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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Having a complete copy of your data elsewhere

Yesterday I mentioned my friend who experienced the sad passing of her old laptop. Fortunately we had made copies of her genealogy database and all accompanying photos and scanned images of attached source documents on flash drives when I visited last May. But what if she had added lots of data in the interim? She would have lost all that work without a reliable system for keeping complete copies of her data elsewhere.

With all the earthquake and tsunami struggles we've seen the world over, having a copy of our data at a place other than our homes is all the more urgent. It isn't practical to manually make CDs and send them to distant relatives, when there are reasonable alternatives, using the internet.

Unlike backup services where data must be "restored", Dropbox is a folder with sub folders that exists on the web in a private area, exactly duplicating (syncing) with every file placed in the Dropbox folder on my computer. I've previously written about how Dropbox actually works.
I especially like that all my data file (genealogy and otherwise) are there at, readily accessible from ANY computer. When I got my new desktop computer last year in Virginia, I merely downloaded the Dropbox program, and then sat back and watched as the files quickly filed in from my original computer back in Utah.
My only mistake is that I FORGOT to place my June and July Organization Checklists in my Dropbox, and so I cannot access them until I get back to that computer in Virginia. <sigh> OK, so usually, I am pretty good with this technology stuff.

Invite your friends to Dropbox!

For every friend who joins and installs Dropbox, the Dropbox folks give you 500 MB and your friend 250MB of bonus space (up to a limit of 16 GB)!  This means if you use Ol' Myrt Dropbox sign-up link, I'll receive 500MB of addition space, and you'll receive 250 MG of free space on top of your free

Always have your stuff when you need it with @Dropbox.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. Myrt, that's awesome that your disk space comes in milligrams ;-)

  2. I've recently discovered an issue with my backups. I've used PAF forever as my current/live data entry point. I switched to a new laptop in January, which has Windows 7. I've always copied my .PAF file (from the program files/family search/paf folder to multiple locations as my backup. This week I did this usual copy and noticed that the DATE of my file was January, although the correct updated data was showing in PAF. I copied the file and sure enough, only data through January. I've played with permissions and no change. I did a real BACKUP from within PAF and got a good backup file. Might want to check Windows 7 handling of .PAF files. I've posted in a few places and no else seems to have noticed this aberration.

  3. PAF is just one of those "old" programs we have to upgrade. Since FamilySearch has come up with alternatives, see:

    AQ, Legacy and RootsMagic all handle PAF data very easily.

    Good luck!
    Myrt :)

  4. Don't ya just LOVE typos, eh Bruce?!!

  5. I downloaded Dropbox a while ago but never really got into using it. Perhaps I'll check it out again as we'll be traveling to visit family this summer. Thanks for the reminder!

    But, having a good back-up strategy is important too. I don't trust any one solution-I have both online and local backups for the computers in the family (we have 4). We lost one a few years back that had lots of pictures on it but got lucky that time as we had a recent-ish backup. But it certainly made me proactive!

    For locally, I recently got my first 2TB drive (2-1TB drives with mirroring). Bonus is that it's acting as a fileshare for our computers too. It's SO cool! <*geek!*>

  6. @Elizabeth,
    Mr. Myrt agrees with you that we should have more than one backup plan. He is concerned that Dropbox might go under. So we also have Mozy.


  7. Your data on DropBox is unencrypted, which means that any DB staff member can have ready access to it. It's something to be mindful of - don't store anything you wouldn't share with the whole world!

  8. I wondered what happened to the June and July Organization Checklists.

  9. I signed up for "dropbox" per your invite - but I see no indication of your connection or the extra mg's??

  10. There should be no connection between us since neither of us has "shared" a file folder with each other. Log in at and check your capacity and usage. It should reflect your free space plus what you gained by signing on through my link.

    Happy Dropboxing!

  11. Using Dropbox to Host a Personal Website,
    The quickest and easiest way I have found to put a family history (or other) database online is this:

    I use Personal Ancestral File (or other software) to generate a "webpage", then I move the newly-generated website folder to my Dropbox's "Public" folder. I open this website folder and right-click on the index file, then from the Dropbox menu I copy the ULR. Dropbox automatically copies the website to their servers.

    For example, here is a website that I created in about 10 minutes (I subsequently tweaked the index file to add a photo and change the layout sightly, but the original version generated by my software was perfectly OK.)

    This approach avoids the need to find a webhost, install and learn FTP software, and worry about rules that govern the size and number of files you can host, worry about the possible content of advertizing banners, etc. A free 2GB Dropbox account could hold hundreds of personal websites.

  12. WOW< Bill, that is a great idea. Hadn't thought of this. THANKS for sharing.