Do You Have a Continuity Plan?

Whether you are concerned about the assets of your genealogical/historical society or your own personal family history research, you should consider developing and implementing a Continuity Plan.  While all of us are easily the victims of procrastination, not having a plan ready can mean the difference between being up and running within hours/days or having to spend weeks, months and years recreating data and re-acquiring assets.

What Is Continuity Planning?

Based upon the Business Continuity Plan concept currently utilized in many organizations which can be applied to both societies and individuals as “caretakers” of data, Continuity Planning consists of five separate components arranged in a life-cycle format:

Continuity Plan

Over the course of the next six posts on the topic of Continuity Planning, I’ll be discussing each component in detail as well as a comparison of what should be included within a plan for societies and within a plan for individuals.

Does Continuity Planning Only Involve Technology and Data?

When discussing a plan for “recovery,” be it on a business, non-profit, or personal level, almost everyone first thinks of “intangible assets” such as data.  The next thought involves “tangible assets” such as computers, microfiche/film readers, prints, etc.  But a comprehensive Continuity Plan includes other non-technology related tangible assets often forgotten:

  • books
  • photographs
  • furniture
  • rental or office space
  • supplies, etc.

And don’t forget some frequently overlooked intangible assets such as:

  • web/Internet presence
  • revenue stream
  • name recognition, etc.

Does Continuity Planning Only Involve Disasters?

I wish it were so.  My first encounter with a disaster involving data was in the mid-1980s when I worked for a financial company.  A fire on a lower floor of the large building did not cause water or smoke damage, but it did cause release of asbestos through the entire building.  I lost several personal items, for which I was reimbursed by my employer’s insurance company.  But I was out of work for several days before an alternate workspace location could be secured.  And then we had to recreate data based on outdated backups.  Not much fun.

And in speaking with Kathryn Doyle at the California Genealogical Society and Library, I asked if the society lost any materials during the Great Quake of 1906, and if so, how they dealt with getting back into an “up and running” mode, as it were.  “We lost our collection of 300 books (housed with the secretary of the society at the California Hotel which went up in smoke) in the 1906 earthquake and later advertised for donations across the country.  The Newberry sent several boxes that had belonged to the governor of Pennsylvania which they already owned.”

Kathryn also described how the society dealt with the loss of physical space in a city with a severe shortage of space: “The Fairmont Hotel, which was just weeks from opening on April 18, 1906, was totally gutted. The hotel opened a year later in 1907 after being totally re-done and we rented a space there.”

But there are many other events which a society or a person might encounter that could easily be characterized as disasters:

  • theft of a laptop, computer, USB memory stick or flash drive
  • loss of a research notebook at a library or on an airplane
  • a hard-drive failure
  • vandalism of books, photographs or other related items
  • database file corruption, etc.

The next post in this series will discuss the differences between a continuity plan for historical/genealogical societies and one for an individual pursuing genealogy research.  Stay tuned!

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About Thomas MacEntee

When he’s not busy writing blog posts, organizing the 3000+ members of GeneaBloggers (, teaching online genealogy webinars and more, Thomas MacEntee is busy in his role as “genealogy ninja.” Stealth is not easy, but he manages to get the inside track on emerging technologies and vendors as they relate to the genealogy industry. After being laid off from a 25-year career in the tech industry in 2008, Thomas has been able to “repurpose” his skill set for the genealogy community and loves to see other genealogists succeed, whether it is with their own research or building their own careers in the field. You can reach Thomas at or visit his site at High-Definition Genealogy –

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