Preserve and Protect Your Family History

In Europe and America genealogy has long been a one-person task, with the family historian recording and maintaining the family’s history.

Along the way that person hopefully made copies of the history and gave them to other members of the family. Typed or published, these would be kept and passed down in families. Did copies of your family history make it down to you?

Genealogy an Asian Tradition

In China, Korea and Japan these family histories or clan genealogies would be maintained at a designated temple that centralized the recording and maintaining of that family’s records. Copies were often made and passed down in the family to the current generation, with the copy at the Temple serving as a physical backup.

photo of a Chinese genealogy book

Source: FamlySearch.org

These genealogies can easily go back one thousand years—or, as in the case of the Confucius family, go back for 2,500 years. The Confucius family history is recorded for more than 80 generations and is maintained by the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, which has 450 branches around the world. That’s a lot of genealogists documenting one family history.

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Publishing Family Histories

Family histories are often some of the oldest surviving “books” in countries all over the world. In Ireland the Leabhar na nGenealach was written in 1649-1650. It is a massive nine-volume record of families in all parts of Ireland and Gaelic Scotland.

Publishing and disseminating copies of your family history is essential, but it doesn’t stop there. Genealogists who spend decades compiling and organizing their research and then publish it in book form immediately go back to work the next day, picking up and extending the branches of the family tree from where their published book left off. In too many cases the life’s work and research notes of a solitary genealogist are never published and are simply lost when that person dies.

Why do genealogists not publish?

Typically a genealogist thinks his work is never done.

There is always one more obituary or marriage record that needs to be found. That obituary in turn gives clues for an additional search and then another.

Is there a middle ground?

Yes—today’s technology lets us put our research online in real time.

Every day as we research, we can put our results online so that our latest hunches and conclusions can be shared and immediately vetted by cousins researching the same family lines.

These online trees are effective and have created a new opportunity for genealogists. Sourcing has become easy on these sites, making it possible for anyone wanting to verify the data to just click and see the original sources.

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Game-changer

So—instead of a life’s work being lost, your family history research can be permanently preserved online. This is a major breakthrough. This is a game-changer. Research doesn’t have to be lost and recompiled over and over with each new generation.

This is important. Genealogists no longer have to rely on a library with published genealogies, reading them one by one to track a family history. This can now be done online. It’s true that—just like with a published genealogy—some of the conclusions might be wrong, but unlike the print edition of a family history, these online family trees all include links to the sources used to compile the family history.

Want to double check a person in your tree? With a click you can be reading the actual obituary in GenealogyBank or a birth certificate from Indiana.

Are you participating?
Are you putting your family information online—or are you keeping it protected in your cave at home?
I am online.

I am putting up all of the generations and family members in my family tree who have passed away—but, I do not put the current, living generation online so as to protect their privacy.

Will I still publish our family history as a book?

Yes, absolutely.

But—who knows when I will “finish” that book?

Thankfully, until that day gets here my research and notes are safely online on websites that I can control. I use two online family tree sites. One is set up so that only I can make changes in the text and the relationships. The other is set up so that anyone can add the relatives that they are more familiar with, letting me benefit from their expertise.

I can easily go online to change and edit my online tree. On the sites that make the online tree a group effort, I can track as others add to my data. By putting everything online, my data is preserved and secure and I can see/benefit from the research others are doing.

What approach are you taking to preserve and protect your family history?

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Best Family Tree Software & Websites to Share Your Genealogy

If a genealogist falls in the forest—does she make a sound? What are you doing to ensure that your decades of family history research are preserved and passed down so that others can build on your expertise?

photo of a family tree chart

Photo: family tree. Credit: Wikipedia.

For centuries genealogists relied on family tree charts that were carefully prepared on paper, a time-consuming and laborious process. These paper documents were then copied and distributed to other members of the family. Paper tree charts were costly to prepare, and their reproduction and distribution added to the expense.

In more recent times, genealogists have moved on from typewriters and copy machines to the Internet as the mechanism for distributing copies of their ancestry research to interested family members around the globe.

Here are the basic tools you need to share and distribute your family history research online.

Computer-Based Family History Software

There are dozens of family history software programs that genealogists use to organize their research. These programs make it easy to incorporate photographs, research notes and commentary into one family tree that can easily be printed in whole or in part and distributed to others—or simply shared online.

