We had a wildfire scare last weekend so I asked my boys which of their things they would have wanted me to save if we’d had to evacuate? After humans and pets, my boys said the only things they would want were phone chargers and some clothes.


Wrap your head around that one. Phone chargers was their number one item. I would not have thought to grab phone chargers.


After last year’s devastating fire in Paradise, it has become clear that sometimes you have to leave your home quickly and let everything go.


I now have a Best-Case Plan and a Worst-Case Plan for my genealogy. First, the optimistic scenario.


Best Case Plan: What Would You Save?

Our valuables, necessities, and meaningful items vary greatly. Here’s a list of items you might care about. If it really matters, it should be digital or as portable as possible.


Everyday Items

  • People
  • Pets
  • Prescriptions (consider health/prescription apps like GoodRx, MyChart, Healow, AmWell, TalkSpace to track things on your phone)
  • Cash or valuables
  • Phone & Phone cord
  • Printed list of accounts & passwords, phone numbers
  • Personal wills or estate documents, car titles, deeds, birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, Identity cards, etc
  • Basic necessities like clothing and toiletries
  • Printable list of kits to assemble from Be Ready Utah

Genealogy Items

  • Photos that haven’t been scanned or digitized
  • Physical hard drives if they aren’t backed up online
  • Favorite family histories/bibles/printed files/pedigree charts
  • Heirlooms: quilts, artwork, momentos
  • Original genealogy records like birth, marriage, & death certificates, military records, wills, etc
  • Printable list of Important Documents from Be Ready Utah


Most Genealogy Items can be Digitized

Most of the Genealogy items can be digitized. It’s not a perfect replacement, but after our fire scare I went down and cleaned our Genealogy storage room and realized most of what I care about has been digitized. This is where I’ve fallen short:

  • I haven’t taken photos of furniture, quilts, artwork, dishes, and other momentos and I wouldn’t have been able to save these in an emergency; I’d at least like a digital photo of each heirloom
  • I’d be sad to lose the few family photos I haven’t yet digitized
  • I haven’t digitized my children’s drawings & school papers
  • I haven’t digitized papers and photos recently inherited from family members (this is an ongoing need for most people)
  • I haven’t finished taking photos of our personal belongings and I’d miss not being able to see our gathering spots

Worst-Case Plan: How to Walk Away with just Your Phone and a Charging Cable


The plan is to take photos of or scan and digitize everything, then:


USE a phone syncing program and make sure you regularly sync your phone to your computer so your phone has your most recent changes to files, calendars, & contacts shared with your computer.


USE a digital backup service, OFFSITE, as part of your 3-2-1 plan for your digital items. I use Backblaze (~ $60/year). Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a reliable method of restoring all your digital files. Backblaze will send me a duplicate hard drive for a fee to restore any losses (I can return the hard drive for a refund of the fee).


USE a Home Inventory app to take a digital inventory of your home and belongings (not just genealogy items). I use the Encircle App (FREE). The free version allows you to inventory two households.


USE a Book Inventory app to create a digital inventory of your books, including your genealogy library. I use the Goodreads app (FREE). It’s not intended for this purpose but I love it and have a spreadsheet of the books we own, downloaded from their app.


USE a Password Manager app to save all your accounts and passwords securely and be able to access them on your phone. I use KeeperSecurity and can access it from my phone or home computer ($30/year). There are others, just go to your app store and look up Password Manager.


USE a service like LegacyArmour which stores and encrypts your estate planning documents/records and delivers them to a recipient based on date, death, or incapacitation ($80/year)


And of course, USE an online tree site you can access from your phone. Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, RootsMagic and more. Just have a digital family tree in addition to all your scanned research.

It’s a neverending process, but there’s never been a better time to realistically save our genealogy records when confronted with disaster. Best with your family history!


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