Saturday, January 15, 2011

Preserve Your Family History for FREE at

This morning while scanning my surname genealogy message newsgroups I ran across this sentence from one of the posters:-

"I have info on this family but only on paper since I lost everything on the computer."

The one big thing I preach in my classes over and over is to backup your genealogy. It is a must. My genealogy students have also heard this many times. My favorite word is . . . wait for it . . . FREE!

So when I saw this interesting article on the morning feed from my friend Dick Eastman, I had to check it out.

The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at

BackupMyTree is a FREE (I've taught Dick well-LVH), automatic backup service that is focused exclusively on genealogy files. I have written before about BackupMyTree at However, the online service has matured significantly since my earlier article. New features have been added and one or two shortcomings have been corrected.

I was impressed to learn that BackupMyTree now backs up more than three terabytes of family tree data for more than 16,000 registered users. I decided to try the newest and latest version of BackupMyTree.

What happens to all your genealogy data when your hard drive crashes? Note that I wrote "WHEN your hard drive crashes," not IF it crashes. All hard drives will crash sooner or later. If you have a recent backup available, a hard drive crash can be inconvenient. If you do not have a recent backup available, the same hard drive crash will be a disaster.

BackupMyTree is designed to save you when your hard drive does crash. BackupMyTree backs up your data NOW to multiple hard drives under control of the company. Even if one of the company's hard drives later crashes, your data remains safe and secure on the remaining drives. You can restore your data at any time.

In short, BackupMyTree works with many of today's most popular genealogy programs, although not with all of them. It is an automatic backup program to preserve your data and allow you to retrieve that data at any time. BackupMyTree automatically finds and backs up industry standard GEDCOM files as well as data files created by Family Tree Maker, Personal Ancestral File, Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic (version 4 or later), Family Tree Builder, Family Tree Legends, Ancestral Quest, Ancestry Family Tree, Reunion for Mac, and GenoPro. Note the inclusion of Reunion for Macintosh. The rest are all Windows programs.

When your hard drive crashes, you first repair the damage. Then you log back onto the service and download any or all of your genealogy files. Your genealogy information is preserved.

Of course, BackupMyTree has many other uses besides recovering from hardware failures. First of all, it protects you from the "OOOPS Factor." That is, the accidental deletion of information. Security experts tell us that more data is lost by human error than by all the hardware failures combined. BackupMyTree provides protection against both problems. In fact, BackupMyTree stores previous versions of your family tree file should anything become corrupted. This feature can also come in handy when you accidentally add or delete data and need to revert to an earlier version of your own files.

Another use of BackupMyTree is when you are at a friend's house or even at a genealogy conference. You can easily grab that family tree file you left at home from anywhere you can access a web browser.

Note that BackupMyTree is designed to back up only your genealogy files, not everything on your hard drive.

The thing that fascinates me most about BackupMyTree is how it automatically finds and backs up your files. With most other online backup products, you have to specify what files or folders to back up. Of course, these other products assume you are a knowledgeable computer user and that you know where every file of importance is stored on your own hard drive.

BackupMyTree takes a different approach. When the software is installed on your computer, it (optionally) searches for every GEDCOM file and every file created by any of the software products mentioned earlier. All of the files it finds are added to the list of files to be backed up. While I always know where my primary databases are stored, BackupMyTree is really good at finding those miscellaneous files I had forgotten about. I didn't remember that small GEDCOM file a cousin sent me by email but BackupMyTree found it in my email program and backed it up, all without any intervention by me.

Of course, there are many options. I have described the default actions. However, each user can override most of the default settings and customize BackupMyTree as he or she pleases.

In fact, it isn't even necessary to install software in your computer. I suspect that most users will install the BackupMyTree software for Windows. After all, it provides the most convenient use of the service. However, for those who wish to do everything manually, you can upload files using the manual upload system. BackupMyTree will store the files for you with all the same protections as if you're using the software.

One of the recent changes to BackupMyTree is the ability to exclude groups of files. Previously, you could only exclude files one by one, a tedious process if you had hundreds of files. The latest version now includes a checkbox that says: Allow Multiple Selections, allowing the user to easily exclude or include multiple files in a much easier way.

The online service also recently added the ability to upload genealogy files that are ZIP'd. The code is intelligent; you can put as many trees into a ZIP as you like. This is great for users who use the manual upload function and who don't want to install the Windows software client.

Security of your data is an issue with any online backup service. With BackupMyTree, your family tree files are protected by 128-bit SSL security during transfer from your computer to the servers. Nobody can intercept your data while it is being sent via SSL encryption. Next, your family tree files are stored on Amazon's S3 storage infrastructure so you can be sure it's safe and secure. Amazon even stores multiple copies of all data so there's no risk that a file will be destroyed by a hardware failure in a server. For a detailed explanation of the security being used, read Overview of Security Processes at

The use of BackupMyTree is automatic. If you install the software and use the default settings, the software will automatically make frequent backups of your genealogy data. The first backup will take several hours if you have a lot of data. Later backups will perform quickly as they only back up the new information recently added. The previous information is already resident on the servers so there is no need to keep backing up the same information time and time again. Should you need to restore the data, BackupMyTree will automatically retrieve what information you specify and assemble it into one dataset. You never have to combine retrieved files to get what you want; BackupMyTree does that for you automatically.

Backups are performed simultaneously while you are using the computer for other tasks. The backups might slow the computer down slightly while a backup is in progress. However, most users report they don't notice any change in computer operations.

Did I mention that all of this is FREE?

OK, now what is your excuse now for not backing up the genealogy files that required hundreds of hours for you to research and create?

BackupMyTree is supported on Windows XP, Vista, and on Windows 7. It reportedly works on earlier versions of Windows as well but is not officially supported on those older products.

BackupMyTree provides fast, automatic backup and off-site storage for all of your family tree files. All of the most popular family tree file formats are supported. You can retrieve any or all of your files at any time. It is FREE, simple, easy, safe and secure.

I rarely recommend specific products but I am recommending this one. BackupMyTree should be installed on every genealogist's Windows computer.

You can learn more about this great free service at