Genealogists are among the most technologically savvy segments of the population: If there’s a new gadget or tool that will simplify our research, we’ll snatch it up right away. After all, we were some of the first folks to use digital cameras, scanners, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and the Internet. Here are a few ways to put those gizmos to good genealogical use.
Were you one of the zillions of people who bought a digital camera in 2004? Most consumers will use their new purchases to capture family and friends, special occasions and vacations. Genealogists can use digital cameras for so much more:
- Copy heritage photos that belong to relatives. All it takes is a camera with an optical zoom, a tabletop tripod and sunlight.
Save on photocopy fees by photographing documents. (If you do this at a library, make sure you get permission first.)
Take pictures of microfilmed records. Project the film, clamp the camera to the reader, play with the camera’s settings and snap away.
Snap pictures of family homes and gravestones to build a photo archive that goes beyond portraits.
Maintain a digital-photo archive on your computer, regularly backing up the files for preservation purposes. Read my column “Trends of Tomorrow” for printing tips.
Magnifying portions of your pictures can help you identify those mystery images. Although it’s easy to carry around a magnifying glass, scanners do a much better job of enlarging details in images. Scan your images as 600-dpi TIF files (TIF’s a preservation-quality format), and use photo-editing software to magnify details such as the pin on Great-grandpa’s lapel or the picture in your grandmother’s brooch.
Some cameras and scanners come packaged with editing software. You’ll also find a wide variety of programs in all price ranges on the market.
In my “Trends of Tomorrow” column, I mentioned having seen the Epson P-1000, a digital photo album with a 10GB hard drive. You can use digital storage devices like this one to share pics with relatives without lugging around your photo albums. Also consider investing in a personal digital assistant (PDA), which can store photos and your genealogical notes.
Keeping up with the latest technology can be difficult because there’s so much of it. To stay current, I talk with tech-savvy fellow genealogists, peruse Beau Sharbrough’s RootsWorks Web site and read Walter Mossberg’s Wall Street Journal column, Personal Technology. New gadgets are fun, fascinating and sometimes frustrating, but if you learn how to use them, you’ll begin to think of them as friends.