Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Email, Vulnerable Family Information

I just read an interesting article on Lorine McGinnis Schulze's blog Olive Tree Genealogy. In the article, Can You Teach an Old Genealogist New Tricks?, Lorine writes about a problem she's having with identifying photos shared with her by family members because the email with the identifying information didn't get transfered to her new computer when she replaced the old one, and it's been lost.

This really struck a chord with me. If there is one segment of my genealogy information that I consider to be more vulnerable than the rest it would be that which exists only in email.

For many years, I used Microsoft Outlook as my primary email client for checking my POP3 email account. Consequently, I have literally hundreds of emails that I've received from cousins and family contacts over the years that are stuck in Outlook in its native .pst format. I have faithfully transferred those files to each new computer I've had and I've purchased new versions of Microsoft's Office Suite as needed. So that information is not lost nor is it inaccessible. However, I stopped using Outlook as my email client a couple years ago (in favor of Yahoo Mail and GMail) and I don't want to have to purchase the program ad infinitum to continue to access and store that information.

I would like to get all that email, 1) printed as batch files folder-by-folder so I don't have to print each email individually, 2) converted to a more standard format (preferably .pdf), again, as batch files so I don't have to do it email by email, and 3) exported from Outlook to my GMail account, again, preferably as batches by folder.

If any of my readers can recommend a software program, app, widget, gadget, etc. that could help me accomplish any of these tasks I'd really appreciate hearing from you! Or if you know of a way to accomplish this within Outlook please share the how-to link(s) because I've not been able to find a way to get it done. :-7


  1. I can't search for them at the moment, but I'm reasonably sure I've seen instructions for how to move your old Outlook email files to Gmail on Lifehacker.com. That site is a great resource for tips like that.

  2. From Outlook select a batch of e-mails and save them to a text file (File - Save as), forward them to your webmail, or print them (to a printer or to a PDF file, if you have a PDF printer driver installed).

  3. Take a look at this Mozillazine article (http://kb.mozillazine.org/Import_.pst_files) which discusses exporting PST to Thunderbird. They mention several tools you might find useful. Also, you could export your Outlook PSTs to CSV files which, with some creative combining of the resulting files, would become an easily managed - and searched - archive totally outside any email system.

    HMMMM..... that sounds like an interesting possibility regardless of email platform.

  4. Hi, I always learn a lot from you and enjoy your blog, although I typically lurk and don't comment. But I would like to share the Ancestor Approved award, if you would like to pick it up at our blog. http://cemeterydivas.blogspot.com/ Thanks for all your hard work.

  5. I've been thinking that I would like to do the same thing, having moved from Outlook Express to Gmail some years ago, but never got around to looking for a solution. On my present computer I don't even have OE installed, which means that I have to fire up the old laptop to be able to search the archives - very incovenient.

    I am a hoarder, saving all of my sent emails and have many thousands archived. It's not really an option, for me anyway, to save them as a Print File, and if you forward them, you lose the original recipient's name in the header, which is not very handy if you want to sort them.

    I'd be interested to hear of a good solution, but I may go hunting myself, now that the issue has been raised elsewhere.

    Regards, Brett

  6. I'm so glad you brought this up. I'm in the same boat only I was using Outlook Express. I have saved a good many emails as .txt files (downfall-attachments aren't saved with the email).

    The idea of doing it in batch and transferring them to my new webmail provider is an excellent one.

  7. Happy, happy, joy, joy! Look at all the good ideas here! Thank you all so much for the great suggestions. I'm going to spend some time today trying a few out. I sure will feel better when I know that email of mine is less vulnerable :-D

    And thank you Linda for the Ancestor Approved Award. I've received it before and am happy to have received it again. :-)

  8. I stopped using outlook specifically and switched to web-based because I use up to three different computers around the home and couldnt' keep everything straight. Now I can read mail from any computer / any place and keep everything sorted into files. All of the are important but the 'critical' ones I print a hard copy and file in surname folders....just in case... so all is well...as long as we stick with Verizon / Yahoo acct... ;-)

  9. Wasn't sure if you received off-blog direct replies. Did you learn about a method for doing this in BATCHES rather than individually? If not, I guess transferring each email to .pdf manually would be no more time consuming that scanning a document.

  10. I haven't received any email replies. I have been trying out some of the suggestions but haven't found just what I'm looking for yet. Henk's suggestion to batch-save a folder of emails as a .txt file was looking really promising but then I realized that the Polish language diacritical marks were all replaced with question marks making those emails impossible to read. And a lot of my email is written in the Polish language.

    So then I tried forwarding a batch of email to my GMail account. The problem was, each email was sent as an attachment and they all got the same title, "no name", so I couldn't differentiate between them.

    Then I tried uploading a batch .txt to Google Docs but the problem was it included/inserted all the HTML code with it.

