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Backing Up Your Genealogical Data

What would happen if your computer crashed today? Would your genealogy research be safe, or would it be lost forever? Genealogists should make it a habit of backing up their information on a regular basis-at least once per month. It is also a good idea to store your backup in a remote location, such as a safety deposit box or relatives house, in the unfortunate event of a fire.

There are a number of ways that you can backup your information, from creating a CD-ROM of your files to subscribing to an online backup service. There really is no one method that is better than the other. It is all a matter of preference that is dependent on your personal needs, capabilities, and budget.

What to Backup

Exactly what should you backup? The answer is simply everything related to your genealogy research: blog posts, emails, photos, scanned documents, genealogy databases, etc. If you will be absolutely devastated to lose it in the event that something happens to your computer, back it up. This cannot be stressed enough.


This is one of the more popular and inexpensive ways to back up any computer files, including genealogical data. Writable CDs are typically the most inexpensive, and can hold up to 700MB of data. Rewritable CDs are a bit more expensive, but data can be erased and overwritten time and time again. For genealogists with a large amount of data, digital videos are available, and can hold up to 4.7GB of data. If your computer is not equipped with an internal CD-ROM of DCD drive, an external drive can be purchased fairly inexpensively.

Flash Drive

Flash drives, also called thumb drives or jump drives, are small devices-about the size of a pack of gum or cigarette lighter-that plug into your computer’s USB port, and can hold a lot of data. The cost of flash drives vary depending on the amount of data they hold. You can pick one up for anywhere from about $15 to $60 (and sometimes even more). These devices are particularly handy if you prefer to take your genealogical data with you on the road, since they are capable of working on most computers with a USB port. You can even purchase flash drives that fit onto a keychain.

Online Backup Service

Online backup services typically charge users a low subscription fee (around $5 per month) for storing computer data from a remote location. Some of these services include Mozy, iDrive, and Carbonite.