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Getting a Lift
Technology troubles weighing down your research? Let this issue pump up your skills.
While watching the TV coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics, I saw an amusing car-insurance commercial: A champion weightlifter — presumably going for a gold medal — struggles to hoist a seemingly impossible mass. With one gargantuan push, he triumphantly heaves the weights above his head. The crowd cheers. When he lowers his load, however, the dumbbell crashes through the floor. It continues plummeting through several more levels of the building, until it finally flattens a car in the underground parking garage.

The scenario in this commercial reminds me of genealogists' challenges with technology. We soup up our computers with fancy software and snatch up cool electronic gadgets in hopes of giving our research a lift. Then we try to actually use the technology — and our good intentions come crashing down like a two-ton anvil on a Ford Focus. In the time you might spend figuring out how to scan your grandparents' wedding portrait, for example, you could get your entire collection copied at the nearest photo lab.

The problem: Genealogists often don't get adequate instruction or training for using high-tech tools, so they're forced to dive into the heavy lifting without proper warm-ups. As a result, you might feel as though computers (and their digital accessories) are stalling your search instead of stimulating it.

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