Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Using Smart Technology to Jump-Start Your Genealogical Research: Part Five

Online document storage and organization programs: Continued

There are several considerations for genealogists when we consider storing our data online either instead of local storage or in addition to local storage. Online storage includes any program that keeps your data where you need an Internet connection to see it. Local storage may also require a program of some sort, such as a genealogical database program but does not require an Internet connection. 

The issue of an Internet connection was more of a concern a few years ago when connections were more expensive, slower and sometimes intermittent. More and more of world's population is obtaining high speed reliable Internet connections. When I was much younger, our electrical connection used to go out regularly. I still see occasional power outages, but nothing like we had when I was young. The same type of thing is happening with the Internet. 

From the standpoint of good backup practices, it is best to use more than one method of storing your data. So the best practice would be to use both local hard drives or flash drives and online storage. Personally, I use both for different reasons. I keep my current working files online so they are available on a variety of devices and in different locations, but I still maintain my main backup on multiple hard drives. 

If we move on beyond backup and data storage, the next question for genealogists is whether to use a local genealogy program or an online program or both. For example, should I use RootsMagic for my "primary" program and also maintain a family tree on or whichever program I happen to like or want to pay for? Also, when I write about using "genealogy" programs, I am not excluding the possibility of using a dedicated online backup program such as to supplement the genealogy programs. In making these examples, I am not suggesting any particular program over any other, but merely showing alternatives.

The core problem we face with using both multiple programs and backup programs is the need to synchronize data between these different venues. For example, if I have a family tree on all four of the big, online genealogical database programs, such as,, and, then how do I keep all four family trees up-to-date and still benefit from the automatic record hints available from each program? There is no really satisfactory solution to this challenge as yet. The problem is compounded if you also add in one or more local programs. The key to taking charge of this situation is choosing one program as your "primary data storage program" and moving data obtained from the other programs to the primary program as it is acquired. 

Let's suppose that I get a valuable record hint from's Record Match technology. But I prefer to use the Family Tree as my primary data storage program. In this case, I can move the information I obtain from to the Family Tree program on as it is acquired. Granted, this whole situation becomes more and more complex with addition of each separate program. But, I suggest that the benefits of using the automated hinting capabilities of these four programs outweighs the complexity. 

By designating on program as your primary program, you need to be aware that the primary program must be backed up to multiple storage devices. It is helpful if this backup process is automatic. Both Windows and Mac OS operating systems have automatic backup capabilities and as a bare minimum your primary computer should be using this sort of system in addition to other manually driven backups. 

In essence, your primary program whether local or online becomes the endpoint of whatever research you obtain. For example, if you find a useful document somewhere online or even on paper, you need to make sure that the document makes its way into your primary program and is evaluated, incorporated and then attached to the individuals mentioned in the document. This is in contrast to a paper-based genealogy system where you must either make multiple paper copies of documents or spend a lot of time searching back and forth in files and notebooks. It is preferable to let computer programs make these connections since every genealogy program I am aware of allows you to attach the same document to multiple individuals. 

With the amount of online information that is becoming available to today's genealogical researcher, having a working system of maintaining a primary data program is imperative. 

Here are the previous posts in this series.

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