Genealogy Records Storage: Tips & Software to Preserve Your Family History

After doing family history research for awhile, genealogists reach the point where they ask themselves: I have gathered all this information—now, what do I do with it?

Genealogists are the family hunter/gatherers, sifting through family obituaries, photographs and birth certificates. We take that information and organize it on our home computers in family tree software programs like PersonalAncestralFilePAF, LegacyFamilyTree and RootsMagic.

These family tree software programs designed for personal use at home are excellent ways to manage and organize your genealogical data.

But, at the end of the day, they are only the first step in compiling and sharing your family history.

As genealogists we want to share the family’s information with the rest of the family, to preserve it for the rising generation. We must find a way to make this family history information “permanent” with today’s tools and resources.

What are the storage options open to us?

Storing Genealogy Records at Home

We can protect and keep our genealogical data on a home computer, being careful to make back-up disks and giving copies of those disks to relatives near and far. I have done that for over a decade. The downside is that right now my relatives just are not interested enough in our family history to upload that data. They simply—on a good day—take the disks I sent them and put them in a drawer. The family data is preserved but it is still at the one-off level: it is preserved but only accessible to a few people.

We have seen genealogists spend 40+ years gathering family data, carefully managing it in their paper or computer files—only to have it all discarded as the person dies and the family downsizes, consolidates and moves to warmer climates. The pattern has been that the genealogy records gathered by each generation are known only to a few and are seldom preserved.

It is urgent that genealogists use the report function on their genealogy software programs to print and share their research. These reports can be targeted to report on all descendants of specific parts of the family and can even be personalized so that each person has a copy of their family tree—starting with themselves and going back in time.

Storing Family Records in the Online Cloud

Are there ways that we can preserve our family history information and at the same time widely disseminate it?

Yes.

This is important. Now that we all live in an interconnected world we can easily share and preserve our information with family members we have never met.

Genealogy Tip: For security reasons, only put information about deceased members of your family online. Make that information “public” so that it seamlessly becomes a part of the global family tree being built by millions of genealogists worldwide. If you add what you know—and I add what I have discovered—a much stronger and accurate family tree is built, permanently available online.

Where do I plant my tree online?

You want to use the standard “family tree” websites: FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com

FamilySearch.org. This free site has multiple options for uploading family trees. Their “new” family tree site is still in limited release but is expected to be fully open to the public later this year. Register now to get an invitation. Users can personalize and view this information in multiple languages, including all of the expected European, Scandinavian and Asian languages.

Ancestry.com. This commercial site has millions of family trees with documentation and photographs. It is essential that you make your tree “public,” making the information easily findable by genealogists worldwide.

What about using Facebook, a blog, or other sites?

Earlier I noted that you can print a family tree report from your home-based family tree software—but notice that you can also print these as PDF reports.

Be careful to adjust your settings so that none of the current, living generation of your family is printed in the report.

Then you can easily upload a copy to your Facebook page, blog or similar sites.

Scribd.com

One terrific online resource is Scribd.com.

This free website encourages everyone to publish their reports online. I regularly post copies of my genealogical reports here, and this has paid off. I have heard back from relatives in the United Kingdom and around the world who never would have found me on a “genealogy” site.

Genealogy Record Storage Online with Scribd

Scribd.com for Online Genealogy Record Preservation

How did they find me on Scribd.com? Easy—that site makes every word, every name fully searchable on Google and the other search engines. So—when my cousins decided to start looking at our family tree they searched using Google and Bingo!—they found my family tree report.

One nice feature of Scribd is that I can update my family history information, then upload and overlay the original version of my report. So all links are preserved and the information available will be the most accurate version of my research data.

Take time this summer to find ways to permanently preserve and disseminate your genealogy research. Doing so will inform and entertain your family members—and help your own family history research by getting others involved.

Tell us your success story.

We hear from GenealogyBank researchers all the time about their success in finding their family in historical newspapers and documents.

