ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Preserving Family History

Updated on January 16, 2014

Preserving Your Family's History

Whatever you want to call it -- family history, genealogy, your family tree, preserving the information you gather about your family is very important. I've recently researched various ways in which to preserve the information I've come by through my own research, as well as the records and photos that have been passed on to me. My research has actually been ongoing for several years now. My problem is that the bulk of physical pieces of precious paper is running me out of my home. I'm facing the reality that the next generation of caretakers of the family records may not be willing to take on the task unless the mass of paper and photos is drastically pared down to something manageable.

Photo: Thomas A. Doxey, Spanish American War, scanned from my personal family collection.

Family Tree Maker - One of the Best Ways to Organize Genealogical Data - A starting point for keeping everything, even photos and stories.

You'll need genealogy software to get everything organized in one place. Then simply keep the original items that you want, but have the piece of mind that it's all documented and organized in your computer.

The Problem: Too Many Precious Things

An Overwhelming Amount of Family Paper

I literally have over thirty boxes of precious family paper. For the most part, the boxes themselves are safe for storage, and for the most part they are stored in a dry, not-too-hot, not-too-cold place. My problem is not only running out of space, but knowing that I can't possibly effectively process all that information. The ideal would be to preserve and curate everything. Ten years ago I envisioned myself taking each piece of information extracted from each piece of paper and photograph, entering it on a timeline (one for each branch of the family tree), and watching the stories unfold, which I would then organize and write for the rest of the family to enjoy and cherish.

Now, though I haven't given up on that idea entirely, I realize that first I need to get a handle on exactly what I have and radically cull out the wheat from the chaff. Each time I have attempted this, I get completely overwhelmed with the sorting process and quit mid box, mentally and emotionally worn out.

But then a few things happened that have helped me rise above the frustration and immobilization that thirty some-odd boxes have held me hostage to for a good ten years. First of all, it became apparent that no one else in the family is interested in taking over from me "when the time comes". They are all immensely relieved that I was interested enough to take it on in the first place. But the real game changer was getting news that I will soon have to move and quite likely downsize at the same time.

Another thing that has changed in the last ten years is technology. Yes, even twenty years ago family history could be stored in computer genealogy programs. But when I considered that I started out with eight-inch floppy disks, which then had to be converted to smaller floppies, then to CD's, I thought that the only thing that would remain constant was the actual physical paper the information was extracted from. That was the backup if everything else failed. I wasn't willing to scan something and then get rid of the original. The truth is, I'm not sure I can do that now, but I can certainly get rid of notes and copies of copies.

Here is the game changer in technology that has been made available to each of us at our individual computers. There are several major genealogy sites that can permanently store your information "in the cloud". That is the backup that can be trusted. So once you have your genealogy in a program on your computer, choose one of those sites as your "vault" in the sky. I don't recommend using more than one, though, as it will become a chore to keep them updated. That still leaves the decision of which one to use. I quickly narrowed the field to the two most solid and dependable sites. One is by subscription and the other one is free. The most dependable of the two is the free site, and I'll tell you why.

Get organized and get that paper under control! - Paper in boxes is meaningless until you make some sense out of it.

There are many tools and systems for organizing and extracting the important parts of the family data and keepsakes you accumulate.

The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors
The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors
How to trace and find more information on the ancestors you've identified.
You Can Write Your Family History
You Can Write Your Family History
A way to harness the information and turn it into a great story.
Family History! How to Turn Your Genealogy into a Lasting Legacy
Family History! How to Turn Your Genealogy into a Lasting Legacy
What to actually do with all the bits and pieces.
Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time
Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time
Preserve all that information in a way the rest of the family can appreciate.

Two Sites To Store Your Genealogy "in the Cloud"

Let's Compare and Contrast

The two sites to consider, in my opinion, are and is a subscription site. It is pretty expensive, but well worth it if you can afford it. is completely free, and sponsored by the LDS Church. Each of these sites has up sides and down sides.

When you subscribe to you can upload and share your family tree, and you can work on it and add to it as you research within the site. You can add media, like photos, documents, and stories. Although you can choose a level of security, for the most part your information is visible to others and they can grab a photo, for instance, of a shared ancestor. I recently found a photo of an ancestor who I had never before seen a photo of. However, it is not possible to upload from your Family Tree back to your computer in order to update your personal computer family tree. In other words, as you make discoveries on and add to your tree, you better remember to add them in both databases, your computer genealogy program as well as your Ancestry Family Tree. I know people who use only the online tree, but if they ever have to end their subscription to they will have to transfer information bit by bit or lose it. I'm hoping that some day will enable uploads, but to date they do not.

When you upload your family tree to, although you can view it separately as your family tree, it immediately is blended into a giant world family tree. You can also upload photos, notes, documents and other media. The whole idea is that everyone can instantly add to and take from this shared pool of family history. In order to get the most benefit from this site, you need to adjust your thinking a little, and for me that meant to open my mind to the fact that other researchers might have better information than my own. The philosophy is that the best will rise to the top. For instance, if I find my grandmother's birth date is wrong in the database, I can correct it. So what if someone who never knew my grandmother goes in there and corrects the date and it's wrong? There is an information box to state why you corrected it and the source of your information. Then someone seeing the corrections can judge whose is the most accurate information, the person who had a living relationship with the ancestor, or the one who is a distant cousin. It's important on this site to not view your online tree personally. Once it's there, it becomes a giant collaborative research project. As changes and additions are made, you need to adopt some of them into your personal computer database, and reject others. But, the potential exists for really expedited solutions to your genealogy sticking points. Before email we sent mail queries back and forth to possible "cousins" who might have information on our lines. With the Family Tree, you can instantly see the research others have done, and then decide if it fits with your research. You can still communicate with that person through email.


Is there one definitive solution?

So my conclusion is that whichever site you use, your information will be backed up and stored in the cloud, BUT, you still need to keep your working copy on your own computer and update it as you work. As yet there is no completely safe way to do it all online, while still being able to save it back to your desktop. has the potential to do this, but continues to hold back the ability to "bring it home." mixes your research in with "the world's research" warts and all. There is much to gain, but you need to hang on to your own pure copy and just make corrections to it as you discover things of value to your research. However, there is one thing to note here. keeps a "vault" of your uploads you have contributed in your personal account area. What this means is that if you upload your entire family tree as of a certain date, it is stored there intact as it is before they add it to the "world family tree". If your computer crashes two months later, you can go back to and grab your download from two months previous and only lose whatever changes you made in those two months. In this way it can be considered your back up file in the cloud, safe from natural disasters and computer failures.

So, truthfully, I use both sites. The problem I haven't been able to solve is that while researching on I have furiously added information to my tree on their site and lost track of updating those discoveries to my personal computer database. I need to slow down and become more methodical in my record keeping.

Hope you take a moment to say hi!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 

      7 years ago from Here

      Hi! Thanks a lot for sharing this great lens! I have learned some things about preserving my family history!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)