The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
This is Part #1 of a 2-part series.
We often take email for granted these days. For many people, it is a process of writing a quick note, reading a return note, clicking DELETE, and then moving on. However, is deleting a good idea? I can think of at least two reasons why we might want to archive all our email messages, both sent and received. One reason is genealogy-related, the other is not.
Did you inherit family heirlooms of love letters great-grandfather sent to great-grandmother during the war? Or perhaps other letters written for other purposes? While love letters are always great for sentimental reasons, other letters, even business correspondence, can offer great insights into the lives of our ancestors. Will your descendants have similar feelings about the correspondence that you write?
Of course, nowadays the art of writing letters on paper, sealing them into an envelope, and mailing them is quickly becoming lost. Future genealogists probably will not have letters available from the early twenty-first century in the same manner that we save letters from earlier times. Today, email is the preferred method of correspondence. Are you going to deny your descendants access to your correspondence?
Another reason for saving email messages is for you to retrieve such messages in the future. I have saved all my email messages for years and frequently refer to past messages. What was Aunt Mildred's telephone number? How about remembering a relative's birthday? Then again, how about that message that a distant cousin sent about his or her findings in the family tree? If you keep an archive of all your past messages, finding that information again is trivial.
Luckily, archiving all your messages is easy to do. You probably don't even need to change your email address or the service you presently use.
NOTE: I save all "meaningful" messages. I don't save spam mail, and I delete the quick replies, such as, "Got it. Thanks for the info." I also delete the email messages from companies that say, “We are having a sale this weekend.” I consider those to be semi-spam and not worth saving.
However, any longer messages in the past few years that contained any meaningful information are now saved on my hard drive with backup copies saved in “the cloud” for safety. Even better, I can find any words or phrases inside any past email message within seconds.
I will separate the remainder of this article into two sections: (1.) short-term archiving and (2.) long-term archiving. In this case, "short-term archiving" means "for a few years." I want to save all my meaningful email messages for a few years in such a manner that I can refer back to information conveniently at any time. I typically care about information sent within the past five years or so.
"Long term archiving" is more for the purpose of preserving information for future generations. In this case, I am thinking about practical methods of saving email messages for ten years or perhaps even 100 years or longer. I also need to make those messages available to others in a format that can be accessed for many years into the future.
Let's look at "short-term archiving" first.
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