Do you have an interesting story to tell?
Would you be willing to be interviewed about it?

If so, please contact me directly at: TKemp@NewsBank.com

We want to hear from you.

Here is what others have told us:

Genealogy is my #1 hobby and profession. After hearing about your site, I signed up for a year. I have spent hours at libraries finding and copying obituaries and now some of them I can find just by typing in a name! I’m also finding the less common marriage notices and newspaper articles that I did not even think to search for because I did not know they existed until they came up on my screen!
Michael W. McCormick Adams County, PA, Enduring Legacy Genealogy, LLC

I have never heard of this site before, just saw it on Facebook and decided to check it out. This is my dream come true! In 5 minutes I’ve found more articles about my g-g-g grandfather than I ever thought possible! I’m sold….
Joan Morrison

[....] I found something very valuable on your site, [...] the story of my ggrandparents getting back together after 20 years being apart back in 1901-2 time. I believe it was in one of the TX papers, don’t know why it was in it, because my ggrandfather went out to Wisconsin to seek his fortune after marrying my ggrandmother in Nova Scotia. He left after 2 weeks marriage (she was already pregnant but didn’t know it, with my grandmother) and her parents did not like him, so they kept all his letters from her. He went to Massachusetts to see a friend and he asked about her and was told she lived not too far away, never married. He went to her house, and the rest is history as they say.
Margaret Sessions, Florida

I have been a subscriber since February 2008. I really like your site. I have been able to locate news articles about my ancestors in a matter of minutes. I had been looking for an article on my great grandfather’s death in a train accident for at least twenty years without any luck. I found it in about ten minutes searching GenealogyBank. THANK YOU!
Keith Parrish

Your site…I am delighted I found it. Such a wide variety from major city newspapers I’ve never found anywhere, especially with regard to the period of history in which I am most interested. Keep adding, and thank you, from a very much pleased subscriber.
George B. Parous, Pittsburgh, PA

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DeeDee, Baton Rouge, LA

I subscribed to your site yesterday and forthwith found a very interesting 4th of July article concerning my Revolutionary War patriot ancestor. What a great find!
Nancie Brunk

I’ve been having a ball finding articles about my family. The biggest find for me…was discovering my gr-grandfather’s uncle in Congressional records as well as in newspapers. He had left home as a child and didn’t return home again until after his father died. It was reported in the newspapers that his elderly mother (my gr-gr-gr-grandmother!) almost went into shock after not seeing him for nearly 37 years. GenealogyBank gave me great insight into his life as a fisherman turned world traveler and the names of his children that he had with his Russian wife and his locations in Russia and Japan back in the 1800s! How cool is that??? :) I can’t wait to see what papers you will put up next. Keep up the great work!
Catherine “Casey” Zahn

Genealogybank is a fantastic resource. I literally have pulled 100s of newspaper articles in the past year from the 1780s to the 1920s that have helped me reconstruct families, and much eye opening information. Over this holiday I reconstructed another family using it and am now matching old photos back to these folks from over 100 years ago. Whereas most databases give you the vital records, GenealogyBank fills in the life stories. I have been getting a kick out of the horse trader and express man brothers and their stories that made the paper. They amused (and not so amused) the folks of Springfield, Mass, for several years in the Springfield Republican. Although I have not found photos of them yet, I have now correctly identified their sisters and some nieces and nephews after decades of not knowing for sure who the people were.
Ken Piper, Facebook

I recently learned my early ancestors traveled with a French group called The Ravel Family. They were a circus family but performed in theatres in New York City, Boston, Havana, New Orleans and other U.S. cities and countries. It turns out, The Ravel Family were world famous and had a great reputation. My 2nd great-grandfather, Leon Giavelli (stage name of Javelli) performed high wire acts that no others dared try…I found all of this out just from typing ‘Giavelli’ in your search engine; I have been very busy downloading newspaper articles and advertisements of my family and I owe it all to you!
Jane Laughon

I have never believed in paying for websites, but I finally broke down and subscribed to Genealogybank.com. I was thrilled to have found numerous articles on my family in the Philadelphia Inquirer (PA). Thanks for your great website.
Barbara Turner, Woodbury, NJ

I’m going for a two-year subscription, for the price may never be this good again – and with all the new resources being added, who knows how much more genealogy I will be able to access 18 months from now. Look how much new content went up in just six weeks!

