This morning I left my house at about 9am for an hour’s drive to speak at the Sussex County Genealogical Society in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. As I pulled up in front of the Rehoboth Beach Public Library, where the meetings are held, I reached down to grab my laptop.
Except it wasn’t there. I had somehow, in the course of packing my projector and a box of books for sale into the car, left my laptop sitting in the living room by the front door.
I walked toward the Library, thinking about how I could present a lecture about conducting a “reasonably exhaustive search” without my presentation (and the document images involved with my case study).
Luckily for me, the Library had wifi Internet access, and a member of the Society had a laptop that I could use.
And even more importantly, I regularly save all of my presentations to my DropBox account. I was able to pull up DropBox and download my presentation onto the laptop.
The experience taught me two important lessons that all genealogists, both amateur and professional, can learn from.
1. Always back up everything. This is a lesson I really learned a few years ago when my external hard drive failed, taking several years of client reports and all of my personal research (including hundreds of scanned family photos). I also lost three years of photos of my daughter, who turns six next week. They will be the most sorely missed.
Drives fail. Files get corrupted. Papers are lost, torn, burnt, or soiled. Unless you want to completely redo your work every few years, when it is ultimately all lost to some disaster–physical or digital–back it up. Preferably in multiple formats in multiple locations.
2. Success comes as a result of good preparation. I have often mentioned the importance of focused research. Create a research plan to address your specific problem. Identify records of interest before you go to a repository. The most successful research is conducted when you know what you want to find and where you are going to look for it. Stumbling around aimlessly will never result in successful research.
And if you aren’t prepared, you will never be able to deliver a successful presentation an hour from home…