Watch researchers entering the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and you might think they’re about to board a plane. The luggage they’re wheeling along isn’t full of clothes, though—it’s stuffed with family group sheets and pedigree charts. (You never know what your research might turn up, so why not have all your notes handy, right?)
Well, if you’re one of those people who can’t bear to leave any of your genealogy papers at home when you head off to visit a library or genealogist relative, you might want to lighten your load. Of course, if you’ve used genealogy software to organize your family history research, you could take along a laptop computer and leave your three-ring binders behind. But lugging a laptop can be a hassle, too. If a computer will be available at your destination, all you need is a little flash drive that plugs into a USB port—and these tips for making your pedigree portable.
Family in a flash
Also known as a jump drive, thumb drive or USB key, a flash drive is usually about 21/2 inches long, weighs less than an ounce and easily fits in your pocket or hangs from a cord around your neck. Despite its tiny size, a flash drive has room to hold all your family history files and probably your digitized family photos, as well.
Flash drives are affordable, too. Amazon.com
sells a 2GB Kingston Data Traveler 100 for under $7 and a 4GB SanDisk Cruzer for under $6. Either one is most likely all you’ll need. More expensive flash drives have larger capacities and extra features.
If your genealogy program is already installed on the computer you’ll use with the flash drive, you need only to copy your family file from your home computer to the flash drive. Personal Ancestral File
(PAF) is installed on computers at the Family History Library and Family History Centers, and those facilities can also install Legacy Family Tree
. So if you use one of these programs, simply copy your family file ending in the file extension .paf, .fdb or .rmg to your flash drive. You can include pictures and scanned documents linked to your family file.
Mac vs. PC
If your genealogy program isn’t installed on the computer you’ll use with the flash drive, you might be able to run the program from the flash drive. It’s easy to run Macintosh software from a flash drive. But to run Reunion on a flash drive plugged into a computer not licensed for the program, you’ll have to enter your license information. (Remember to write it down before you go.)
For Windows users, RootsMagic 4 has a new feature called RootsMagic-To-Go, which lets you install the program on a flash drive, copy your RootsMagic data files from your computer’s hard drive to the flash drive and copy your modified data files from your flash drive back to your computer’s hard drive.
Many Windows genealogy programs, such as Family Tree Maker and Legacy Family Tree, cannot be installed on a flash drive. But there are some workarounds. Unlike traditional flash drives, U3 Smart Drives come pre-installed with software that lets you run some programs (not Family Tree Maker) from the drives. U3 Smart Drives require Windows XP, 2000 or Vista. The SanDisk 2GB Cruzer Micro
Readyboost ($24.99 at OfficeMax) and the SanDisk Cruzer Micro 4GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive ($27.99 at <www.bestbuy.com>) both use U3 Smart technology. MojoPac, a free download for Windows XP, is another tool that lets you run some programs from a flash drive, but not usually on a public computer. Users have reported success running Legacy Family Tree with MojoPac.
PAF, a free program, is able to run from a flash drive (see instructions at right). If you need to run genealogy software from a flash drive, but you use a program such as Family Tree Maker without that capability, you might consider using a GEDCOM transfer to create a copy of your family file in PAF format.
Be careful to remove a flash drive properly, or you risk corrupting your files or damaging the drive.
First, close all the programs that use the flash drive. In Windows, find the icon with a green arrow in the System Tray on the bottom right of your screen. When you hover the mouse cursor over the icon, a pop-up tip says, “Safely Remove Hardware.” Left-click on the icon and then select the drive letter corresponding to the flash drive. (Usually, it’s the highest letter.) A message will say it’s safe to remove the drive.
To remove a flash drive from a Mac, just drag the drive’s icon to the trash, or control-click the icon and select Eject from the menu. When the icon disappears, you can remove the drive.
Taking your family tree on a flash drive wherever you go is so handy, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. You could say it’s the greatest development for genealogists since wheeled luggage.
Bring along a flash drive loaded with PAF and your family file, and you can run it on on any computer (unless the computer has been set up to prevent programs from running on a flash drive). Here’s how to install the software, copy files and run the program on a PC, step by step.
1. Plug your flash drive into a PC. Download PAF from FamilySearch
2. Select Run. Or choose Save, save the file to the Windows Desktop, and double-click on the PAF installation program, PAF5EnglishSetup.exe.
3. Accept the license agreement. When prompted to Choose Folder, select the flash drive and click OK. After the drive letter, type PAF5 to create a folder for the PAF program and click Next three times, then Finish.
4. Create a shortcut to PAF on the flash drive. In Windows XP, click on Start and then on My Computer and navigate to the PAF5 folder. Right-click on pstart.exe and select Create Shortcut. Then right-click on the new shortcut, select Send To and choose the flash drive. Now you can use the shortcut on the flash drive to start PAF.
Copying Files to the Drive
5. In Windows XP, click on Start and My Computer. Navigate to the folder where you saved your file.
6. Right-click on the file, select Send To and click on the flash drive letter.
7. Plug your flash drive into a USB port on the computer and wait for Windows to recognize it. From the pop-up window, select “Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer” and click OK. (No pop-up? Go to My Computer.)
8. Double-click the shortcut to PAF5 on your flash drive.
9. Select Open an Existing PAF File and navigate to the family file on the flash drive, select the file and click Open.