission rectory that burned down about 1970. With it went native records dating back to 1700. No copies had ever been made. So there is that aspect of digitization which also matters.


    Ask them if they have considered letting the LDS church digitize their materials.

    After its digitized anyone can use the materials because it will become more accessible.


As a retired antiquarian book dealer I like books for themselves. The paper, the print used, the forms of illustration, the binding, the end papers, the headband, the content, the printer, previous owners’ inscriptions written centuries ago. Obviously the young of today have not studied the history of printing; how can you admire a woodcut on a computer screen?
How do you read books on a computer when the power fails?


    “How do you read books on a computer when the power fails?” Use a computer that runs on battery power or some other type of uninterruptible power supply. Even the ancients had to use the high tech of their time (i.e., fire) to read after dark.


    I’ll take your advice and move into this century on the day the local G4 mast is given a battery back-up that doesn’t die twenty minutes into a power cut. Some of us live outside conurbations.


I bought my sheetfeed scanner some years ago on your recommendation. It is terrific and very reliable. I need to use it more but it certainly helps to control some of the paper in my life. For my genealogy I am mainly digital but I haven’t given up books yet, fortunately have a spare double garage to house them all.


I have so much paper that I am concerned that my heirs will just throw everything out. So I am digitizing and tossing the paper. But I keep the old items such as photographs and 19th century funeral notices. Now I am concerned about my heirs retaining the files.


Dick, I’m almost 100% paperless, thanks to you! I bought a Doxie scanner when you first recommended it. I’m wondering what sheetfeed-scanner you use when you open your mail (the image was not a Doxie.) I love my Doxie but am wondering if there’s a better option.


Can you suggest or recommend a file naming convention? Every file needs a meaningful file and folder name.


    Especially one that does not change. I have records I cannot open anymore because I do not know what opened them, as I have moved from computer to computer thru the years. I have lost lots of emails because of this in the past and the research on them. I had saved them for future use, and they are gone.


    —> Can you suggest or recommend a file naming convention?

    I wrote a Plus Edition article some time ago about what I use for file names, both for digital documents and for all other names of files I create. There is nothing “special” about my method, I suspect millions of other people use somewhat similar methods. It works for me but I suggest you modify my methods into something that “feels natural” to you. If you wish, I can republish that article.


Call me paranoid if you wish, but I always will have paper copies of two genealogy documents. If we have a major EMP event, power could be lost indefinitely. I also worry that all of my docements stored in the cloud could be fried. The two paper documents I will always have is my complete ahnentafel and a 20 generation pedigree chart. I created them with a genealogy software program. The ahnentafel has detailed facts about my ancestors, and their photos.


Carolyn McCartney July 5, 2019 at 3:29 am

I would love you to publish your file naming convention article please. One of the main reasons I haven’t gone paperless is because of all the current mess I have with all my electronic family history files, especially trying to remember where the document is in pictures or documents! It obviously needs a far better structure but I just don’t know where to start! I also agree with the other Carolyn, what happens when technology moves on and some files can no longer be opened? My other fear is that no one in the family is going to bother to go through all the files on my laptop when I go, but paper copies are always visible and spark interest. Converting books I thoroughly understand, but that wonderful handwritten letter from a 4x g grandmother ….I’m not so sure.
And yes, you are correct, I fall into your 50+ bracket 😉


    Per my prior post, I am now going paperless, but I do not worry much about a filing system for my doc, pdf, Excel, or jpg files. I usually just put them in family folders with perhaps some additional breakdown, but I can link these documents directly to my RootsMagic database under the Personal Media tabs for each person.

    So under that tab, I might have jpg images of the person, say birth certificate, high school picture, cemetery marker and so forth. I might also have a Word document or PDF file there which will open automatically when I click it. I try and copy the text out of such documents and put the text directly in the narrative for that person, but sometimes I get lazy.

    So it really is not too important where the file is located on the computer, I just link it to my database and it will always be there.

    Only two minor problems, when a person backs up RootsMagic, the media files are not backed up. A person can elect that option, but then it might take hours and that is not something I would do every day.

    The other problem is that if you change a directory path, maybe reorganizing your pictures, the links are lost, though RootsMagic can search for them.


Paperless – this does not mean “no paper” but perhaps better understood would be “less paper” so in other words, where it is possible don’t print it especially if you are then going to throw it out – i.e. work with split screens and even that isn’t always possible if working with a laptop.
I do have a nifty ScanSnap scanner but as long as I have room for the books and transcripts I have bought over the last MANY years I don’t see that I need to destroy them just to have a digital copy when there are times I have several of them open at the same time – can’t do that without multiple screens to work from!
Out of sight, out of mind. Do scan anything you can but personal items like pictures, letters etc. should also be kept and put in archival sleeves in a binder that is labelled for those descendants and they can be told “keep them or else!”
To sum up – LESS paper, LESS plastic and basically LESS of a lot of things being used in current times would be much appreciated by our younger generation as they grow and realize what a mess we have made of this world we all cherish. We need to be demanding this of the companies producing so much of this extra waste going to landfill and even the recycling depots.


