First, as was a topic of one of my earlier posts, backup your data. I have a bit more to add to that, though. I have multiple external hard drives and flash drives. I take care of my family’s computers and they expect me to protect their data and magically know which drive has the latest version of their files. They are woefully misguided. Most automatic backup software creates proprietary files that people cannot read by just opening them. You’ll have to know what software was used to create the backup, first, in order to figure out what is in the archive. You’ll also need to still have the software installed in order to read the files.
I recommend creating a text document with Word, WordPad, NotePad, etc. and put this file on the backup device. Make note of what you backed up, when, and what program was last used – even if you just dragged and dropped the files. Don’t forget to include which computer the data came from! This will become more important to you if you get a new computer and need data from the old one. That’s what I’m dealing with, today. See – I didn’t create that little text file and now I’m not sure which drive has the data I’m looking for. Paper sticky notes on the drives can also help but that does not work on flash drives and they fall off too easily, anyway.
The second hint for today is to use a digital camera, phone camera, or navigation unit to record the longitude and latitude of headstones, family homes, and other geographic landmarks that are pertinent to your family history trips. If you took the time to find a grave marker, make it easier for the next generation or even yourself, to find it again by recording its co-ordinates. Roads move, landmarks can be destroyed or moved, buildings get built. If you take the time to record the longitude and latitude in your records, then there will be no question about where the family burial plot is. This information is particularly useful in the mid-west when farmers buried headstones to preserve them. The burial yard is still there but without knowing where it is no one can find it again.
The third hint for today requires that you still have older living relatives. Don’t assume that you know where people came from. Ask if they remember hearing any accents around their homes or at holiday gatherings. These accents may lead you to other parts of the world or even regions in your own country. Also, ask what foods were served. I have relatives with Irish surnames but all of the holiday foods were Hungarian.
The fourth hint for today goes along with the third one. Are there any colloquial expressions or sayings in your family? In my family I always remember hearing “Outen the light” – that’s pure Pennsylvania Dutch. Now that I’m in the South - it’s “Cut off the light.” These regionalized idiomatic expressions can lead you to where a family might have originated.
Thank you for your time and Happy Hunting!