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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Oodles of Floppies

I got a comment recently about someone with over a hundred floppy disks full of information including old Personal Ancestral File (PAF) files. The person, who did not leave any contact information except another Blog, has an all too common problem. In fact, I had to address exactly that issue for someone I know. I am still carrying around their floppy disk to try give it back to them the next time I see my friend.

There are really two problems here. First is the problem of the vanishing floppy disk technology. None of the newer computers are being sold with floppy disk drives and finding a working disk drive is becoming a challenge. If you have any information on floppy disks, now is the time to act. The availability of floppy disk drives will only get worse as time goes on. You can still purchase a USB floppy disk drive and they are really inexpensive, but I don't expect that they will be available much longer.

But what is more of a challenge is the obsolescence of the software. I wrote about this problem back in 2009 in a post called "A Disaster Averted." With a bunch of old floppy disks that haven't been used for some time, there is a distinct problem that some of the files will not be recognizable by any current programs. Finding old copies of the programs on working computers is a challenge. But then migrating the files to newer operating systems and newer programs is even more of a challenge. PAF is a good example of a program that not only has various versions, but has now been abandoned.

If you have old PAF files, your best bet is using one of the newer database programs, like Ancestral Quest, to open the old PAF files and convert them to a newer, more usable format. Another way to achieve the same thing is to find an older, still operating, version of PAF and use that to open the still older files and save  them in the newer version. For example, using version 4.0 of PAF to open the version 3.0 files. I suggest taking the files to a local Family History Center to see if someone has the capability of opening the files and saving them in a newer format.

As to all the other data files, each one would have to be addressed according to the version of the original program. As I found out, new versions of Microsoft Word do not open old data files.

The commentator has a problem, but the problem with only continue to get worse over time. I guess it is time to talk about data migration again.


  1. I am glad I do not have any information on Floppy discs. I am old enought to have used them but working in healath care I never did.

    I worry about the CD's becoming obsolete and where I store my information also becoming obsolete. I think I will have to post my ifnormation somewhere that will be entombed forever.
    Dowd the LDS Church accept files of non members, because I know that will last for forever.

  2. You can still submit a file in GEDCOM format from most genealogy programs like PAF, Ancestral Quest, RootsMagic, etc, to the Pedigree Resource File at This is the classic or 'previous version' of Look for the 'Share' button in the middle of the toolbar at the top of the page. Register for a username and password then follow the instructions on the screen. Remembering your username and password is important if you ever anticipate wanting to download your submission in the future. PRF will soon be included in 'Trees' in the current version of but is still searchable at the classic site.