I subscribed immediately. Within a short space of time I found an obit for great uncle John P. McCANNEY. My father’s namesake, he hid from me for years! I also found a news article for Aveline KUNTZMANN, my beloved’s 2nd great grandmother. It always puzzled me because she is not interred with KUNTZMANN family. Wow! She was lost when the LA BOURGOGNE sank in July 1898. I am going to be sleep deprived!
-Mary McCanney Finley

I found a letter written by my third great grandfather – the first thing I’ve ever seen written by the man. This letter was published in the Albany (New York) Argus in February of 1819. Wonderful!
Most of the content found at GenealogyBank is unique, not found on other sites. You may search it for free to see how many records there are for your family. If it looks good, sign-up to see the full records.
Honestly, if you have colonial ancestry, you can’t afford not to use this new resource. For the first time ever, you will be able to access newspapers and documents not previously indexed or in many cases, accessible at all. What makes this collection unique is that much of the data is from the American Antiquarian Society in Worchester, Massachusetts. This organization holds the earliest American printed materials, including newspapers – and now, for the first time, much of this material is accessible to you and I – all in digital format.
-Leland MeitzlerGenealogyBlog.com

Congratulations on a terrific website! I can’t leave it – I found several newspaper items I’ve not before seen and I still have more on the list to view. I’m one of your first subscribers.
Thank you so much for your dedication. It paid off tremendously. I’m going back now.
-Stefani Evans, CG

…they are the kind of resources that help you to not only use source documents to learn more about your ancestry, but they also help you to put ‘meat on the bones’ of your genealogy as you work to create a family history. Now, individuals have access to a wide array of great resources, which are centralized and available through a single subscription service. GenealogyBank is quickly becoming a major player in the field.
Internet Genealogy, January 2007

Your GenealogyBank is WONDERFUL. It’s a must for researching genealogists. I ran into info that I had searched and searched for years ago in libraries. And here it is now right at my fingertips! Amazing. It is well worth the price. Thank you for giving us all this information.
-Diana K. Bennett

I had a chance to ‘test drive’ the new individual GenealogyBank and was much impressed…. My best finds were in the Historical Documents collection – the American State Papers and the U.S. Serial Set. They yielded the most interesting and amazing information. I learned my 3rd great-grandfather, Solomon Dunagan was a constable, and testified at a voter fraud trial at Wayne County, Ky. Feb. 9, 1860. Solomon’s son, Thomas J. Dunagan testified at the same trial as a witness for the prosecution.
-Carllene Marek AncestreeSeekers, Chico (CA) Enterprise-Record

I almost fell off my chair last week, and not because I’m naturally clumsy. I was trying out the new GenealogyBank database … and saw a headline ‘Boy From Holy Land Working Way Through University of Texas.’ I clicked, and there was a picture of my grandfather. The slightly melodramatic 1924 Dallas Morning News article told how my Lebanese ancestor – who lived in an orphanage – respected his elders, studied into the wee hours and worked in a dairy all summer to earn money for college. Despite ‘lacking in dash and brilliance’ (in the reporter’s opinion), he was in the band, played football and won a debate contest.
I never met my grandfather, but he sounds a lot like my dad (except my dad is brilliant). It was a totally unexpected discovery, and just goes to show you can find information in surprising places.
-Diane Haddad, Newsletter Editor

Right off the bat, you’ll notice the servers respond quickly to return hits. In my first two searches I found 2 relevant entries for my ancestors. I expect this new website will be on my ‘must visit regularly’ lists.
-MyrtleDearMYRTLE.com

