Protect Your Genealogy Research From Winter Damage

Protect Your Genealogy from Winter Damage

Once Winter arrives and the Christmas holiday are at full speed, our view of the winter weather can be very romantic and idealistic. It looks just like the photo above, right? But once the holiday season fades and you are confronted with three or more months of below zero temperatures, snow and wind, it looks and feels more like this:

Chicago Winter

That is the view from my living room window here in Chicago on the north side of Lake Michigan. There was almost a foot of snow last week and there is another 10 inches in progress.  The winds are 30 miles per hour and soon the temperature will drop to -20F (that’s -28C) overnight. Tomorrow’s high is forecast to be -10F.

How Winter Can Impact Our Genealogy Records

Believe it or not, even with your various genealogy records – photos, documents, computer files – all stored safely indoors, they are still at risk of damage.  How so? Here are some common Winter-related dilemmas:

  • Pipes can freeze and burst, covering your records in water (and other unsightly stuff). This is more common than you realize and not just in winter – what if your neighbor’s bathtub overflowed or there was some other problem that impacted your condo or apartment? If you are storing items in cardboard boxes or metal filing cabinets, those items are at risk!
  • Electric outages. Electric outages happen all year round and they can impact your computer and the data stored on hard drives.
  • Fire.  With the cold weather comes an increase in fires due to space heaters and other items used to keep warm.
  • Heat.  If you have forced air heat like I do, you already know that EVERYTHING gets dry. This means records, photos etc.  Humidifiers can help but few of us can maintain humidity levels found in archival repositories for records.

What You Can Do To Winterize Your Genealogy

Here are some ideas on how to protect your research from damage:

  • Rubber or Plastic Totes. I know that many of you will say that these items are not “archivally sound” and emit gases etc. But I’d rather have protection from water damage and place my items in cardboard boxes INSIDE these totes than lose them forever. Click here for deals on storage totes.
  • External Hard Drives. Besides having a cloud computing storage account on Dropbox or one of the other sites, consider a small external hard drive that you can use for backups. Then you can place it in a safe place like a fire safe or a plastic tote. Click here for deals on external hard drives.
  • Humidifiers. Put moisture back in the air indoors – not only will you feel better, your skin will thank you and your paper items will probably do better as well! Click here for deals on large humidifiers.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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