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Storing Your Family Tree

However, the ease of organizing and finding information made possible by these digital devices can be a two-edged sword. It seems the more you find and create, the more you want more. And that requires disk space.


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Genealogy is a resource-consuming activity–not only time but space. Closets burst to overflowing. Boxes pile on top of boxes. Computer hard drives fill quickly with your collections of documents, photos, and ephemera.

Computers have been a boon to family genealogists like yourself. You most likely use CD-ROMs of documentary files, send files by E-mail, chat with others who share your interests, and use the Internet to both find and share knowledge. But you probably use your word processor the most to create documents for distribution to others. However, the ease of organizing and finding information made possible by these digital devices can be a two-edged sword. It seems the more you find and create, the more you want more. And that requires disk space.

In today's computer world, terabytes are beginning to replace gigabytes. Where a 20-gigabyte hard drive would have held a lot of information a few years ago, today that same size drive can barely contain the files for your computer's programs. As computer technology has improved, software program sizes have reached gigantic proportions which doesn't leave much room on your hard drive for your genealogical files and photos.

File storage for most people eventually becomes a haphazard affair. But with a little planning and forethought, you can no only safely store your family tree files but also retrieve them easily.

One of the easiest ways to keep your genealogical files safe and accessible within your computer is to install a second hard drive. Most of today's computers already have a space or drive bay set aside for this purpose. Though installing a second drive isn't difficult, you may want to get one installed where you buy it. If you purchase your second drive online, then you can have someone else install it for you.

The storage capacity of your second drive is unrelated to that of your computer's original drive, so choose the amount of storage that you can not only afford but that will also meet your future needs.

You can have the drive installed as is or have it divided into two or more partitions or sections. For instance, an 80-gigabyte drive can be divided into two 40-gigabyte sections–one for storing your genealogical files and the other for other data. Both sections will appear as separate hard drive letters in My Computer. Also, the sections don't have to be the same size.

Another alternative is to store your family tree files on an external hard drive that plugs into one of your computer's Universal Serial Buss (USB) sockets. These drives come in two varieties–large capacity drives with cases that are about the size of a medium-size paperback book and portable mini drives with cases the size of a man's wallet. Capacities on these drives can go up to 500 gigabytes.

At times you may want to share files with others who don't have the same kinds of computers. For this type of portable storage you can either burn files to a CD or load them on a flash drive, commonly called a thumb drive which also plugs into a USB socket. The former has a maximum capacity of 800 megabytes while the latter can go as high as 32 gigabytes.

Stored as plain text, you can fit the equivalent of 250,000 pages of double-spaced typewritten pages on a CD, plus you can use some of that space for pictures or sound, even video clips. And using CD-R (Read-only) for publishing genealogical material makes a lot of sense. Instead of requiring a pre-determined number of copies to be printed and bound, you can make CD-Rs on demand, one at a time. However, you must remember to leave at least 100 megabytes free on the CD, otherwise it may have trouble loading when you want to access the files on it.

Source Information: Everyday Genealogy, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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