The fast-paced, ever-changing digital age that we live in has revolutionized the way we do genealogy work. Historically, family history has been the luxury of nobility and the very rich. Digitizing, and especially the Internet, has democratized genealogy. Much family history is now available to everyone at all hours of the day. Now every ancestor is important, the most humble servant, the slave, the indentured servant, etc--but the only ancestors that can be found are those whose records have survived.
What documents will our descendants be able to find of our lives? In some ways the records we are creating now are even threatened more than the records of the past. We are creating a Digital Dark Age every day as our digital correspondence and records are lost, so here are some tips to make sure you're creating a lasting and meaningful digital history.
1. The Library of Alexandria Rule for Genealogists: The more copies there are of something, the more likely it is to survive. Share, Share Share--with relatives, databases and libraries and archives. Keep files in as many places as you can. Always have electronic and print copies. Never keep anything in only one format.
2. Replicate in different formats: Make copies in the most common digital formats, .jpg, .tiff, .txt, .ged, .csv, .rtf, .pdf. Paper is still the most durable format. Store larger files, and smaller stripped down files of the same data when possible (such as different sized scans). Who knows what you might want to do with the information in the future?
You can make a difference in your family. To avoid a Digital Dark Age in this generation, we must ensure that our digital records are accessible and useable for the future. The way we manage the records we create has to keep pace with our digital record creation. You can make a difference in your family by doing your best to preserve your own documents. With attention and a plan, we can preserve our records and not become the Digital Dark Age generation.