It’s easy to forget about those precious documents scattered around your home. Photo albums are collecting dust, birth certificates and records are stuffed in boxes. All of them may well be lost, if they are not properly stored and preserved.
We’ve written before about the importance of organizing family history research and scanning documents online, but it’s also important to make sure those documents are still intact as primary history resources. They are valuable family heirlooms that should be passed down through the generations, not destroyed.
One of my favorite blogs is The Signal, the digital preservation blog of the Library of Congress. A hot topic there centers on personal digital archiving, and much of that relates to family history and genealogy.
The LOC’s Mike Ashenfelder, who writes online articles about personal digital archiving, digital preservation leaders and developments in digital preservation, writes on preserving personal genealogical collections in a digital age.
The popularity of genealogy websites and TV shows is rapidly growing, mainly because the Internet has made it so convenient to access family history information. Almost everything can be done through the computer now. Before the digital age, genealogical research was not only laborious and time consuming, it also resulted in boxes of documents: photos, charts, letters, copies of records and more. Online genealogy has replaced all that paper with digital files. But the trade-off for the ease of finding and gathering the stuff is the challenge of preserving it.
About genealogical databases, Ashenfelder writes:
that relational databases are the engines that drive digital genealogy. Databases make it possible to quickly search through enormous quantities of records, find the person you’re looking for and discover related people and events. And when institutions collaborate and share databases, statistical information becomes enriched.
And, considering some demographics of family history aficionados, digital estate planning now a popular topic. What happens to our digital possessions after we die? And what can we do to preserve them? Getting your digital affairs in order offers much practical information.