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Three of the leading family history programs are:

With any one of these family tree software programs it is easy to record your information and then, with a few clicks, print out the standard family tree charts or reports you need to communicate your family’s history to the other members of the family.

family history reports

Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp

These genealogy software programs easily prepare and print out family history reports that name all of the descendants of a designated ancestor up to the present day. Or you can do the process in reverse: start with a person from today and lay out the preceding generations one by one, going back in time through both sides of that person’s family tree.

These printed paper family tree reports can be given to relatives at family gatherings. Alternatively, you can save these genealogy reports electronically as PDF or Word files that can be easily emailed to interested relatives.

Family History Websites

There are a number of good social media sharing websites where genealogists can store, collaborate, share and distribute their family history research. Here are a few of these online sites where you might consider uploading your own family history.

Scribd.com

Genealogists use online sites like Scribd.com as convenient free sites where they can upload, share and preserve their genealogy research findings.

Genealogy Tip: Before using a site like Scribd.com, be sure to set the reporting features on your genealogy software so that your family history report will not include any information about still-living members of the family. Use that edited report when you upload it online. That way the privacy of your living relatives is protected.

family history reports for Edward and Mary Rutledge

Credit: Scribd.com

Scribd.com lets you upload your family history report and present it as an online version of your family history. Online sites like this are easily searched from any computer, smartphone, iPad, or any other device. The Scribd.com report uses the standard genealogical report styles so that this document has a professional, clean look. And, since it is online, every name—in fact every word­—of the report is then searchable online.

Genealogists often find that as they continue their research, or receive feedback from relatives, they discover additional details to add to the family tree. With new family information in hand they might regret having already published and distributed their research as expensive paper documents. That is not a problem with Scribd.com.

With just a few clicks on Scribd.com, genealogists can update their family history reports and have the current, most accurate version of their family history online. Or if you prefer you can designate this updated report as a “2nd Edition” with a new publication date. However you post it, your latest findings will be instantly available to all genealogists and, importantly, preserved online.

Pinterest

There are other online sites that make it easy to present and share your family history.

Pinterest.com is an excellent site for sharing photographs about your family and where they lived.

With Pinterest you can create separately-themed “Boards” that illustrate part of your family’s story. I organize my boards by places where the family has lived or by topics that are important to our story.

Visit Thomas Jay Kemp’s profile on Pinterest.


Credit: Pinterest

I then use the notes field to describe each old family photograph, including the details of why this picture is significant to the family.

Pinterest board showing scenes from Ireland

Credit: Pinterest

Pinterest is a handy way for me to illustrate my family history in an organized way, all shared online. By adding notes, I can update and add more context to these images—sharing them through this Wikipedia-like source of online photographs.

Online Family Trees

As technology has improved, genealogists have moved to the next step and are sharing their family trees online. Genealogists welcome the opportunity to permanently store their information in the “cloud” of online family trees. This protects your family history information from any unexpected loss, such as your home computer suddenly failing, and puts the information securely online where the rising generation can find it. There are many websites where you can post your family tree online: FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, OneGreatFamily.com, Ancestry.com, and other sites.

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Perhaps the most popular is FamilySearch.org.

This free family history site makes it easy to post your family tree online, along with your genealogy data, photographs and reports.

familiy history reports for Kemp ancestors

Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp, Scribd.com & FamilySearch

With just a click you can easily bring together your genealogy research reports, along with your old family photos, and link them to your ancestor’s page on the FamilySearch Family Tree.

family tree entries for Kemp ancestors

Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp & FamilySearch

By putting your genealogy online you make it easy to update, ensuring that your latest research is accurately recorded, permanently online, and easily accessible to you and all of your cousins around the globe 24/7.

By adding digital copies of your old family photos, documents and reports, you are able to share these one-of-a-kind items with your cousins without risking the original copies.

Genealogy Tip: Posting your family tree online is a smart way to share and preserve your family history information, making your research findable by your children, grandchildren and their children. They are expecting to find online information rather than the paper copies genealogists have relied on in the past.

As genealogists we enjoy researching and documenting our family history. These modern tools allow us to quickly share our research with the rest of the family, in paper formats as well as digital copies posted online.

Make every effort to share your family history online. It will make your own genealogy work easier, and future generations will thank you for it.

Make sure the family history records you organize and leave to posterity make a sound.

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