Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When You Find It, Save It - Tuesday's Tip

When I began working on my family history in earnest in 2006 I used Ancestry at a local Family History Center because it was free.  The Center director showed me how to save images to a flash drive and move them to my desktop at home.

At some point in this education I questioned the need to save all the documents right now.  As a new researcher I found many each time I visited, so many that I was beginning to feel overwhelmed.  I assumed that since Ancestry was free then, it would continue to be free in the future and I could easily save the documents later.  In wisdom my friend suggested that what was available then may not always be available.  To myself I scoffed at the idea.  But within a year or two the Family History Centers no longer had free access to Ancestry.  My friend was right.  (Ancestry is once again currently available at no cost at the Family History Centers but that could change again at any time.)

It may not happen often but access to online collections comes and goes, whether at a paid site or free.  Some collections are removed never to return.  Some free-access collections move to paid sites.  We can't assume that next year things will be like they are today.

Save the image of any document you find online that furthers your family history research including
  • birth records
  • death records
  • marriage records
  • wills and probate files
  • property records
  • maps
  • tax records
  • newspaper articles
  • draft registration cards
  • military service records
  • pension files
  • and many more 

All of it!  Save every image!  If you see it now, save it now.  You may not have easy access to it again.  And don't forget to record citation information.

Additional suggestions from comments to this post
  • Right click on an image and click save to save an image to your computer, not just to your online tree.   If the company that hosts your tree goes south or you don't want to pay for a subscription any longer, you won't have the images of those documents.  From Linda Stufflebean of Empty Branches on the Family Tree.
  • When others give you documents, photographs, or any other family history information (either digitally or on paper), record who gave it to you including name and contact information.  If photographs be sure to record who's in the photograph if that's known.  We think we'll remember in a few years but we may not.  From Wendy of Jollette Etc.


Copyright © 2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved. .


  1. I use Ancestry for free at my local library. There are some limits to the availability of documents in the library version, but not a lot.

    Shakin' the Family Tree

    1. I used to use Ancestry and some other websites through our local library, too, but things keep changing. Some collections that were available aren't now. That's why I suggest saving everything we find when we find it because it might not always be available.

  2. Such good advice. You would think it's obvious, but it isn't. I would add to make note of WHO sent you something too. I have documents and photos sent to me by others in my early days of research but now I don't remember who.

    1. Good point, Wendy, to keep track of where other things came from -- name, relationship, email and/or street address, phone number. In the past I've though, well, I'll remember that, but in five years, I may not. Best to record it somewhere. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  3. Great advice. Everyone should be right clicking and saving to their computers, not to an online tree unless they plan to pay for a subscription forever and they think the database will always be there. Using the handy little icon "save to my tree" isn't so great if the link no longer works.

    1. Linda, I added your comment and Wendy's (paraphrased) at the end of the post with a link to your blogs. I think it's helpful that you mentioned right clicking because some people may not realize they can do that. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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