Back Up Your Data

how to back up genealogy files

Computers can have problems, so back everything up!

After all that hard work to build your family tree and collect your ancestor’s heritage, don’t put it at risk due to some unexpected computer problems. Of course, those of us who are keeping our genealogy data on paper have a little less to worry about and this won’t apply quite the same way. But anyone with their research on a computer could face heartbreak in a moment when your hard drive crashes. And it can happen with no notice whatsoever. Trust me.

Doing data back ups is common enough and most genealogy software programs will let you create a secondary back up file every time you use it. But that usually just makes another file of your data that sits elsewhere on your computer, in case you accidentally delete a family line or something. It’s still in danger from any overall computer failures.

It’s a better option to get your files off your computer entirely and store them elsewhere so that any major failure or virus attack won’t do any damage. There are a few options you can choose but remember that technology is a pretty fast-moving field and I can only re-write this page so many times. I’ve found that there are 3 common and easy-to-use options that you will want to consider.

Burn a CD
Though CD-ROMS are less common as a storage medium these days, they still work very well for back-ups. If your computer has a drive that can burn Cds, this will work very well for you. Just move your files onto a disc and store it somewhere safe. Some CDs can be erased and reburned but it is a little safer to just create a new disc with each backup.


A Flash Drive
This mini hard-drives are commonly called thumb drives, jump drives or memory sticks. Though they are really small (actually the size of your thumb or smaller), they can hold enough data to make them excellent back up devices. They usually go into the USB slot, and will operate like a drive so that files can be moved and deleted easily. A typical one will hold a gigabyte of memory but they come in a variety of sizes. After a back up, you should remove it from the USB port to protect against computer viruses.

Another form of memory that can work is the SD card, though these are more commonly used in mobile devices. If you have some around and your computer has a drive slot for them, they will work the same way as a flash drive. In either case, these devices are very small so keep them somewhere secure to keep from losing them

Online Backup Services
Online services offer a new form of security by allowing you to upload your files for safety. This keeps your files secure as well as away from home, and if you have it scheduled to run automatically you’ll never forget it. I use Mozy and it automatically uploads any new/changed files on my computer (genealogy and everything else) to their servers 6 times per day. I don’t even have to think about it. The cost is only about $6/month. I recommend this for anyone who needs to back up more than just genealogy work but it’s a great system even if that’s all you want to protect.

Regardless of what storage format you use, make sure you use it fully. Back up your genealogy software files, but also any digital photos, scanned documents, relevant emails, Internet bookmark lists and anything else that is related to your research. You should also try to store a copy of your back up away from your home. A relative’s house, your work place or even a safety deposit box at the bank. That way, everything is protected if there is a larger disaster at home (like a fire or flood).