Why should you digitize your genealogy?
Genealogists are well-known paper-lovers. We tend to hang on to each photocopy, printout, and note “just in case” we need to refer to it again. But many of us don’t like managing all that paper. We’d much rather be following ancestral clues than filing old paperwork. Digital copies can ease much of that paper burden. Below are 4 reasons to digitize your genealogy research with some tips to get you started from our course, Digitizing Your Family History.
1. Clear some space
Digitizing your genealogy paperwork means clearing out space where all those old binders and bins of paperwork used to live. By going digital, you’re not getting rid of the information – you’re just storing it differently. Take the time to separate those items that can be scanned, then binned from original items you want to keep, such as old photos and heirlooms. Then, tackle the piles in short, timed intervals so you don’t get overwhelmed. Both need to be digitized, but once you’re done and you’ve tossed all those extra copies and surplus notes, you’ll find you have a lot more space to showcase the items that really matter.
2. Organize as you go
There are so many ways to organize your research digitally that it would take weeks to cover them all. You can easily find and adapt tools and systems that help you keep all your research together. Before you begin to digitize your research, determine the best system for you and divide the job up into smaller tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed. You’ll be surprised as what you can accomplish in fifteen minutes.
And learn from my cautionary tale: In my excitement at finding several new photos at my sister’s house and trying to cram them in before I left, I neglected to label or scan them as I went. I can go back and review them, but that may not be an option for everyone. Label and cite them as you scan so you aren’t left scratching your head down the line. Bonus tip: scan the backs of the photos as well for any notes or identifying information.
You can learn more about Organizing Your Genealogy in a Week with our workshop.
3. Preserve your research in the cloud
No one likes to think about disasters happening, but floods and fires can destroy decades of work. Digitize your genealogy research not just on your computer, but by storing it in the cloud. Even if your originals are lost, you’ll still have the reproductions and even if your computer breaks down, you’ll be able to access them on another device.
Tip: Photograph or scan everything. You don’t need fancy equipment for most items; there are apps you can use on your camera to scan and many of them are free. It may take some time, especially if you follow the advice in number 2, but you’ll find it’s worth it.
4. Take it with you
Whether you’re going to the local cemetery, courthouse, or library or you’re heading out of town for a big research trip, having your research digitized means you don’t have to haul a bunch of paperwork with you — it’s all at your fingertips in your phone, tablet or laptop. So if you need to reference a record you already have, or double-check dates in your family tree, you can do so easily. Use an online app such as Evernote to create your list of items you want to find to save time on your trip, and use the Ancestry.com or RootsMagic apps to access your online trees.