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Who Will Adopt Your Genealogical Research?

You have spent years compiling your family history. What will become of it when you are no longer able to maintain it? Do you have an interested family member who will adopt your project?

Sadly, many of us have not identified someone who wants to adopt our project. We need to take steps now to increase the chances that our project will be found by some researcher in the future who is unknown to us now.

How you archive your project will have a major influence on whether your project is discovered. Unfortunately, there is no single right archive method to choose.

  • You can print journal reports using archival paper and ink and store them in an appropriate location. Paper has been shown to stand the test of time, provided it is stored properly and does not succumb to fire or flood. Unfortunately, proper storage is not easy to come by. If possible, arrange to donate your printed materials to a genealogical library or society.
  • You can publish a book and distribute it to family, friends, genealogical libraries and societies. Compared to printing journal reports, publishing a book will increase the chances the book is displayed proudly on the shelf of a relative or accepted by a genealogical library or society. Unfortunately, publishing a book on paper is time-consuming and expensive, and after you publish, updating requires a reprint and redistribution.
  • You can publish a book digitally, and that will reduce the cost compared to publishing on paper. It's also easy to update. Digital formats for e-books are likely to stand the test of time because there are widely-accepted standards. While those standards will be updated in the future, it's very likely that conversion methods will be available for today's e-book standards for many, many years.
  • You can publish a set of HTML pages. Publishing to HTML is like publishing a digital book, but HTML pages are easier to create, and the resulting pages are easier to navigate than digital books.
  • You can distribute a backup of your project or a GEDCOM export of it. If a future researcher has access to the same program you used to maintain your data, having a backup will be very useful. Unfortunately, your preferred program may not be available in the future. Future researchers will have access to programs that read GEDCOM files, but GEDCOM files can be misinterpreted and typically do not include all the information in your genealogy project.

If you publish digitally, you must decide what media to use. CDs, DVDs, and flash drives have similar life spans, 10 to 20 years, and that is far shorter than archival ink and paper. However, digital media can be copied cheaply and easily, so if someone is interested enough in your project to keep a copy on whatever digital device they are using, the digital life of your project should be far longer than the life span of today's digital storage media.

So, which method should you choose? There is no single right answer. The best approach is to archive your data as many ways as possible and distribute it as widely as possible. Without being able to predict the future--we have a hard enough time uncovering the past!--there is no way to know who will be interested in our research after we are no longer able to continue it. With each additional location, we improve the chances that someone who is interested will find it, and each additional format improves the chances that it will be usable.

For archiving in HTML format, I recommend my product, GedSite.

GedSite was designed with archival use in mind. It writes HTML pages on your own PC, and you can browse the pages without uploading them to a server. If you write the pages to removable media, you can distribute that media and it will be accessible to anyone who has a device with a web browser.

As an archival format, HTML has many advantages. Over the past 25 years, the universal adoption of HTML pages for publishing has proven that the combination of HTML pages and a web browser are an extremely effective way of communicating. Perhaps most importantly, there are currently billions of HTML pages and that ensures the survival of the format. HTML pages support text, images, audio, and video, so you can include digital media that is attached to your genealogy records.

I urge you to create HTML pages using GedSite. Write the results to DVDs and flash drives, and also upload to cloud-based storage. HTML pages are not the only way you should archive your dataset, but it's cheap and easy and it gives your research one more chance to survive.

For more information about GedSite, see: http://www.gedsite.com