    The only thing I haven't tried yet was Denise's suggestion to import the emails to Thunderbird because I've never used Thunderbird and quite honestly I don't know what I'd do with them once I got them there. I'd prefer to have them in GMail (1st choice) or Yahoo (2nd choice) which I already use and am familiar with.

    I haven't given up, I'm still working the problem!

  11. I have Gmail currently configured to retrieve emails received in my old non-gmail POP email account, but that only works for emails that arrive there after you set it up. As you have said, Jasia, as soon as you try to forward any older emails from within Outlokk Express, they lose the old sender name and date from the header record. I need that vital information for sorting and searching purposes, so don't want to do that.

    Regards, Brett

  12. "Outlokk" was inadvertent but, in retrospect, not inaccurate ;-)

  13. OK, after some considerable searching and reading on the net, I've discovered that it IS possible to do the third item on your list, i.e. export all of your emails from Outlook Express into Gmail, WITHOUT using any fancy widgets, gadgets, hammers, screwdrivers or any other third party software of dubious origin and unknown integrity. And it's not that difficult either. You don't to have any specialised knowledge, as the facilities are all within Gmail and MS Outlook Express.

    I have successfully transferred two batches of about 700-800 emails, and another batch is going through now. Every email ends up in my Gmail Inbox (webmail version, I don't use the POP3 version of Gmail), with full header and attachments intact - pristine, in fact. Very exciting, although I must admit that I'm a little concerned that I'm going to run out of space on Gmail, as I have so many archived emails back to the 1990s, and lots of attachments, sometimes large.

    I'm trying to figure out how to give instructions without having to send readers to several different web sites, and in plain English. Perhaps I should post the instructions as a separate article on my own web site, rather than using the comments facility, which is not ideal.

    Regards, Brett

  14. Sounds encouraging, Brett! I'm excited to learn how you did it!

  15. Brett, I, too am looking forward to understanding the process you've unearthed.

    Wondering too, if you can help me with my brick wall -- Dolly Yockey!

  16. Sorry about the delay folks. I was thinking about posting the instructions on one of my own blogs, but since I don't have one on which it would sit nicely, here goes.

    It appears the most efficient, simple way of transferring old email from MS Outlook Express (OE) (or its latest equivalent, Windows Mail) is by using the IMAP protocol. The avoids having to rely on any third party software.

    The following steps have been culled and simplified from a number of different sources, on the net. They worked for me, transferring email messages from an old version of OE on an old notebook which I no longer use, but which still works and connects to the internet, into Gmail web mail on my current desktop computer. However, you could just as easily use exactly the same technique for transferring emails from OE into Gmail on the same computer.

    A word of warning. It is wise to make sure you have backed up your email messages (in .PST format) on OE before you start this exercise, just in case something goes wrong. You can find instructions on how to do this on the Microsoft web site, here:

    Step 1
    Enable IMAP in Gmail, as per instructions
    1. Sign in to Gmail.
    2. Click Settings at the top of any Gmail page.
    3. Click Forwarding and POP/IMAP.
    4. Select Enable IMAP.
    5. Click Save Changes.

    Step 2
    Configure Outlook Express for Gmail (IMAP) access, as per detailed instructions

    Step 3
    1. Open Outlook Express. If Step 2 has been carried out succesfully, you should see both Local Folders and Gmail (imap) Folders listed in the left hand panel.
    2. Click on the Inbox in your Local Folder, then select an email message in the main panel.
    3. While pressing CTRL, use the mouse to drag this file across into the Gmail (imap) Inbox folder in the left hand panel.
    4. Once it has copied the file across, make a note of the addressee/title/date of the email you have just copied. This should give Gmail enough time to import and update. Then open up whichever browser you normally use and log into Gmail in the normal fashion. Browse or search your Gmail (webmail) Inbox for that email. Hopefully you should be able to find it without too much difficulty, as Gmail is so easy to search.
    5. Now that you've established that the process works, go back to OE and the repeat the process for the remainder of the files, and then the files in other folders. Of course it is easier to copy them in batches, simply by highlighting a number of files at a time, but beware of trying to copy too many at once, because it could lock up your computer for some time, particularly if, like me, your upload speeds are slow and attachments are large.

    Let me know how it works for you, and perhaps I'll think of putting these instructions up somewhere more visible.

    Myrtle - Dolly Yockey????

    Regards and best wishes, Brett

  17. A bit belatedly commenting here but this is how I handle my email:

    I use a EverNote v.2, so I have a clipper button in Thunderbird. One click on the clipper button sends the content of the email to EverNote. It's then easily assigned a category (Email - person 1, Email - person 2, etc). For printing, select all notes in a category, and print to pdf.

    This will not get your email out of OutLook, but an idea for the future perhaps. I believe it would also be possible to gather email directly from GMail using a similar technique and the clipper button for Firefox.

  18. Thanks for the suggestion, JL. I like it!