I subscribed today and have only stopped twice – once to eat a quick dinner and now for this note to thank you for this wonderful site. Already I have found 30 newspaper references in 1700-1800 for my ancestor in New York. I can’t thank you enough for putting this out there for us. What an accomplishment! I’m so glad it came along while I’m still here. I turned 87 this September. The program sent me hurrying along to finish my family history!
-Alice H. Williams

It has a lot more and to me it has been worth the money. You can take it a month at a time. I have already found so much info on one of my surnames and it will take me days to go through it all. I love the site.
-Barbara Nichols

GenealogyBank is the most customer-oriented genealogy website I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. Its constantly-expanding content is remarkably varied, immensely useful, and delightfully out-of-the-ordinary. A vast number of the documents included in ‘America’s Government Documents’ and ‘America’s Historical Books’ are not found in the genealogy databases I’ve seen. GenealogyBank’s features are easy to understand and use. The Help section is comprehensive and well-written. GenealogyBank clearly was created and structured with the needs of genealogists at all levels of research in mind.
-Joy Rich, M.L.S., Editor, Dorot: The Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York)

I have never believed in paying for websites, but I finally broke down and subscribed to Genealogybank.com. I was thrilled to have found numerous articles on my family in the Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer. Thanks for your great website.
-Barbara Turner Woodbury, NJ

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On the road – Family History Expo – St. George, UT

This year’s Family History Expo in St. George, UT was a big success. This well attended conference is becoming the largest genealogy conference in the U.S.

This, the 5th Annual Family History Expo had over 1,300 people in attendance. Genealogists flew in for the conference from all parts of the country.

I was pleased to be asked to present at 2 sessions this year and to be the conference banquet speaker.

If you weren’t able to be there in person – here are the PowerPoint presentations for you to review.

GenealogyBank.com – The Tour – Feb 2009

Genealogy Blogs, Podcasts, Facebook and more

Timeline of Genealogy – 1620 – 2009 – the tools

How to deal with heirloom, oversize portraits

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal (February 14-15, 2009 pp. R6) has a terrific article by Kathleen A. Hughes – “The Person over the Mantle”.

Hughes tells the experiences of families in preserving and displaying their old family portraits and her own change of heart in displaying the image of her 3rd Great Grandmother, Mary Plumb Fairchild.
Early on she was offered Mary’s portrait but decided that she didn’t want that “stern” looking woman over the mantle of her fireplace. Thirty years later she had a change of heart and looked into her genealogy and remembered that old family heirloom. Turns out that Mary Plumb Fairchild was “one of the first women to attend Oberlin College, and an early abolitionist. She died at 29 after giving birth to her fourth child”. Now not accepting the offer of the family portrait is one of her regrets – but the portrait is preserved and hangs in the home of a cousin across the country. (Portrait of Mary Plumb Fairchild is from the article).

We have a wall of old family portraits in our home along the landing at the top of the stairs – much like the walls at Hogwarts in a Harry Potter movie – they are hard to miss. The really oversize family portraits still hang at my uncle’s home in New Hampshire.

If you have early family portraits – be sure to make a digital copy of each one – identify them and post them online. eMail copies to members of your family. You could post them for free at Facebook.com; on Scribd.com or similar sites …. and you can join online genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and post the digital images there.

But – what do you do if you don’t have a portrait of any of your ancestors?

You could scour the Internet looking to see if a historic image of your relative is already online. You could also search sites like GenealogyToday – a terrific site that regularly posts funeral cards, early printed items and photographs etc.
Another source is old newspapers. I have found thousands of images – photos, etchings of people in 19th & 20th Century newspapers. GenealogyBank is a great source for tracking down old family photos that the family lost track of decades ago.

This image of Daniel Freeman is from the Omaha (NE) Sunday World Herald 26 June 1899.