You made no mention of documenting on Paper of instructions as to passwords and software used. The heirs wont know it exists or how to get into it if you dont write it down and place w your will, etc. And dont say “Oh, Susie knows all that…” because Susie might be in the car wreck w you. Life happens and your research could just disappear in a flash.


Dick, your points about reducing paper are well taken, and I’m trying to do that where possible. However, if an article is longer than one page, I print it to read it as too much reading online can trigger a migraine. I’d love to be able to read on the computer screen, but unfortunately am sensitive to it (I think it has to do with the flicker – refresh rate – of the monitor.)


Re : Do you ever encounter problems getting access to the internet in rural areas of the US and Canada?
Maybe visiting is not same as being a resident? Despite living only 60 km from Ottawa – nation’s capital – our Internet is not “high-speed” and can be excruciatingly slow at times. Plus, usage is LIMITED, consequently costly. Power outages are frequent. Thus, saving huge amounts of data to a cloud is not a very viable option.
I do agree with using/reading digital material (newspapers, books, etc.) and I’m in the process of throwing out piles of paper copies that were accumulated in the years when information was available only in paper books.
We do two backups of main files, for longer power outages we have a generator that is connected to a secondary panel. When away, we leave a backup to a neighbour or family member. They do burn, too, or can be stolen.


    Internet coverage in rural areas remains a problem for many people but luckily the problem is diminishing every year. Millions of rural residents now have high-speed broadband Internet service in places where such service was non-existent 10 years ago. One article about future coverage of rural and urban areas alike caught my eye at

    Amazon is planning to provide coverage to the entire U.S. (except for the northern part of Alaska) and probably to most of southern Canada as well via satellites. The plan reportedly will even provide high-speed Internet service to automobiles in motion. Other companies also have similar plans. I suspect that high-speed Internet service will be available to all rural areas within a very few years.


I’m in the cloud multiple times – Google (gmail, docs, photos, etc), Drop box, Evernote and more. Also, I’m in FamilySearch where there are almost 1900 memories. My concern is what happens when I die (I’m now 84). Cloud based sites will disappear when I die unless action is taken to preserve them. Can they be backed up to an external hard drive? Can the ownership be shared? FamilySerarch Memories attached to living persons are particularity vulnerable. FamilySearch is currently trying to fix this according to a recent post on its blog.
Any light you could shed on this digital age problem would be appreciated.


    —> Any light you could shed on this digital age problem would be appreciated.

    My advice is simple and applies to anyplace or any time you save data that is important to you. It makes no difference if you save the data to an online web site, to a file storage service in the cloud, to your hard drive, to a flash drive, or to something you send to a friend or relative:

    If the information is important to you, ALWAYS save at least one backup copy and store it someplace else. Even better, make 2 or 3 or more backup copies and save them in 2 or 3 or more places.

    You can never be sure about disk crashes, business bankruptcies, accidental erasure, or other problems. If you make multiple backup copies and store them in different places, the odds of all copies going away at the same time are very slim. Making multiple backup copies and storing them all over the place is very cheap insurance.

    If you are also concerned with making sure the information is available after your demise, make sure you give copies to 1 or 2 or more younger people who are interested in preserving your data and will want to make sure it is available widely in whatever format or storage media becomes popular in the future.

    Microfilm and microfiche have already mostly disappeared although older films are still available. (Microfilm and fiche readers are becoming hard to find, however.) Paper books are disappearing, being replaced by ebooks. My guess is that even ebooks will be replaced someday by something new that has not yet been invented. I have no idea what that will be but I am now taking steps to make sure someone will someday convert my information from the present electronic format to whatever is prevalent in the future, along with a request to the same people asking them to please pass everything along to the following generation.

    “Nothing lasts forever.”


If you have a lot of first person memorabilia, such as historic photos, family papers and correspondence, or original notes and analysis documenting your research (where you found your information and where else you searched but didn’t find anything) to support the family history you have constructed, you might ask if one of the major genealogical societies or archives, or even a local or regional public library serving the geographical,area covered by the bulk of your research, might be interested in having it.
Here are two of the oldest genealogical societies in the USA.
New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS):
New York Genealogica and Biographical Society (NYG&B) works with the New York Public Library’s Milstein Division:


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