Discussion: Preserving Electronic Diaries and Memorabilia

I got an interesting e-mail this morning and I thought I’d throw it out there for discussion. It brings up a very interesting and valid concern for all of us as we try to preserve the story of our families. Here’s what Jana had to say:

My adult children often say, “I’m blogging this!”  You know, we genealogists cherish old diaries, letters, family bibles, talking 8 mm film and photos and the like.  They all contain such useful information of a life lived.  I have old color slides and old video tapes that I need to digitize. 

But,  I wonder how we are going to incorporate e-mail, Facebook, My Space, Digg, the contents of iTunes or a MP3 player and countless other things, into our childrens’ growing electronic genealogy? Isn’t that part of their lives–”the Dash between the dates?” We need a magic, dynamic hyper-link!  

Let me give you an example. I have a daughter-in-law, a war widow from this current war, that blogged her courtship with her first husband–and so did he!  There was a gap of about two years, while she mourned, without any mention of his death in 2004 and then the blogging resumed when my middle son began dating her. It’s a part of her life, her recent past.  And for me, it is intertwined with my Family.  Not only is she my daughter-in-law, her late husband was my youngest son’s best friend–and my Grandson is named after him!  

Electronic records…it’s something to think about….and something that needs to be resolved.

Jana Wirch-Wright

So how are you preserving your family’s “electronic diaries” and memorabilia? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please post your ideas in the comments section.

5 thoughts on “Discussion: Preserving Electronic Diaries and Memorabilia

  1. Digital ephemera is a new and exciting chapter in maintaining family histories. There are so many options!

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m intrigued by Blurb’s blog book option allowing you to generate a book using all or selected posts from your blog.

    Another option would be a something like Memory Mixer, a digital scrapbooking application that allows the inclusion of audio and video in the scrapbook. It’s results can be distributed via paper, web or DVD.

    I am a big fan of WeRelate for documenting family history online somewhere that has potential for permanence, but for security purposes they only allow detailed information on deceased family members. I’m not that familiar with other online family tree building sites to know if they have potential for this kind of history.

  2. One of the things that I have thought about recently is the possible temporary nature of the blogsphere. Who says that it will be here forever? Also, individual blogs and blog providers will probably discontinue or be deleted as time goes on.

    Keeping a digital copy of the record isn’t the best idea either. As I understand, digital records degrade after a short while. Therefore, I suggest copying blogs on to paper.

    As the president of a state genealogical society, I’m always encouraging people to publish their family histories and memories. It allows for this to become part of the permanent record. After all, there are books and manuscripts that have lasted through the centuries.

    I know that the problem is that paper is in itself destructable. Certainly, it can be destroyed by fire, water, bugs and many other ways. Therefore, I suggest that you make multiple copies and distribute them to many different people and libraries. Of course, if it is a personal diary, you may not wish to send it to too many people – but then, how private is an internet journal anyway?

    The other problem with paper is that copy paper is most likely not as durable as paper of old. I’m not even sure if the ink would last through the centuries. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what type of paper and ink one should use if they wish to make it “permanent”?

  3. Digital copies degrade in most storage media (CDs/DVDs, etc). However, digital files on a server that is backed up daily – I don’t think that degrades. I’ve read files on CDs should be transferred to a new CD every 3-5 years. (Or to the newest storage medium available once CDs are replaced.)

    http://www.archive.org has archived a lot of the blogosphere. Stuff you think is gone forever probably isn’t. However, that doesn’t answer what to do with it. And MySpace profiles (and probably other social networking sites) aren’t archived. Web browsers allow you to save a “web archive” of a page that includes text and images — it’s questionable how durable that filetype will be though. Printing out the pages may be best.

    My email provider (gmail) allows one to save entire discussion threads as PDFs…which I have done with several family discussions.

    An iTunes playlist (or the entire library) can easily be printed out.

  4. I’ve developed a digital scrapbook website using Dreamweaver. This software has allowed me to post pictures, stories, recordings, and links to other pages I’ve created. There are even links to cemeteries with pictures and directions for locating the stones, complete with GPS numbers. The website software allows me to update the records easily, the host server is a backup, plus I keep the information on my hard drive and on a backup hard drive. Using my computer, I can load my entire website onto a CD so that a hardcopy can be given to relatives, and they can open the CD by inserting it into their own computer, clicking on their computer’s internet software icon, going to “File” and then “Open File.” (At least that’s the process with a Macintosh computer.) I do not post the information of anyone who is still living or who has been dead less than 20 years for security reasons. But the information about those people is made available on the CD for my immediate family members. If you would like to check out my site, go to

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