Tools to Preserve Family Oral History

Some messages don’t change over time. When Thomas MacEntee first wrote this blog post last year, the timing seemed especially appropriate. September is, after all, National Disaster Preparedness Month. This March, as the weather continues to be unpredictable (at best) we thought that it was a good time to consider safeguarding the various files and data created as part of any oral history project.

As Ed McMann used to say ….here’s Johnny (Thomas)!

Data Backup Basics

SanDisk_Cruzer_MicroIf you have any family history data – documents, scanned photos and audio files – you will want to make sure you have a backup copy, and preferably stored in more than one place. Never rely upon just one backup location such as the cloud or an external hard drive. Stuff happens. Cloud sites go out of business. USB flash drives are lost. Make sure you have multiple backups.

A smart move is to go for the Data Backup Triple Play as I call it:

Out #1 is to download data from a website to your computer hard drive. This protects you from the website going out of business or being hacked into.

Out #2 is to backup that same data to an external device. This means copy to a CD/DVD, MDisc, a USB flash drive or an external hard drive.

Out #3 is to copy the data to at least one cloud computing storage site such as Box or Dropbox.

Your data stored at Saving Memories Forever is safe and backed up nightly on our servers. Also, don’t forget that Premium Subscribers of Saving Memories Forever can download their stories on the Saving Memories Forever website for free! Free subscribers can purchase the same ability for $12.95 for a three-month period.

Future Proofing Your Data

One area of data backup and technology that is not often discussed is the area of future proofing data. What exactly does this mean? Future proofing refers to ensuring that various data formats are accessible in the future.

Here’s an example: do you remember 3.5” diskettes or the 5.5” floppy diskette version from the 1980s and 1990s? Perhaps you still have family history data and even audio files saved to these diskettes. Can you still access that data? Did you copy those files to your hard drive or to a newer data format for easy access?

Being pro-active in terms of future proofing is staying on top of the latest data storage technology, including audio file formats, and then copying the data from the soon-to-be-outdated format to a newer and more common format.

Don’t wait until different data storage media and file formats are outdated. If you do, you’ll have to use third-party services that will convert your data for you, often for a fee.

Keep The Legacy Train Moving Forward

And now after all your hard work and your preparations to protect your data, have you thought about what will happen to all of it once you’ve left this earth and have become an ancestor yourself? One of the most troublesome areas right now is this: other family members don’t understand the value of collected family history research and simply dispose of it in the trash once a person has died.

Don’t let your work be in vain! Focus on these two areas: passing the family history torch on to another family member and adding specific instructions in your estate planning papers about the disposal of your research.

Tips and Tricks for Oral History Preservation

Here is some helpful advice on safeguarding your oral history data and information:

  • Create multiple backups. The phrase “never put all your eggs in one basket” applies to data files as well. Even if you have your audio files as part of Saving Memories Forever, make sure you’ve exported them and saved them in various places including a cloud data program, a flash drive and a CD/DVD.
  • Future proof your data. Make sure you are using one of the latest file formats for audio files and storing the files on accessible media such as DVD or in the cloud, instead of diskettes.
  • Transcribe your interviews. Yes this can be time consuming. Yes this is not the same as hearing a family members voice. But rather than have the interview be lost forever, take time to transcribe the conversation. At Saving Memories Forever, you can upload your transcribed interview to a Transcription file on the SavingMemoriesForever.com website. There is a transcription file for each story.
  • Preserve the legacy chain. Have you made plans for all your hard work and collected information after you’ve died? Find a family member who is willing to preserve the information you’ve prepared. Also consider donating items to a local historical or genealogical society.

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

downloadThomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

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