"Social media is not reliable way to save precious family memories," Paula Wethington says in her latest column.

“Someone else posted this accounting of events, with hope that it will reappear in time hop for years to come, a primary source documenting a time in history …” You’ve probably seen that message among your friends and family on Facebook in recent days regarding their personal experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve seen it multiple times.

I urge those who are considering such a project to remember that social media is not reliable way to save precious family memories.

I’m saying this as someone who has worked on genealogy and family history research projects since 1990 and as someone who handles The Monroe News’ social media accounts.

I’ve been active on Facebook personally since 2008 and professionally since 2010. But I don’t consider it my sole depository for notes and photos that I want to keep. Have you thought about what happens to the content on your Facebook profile should you delete or abandon the account or at some point the service ends?

This is a realistic question. Little of my online work before 2016 still exists anywhere on the web. There were sites taken down after projects ended; a photo library that went to an expensive subscription service so I closed the account; links that went dead when news sites were reformatted; rebranding of social media accounts; etc.

Go ahead and write that Facebook post if you want to trigger a Time Hop bookmark for a year or two later, but add a line encouraging your friends and family to do what I have done for years and what I’m saying here:

Save what you want to remember of this time in a more permanent format.

You can start with Microsoft Word compatible formatting or PDF (portable document format). My daughter is using a Google Drive document to build her timeline so I can see what she’s collected and add in details.

You do want at least one backup to any digital files, whether that’s “in the cloud,” a secondary flash drive or a backup hard drive. You don’t want to run into a situation I heard of, where a friend who was genealogy researcher found that his flash drive failed. All of his family history data was saved on that one device.

In addition, take steps to save those stories in an off-line format. Keep the hard copies with your family photo albums or memory books. I still print off photos that I want to keep for scrapbooks, clip newspaper articles and screenshot digital projects that are worthy of a portfolio book. If you record someone's memories in video or audio format, create a printed transcript.

You could even use a typewriter or paper journal to write your memoirs of this time, as my great-grandmother did to tell her life stories, and then take steps to convert the content to a digital file.

In the meantime, if you are working on such a project and want dates or details to include as reference points, a great resource is The Monroe News’ e-edition. You’ll find it at https://monroeeveningnews-mi.newsmemory.com.

Both of our seven-day home delivery and all digital access subscriptions include access to the e-edition. Once you have the password set up, you’ll be able to search articles from recent editions by date or keyword.

Here are some timeline details from The Monroe News’ reporting that you can start with:

March 10: First coronavirus case reported in Michigan. March 13: Catholic schools in Archdiocese of Detroit are closed. March 14: First coronavirus case reported in Monroe County. March 15: Dozens of Monroe County churches have shifted to online services or parking lot services. March 16: All Michigan K-12 schools are now closed. March 24: Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order goes into effect.

Contact Paula Wethington at pwethington@monroenews.com.

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This is among the news and features The Monroe News is making available for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. You can find other news and cancellation announcements at our coronavirus special section.

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