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A Genealogist In The Archives: Preserving Genealogy Records by Preparing for a Disaster

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Preserving Genealogy Records by Preparing for a Disaster

This very week there are many in the United States that are experiencing Hurricane Harvey. This natural disaster has caused enormous damage to homes, businesses, schools and libraries. 

Whenever there is a disaster that destroys, I am reminded of how important it is to preserve our family records so they are not destroyed. We have lost so much in the past due to disasters....

On November 9, 1872, The Great Boston Fire started in a dry-goods warehouse that spread fast in windy weather, destroying nearly 800 buildings. Damage was estimated at more than $75 million dollars. The fire could be seen in the sky as far as 100 miles away.

Ruins after the Great Boston Fire of 1872

Disaster preparedness is something that every archive plans for and reviews on a yearly basis. If archives are preparing their facility and records for a disaster, shouldn't genealogists do the same?

I have long lamented that genealogists are also "home archivists". Most genealogists don't work as archivists but they do have some of the same responsibilities that archivists have, some are:

  • Collect original records
  • Collect original photographs
  • Receiving donated records (from family and distant, new found, cousins)
  • Organizing and preserving records

Would it not be important to preserve these original records and have a disaster plan in place in case the unthinkable happens? It would be difficult to explain an entire disaster plan in this blog post, so here is an example of a Disaster Preparedness Plan from the New York State Archives that you can use as a guide:

This plan describes the steps necessary to anticipate, prevent, plan for, and recover from a disaster affecting records in any format.

Houston County Lions Club Records Donation, Houston County, TN. Archives

Many of the steps in this plan are ones that the genealogist or "home archivist" can implement to protect and preserve original records, photographs and artifacts in their possession. The main idea is to be prepared and keep your records in a state of preparedness in case of a disaster.

None of us know when the next fire, tornado, earthquake or flood may happen to us or our home. But we can prepare and plan ahead to save and preserve our genealogical records.


I have written a BRAND NEW Legacy QuickGuide about this subject!

Disaster Planning for the Genealogist


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I'm doing this as fast as I can getting all my family history onto a digital site.

    1. Denise, I applaud you for your efforts. Anything you can do to save and preserve your family history will be so much appreciated. Thank You for reading my blog!

  3. Thank you so much for your generosity. I just ordered your Quick guide.

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