Picture 50 years down the road. Seems far off, but just ask someone over 50 how fast the years flew by. Anyway, picture 50 years down the road and your children and grandchildren are trying to open the genealogy and family history documents you created. Oh, you were so proud to be the one to convert your records and history from paper to digital copies stored on your computer. You spent hours and hours working, but there’s one small problem. Your descendants can’t open the files you created! Sounds like a big problem.

Just a warning here, if you’ve saved your documents in Microsoft Word for example, your descendant may have a tough time opening the documents because a better format might be around. Don’t believe me? Does Word Perfect ring any bells? Regardless, you don’t want to make your posterity have to purchase a program just to read your history.

So what’s the best format to preserve family history documents?

There are numerous file formats you can use to preserve your family history and genealogy documents. A great format is to save your documents you create on your computer in the Portable Document Format (PDF). You can download the free Adobe Reader program at Adobe.com which allows you to read PDF documents.

Get Acrobat Reader

So why not save your documents on your computer as a simple Word or text document?

Preservation – The PDF file format preserves your formatting. Have you ever created a document in your normal text editor, sent the document to someone else only to find out that the fonts or formatting got messed up? A PDF document won’t do that. It’s like taking a picture of your text document and preserving it in a very nice format.

You may have also tried to open a very old text document created on an older version of a word processing program only to find that the formatting looks a little funny, meaning, the pictures and text are out of place. Again, a PDF preserves how you organized and formated your document.

Do you want someone changing the content you created? Not me. Think of using a PDF as a publishing tool. You create and publish your material to this format and others can read it but not edit your content.

Safer – A PDF document is less likely to carry computer viruses like other text documents that can actually carry hidden malicious code.

Longevity – The PDF document will most likely be around for a very long time because it is free to read PDF documents. PDF’s have been used for many years as the standard for preserving and sharing documents. The PDF format is used heavily in business and educational environments, and the format is very Internet friendly, allowing quick views of documents.

Free – You can download a free program to create your documents in this format at http://www.primopdf.com. You can also upload your document on the web and have it converted for free (no software required) at http://online.primopdf.com/Default.aspx. Many word processors now have the ability to publish/save your document directly to the PDF format.