My own mini-scanfests

When you come back home after a productive research trip to an archive or library do you often end up with a stack of photocopies?

Yes, me too.

I use my digital camera whenever I can but sometimes it just isn’t possible to take photos. Sometimes the repository doesn’t allow it, and other times the documents are folded up so well that it is just easier to get the experts to photocopy them. When I get home I tend to leave them for a while in the ‘filing’ pile, and the longer they stay there the harder it is to get around to dealing with them.

For me a major part of the post-research trip process is scanning the photocopies. A piece of paper is no good to me if it fades or gets tea spilled on it, or the laser toner sticks to something other than the paper, or it goes up in a bushfire.

To address the post-research filing issue I bought one of those multi-function printers. It prints in colour and black-and-while, it scans, it photocopies, and it faxes. It’s a marvel of modern technology. When I chose it I made sure of two things -

  1. it prints and scans both sides of the paper (duplex)
  2. it has a document feeder

The duplex requirement is fairly self-explanatory. The document feeder means I can put a stack of pages in the top, press some buttons to tell it to scan to my laptop, and away it goes. All I have to do is press the OK button on the laptop, and then I can get on with something else. If both sides of the page needs to be scanned I can select that option and the pages are scanned in the correct order.

Of course, at some stage I have to rename the files to something more meaningful than SCAN0001.jpg or whatever I’ve chosen as the default, but I can do that later, and sitting down.

My scanner is not much bigger than A4, so A3 photocopies are a problem. There are a couple of solutions – perhaps you have others?

  1. scan each half at a time, making two images that can then be joined together (or not!) in your photo software
  2. photocopy the A3 at a library or somewhere with a big photocopier, reducing it to A4, and then scan the A4 photocopy. Yes, some quality is lost, but it takes much less time and is more likely to result in a useable scan than option 1, which I rarely get around to doing.

Another important part of the process is to write the citation on the photocopy before scanning it, if I hadn’t already done it at the time of the photocopying. If I’ve requested copies at State Records NSW I pay for them before I leave and so this labelling must be done at home, preferably the same day while the file is still fresh in my mind.

Then there’s the analysing, data entry, filing into my family binders, and all of the other tasks that give meaning to whatever I’ve found, but that’s another story.

What do you do with your photocopies when you get them home?

DNA testing – is it for me?

I’ve been learning slowly about DNA and how it can help my family history research for what seems like years now, and have never done anything about it. What convinced me that it really was worthwhile was a lecture given by Megan Smolenyak at the Congress in Auckland last year, but still I’d done nothing. I really should get on to it, I think to myself whenever the subject comes up.

23 and MeToday I bit the bullet and ordered my first DNA testing kit. 23andMe is offering a huge discount on their tests, from $499 down to $99, although you then have to agree to pay $5 per month for a minimum of 12 months for updates. The postage is not cheap either – $69.95 to Australia, although this includes return postage back to the lab after you’ve spat into the container. The special runs until the 29th November “or while stocks last”.

23andMe is not the only DNA testing company around, although they do specialise in health aspects, with a long list of genetically carried diseases and responses to drugs. I have also considered Family Tree DNA for more complete testing of both sides of my tree, and will still do so at some stage. Perhaps when they next offer a discount!

Have a look at the special at 23andMe and decide for yourself. I will post updates as I continue my journey.

Postscript: I have to admit that my sudden resolve was not only due to the huge discount being offered. A discussion on the merits of the test on Facebook has resulted in three of us all signing up for the test together, and we will all be blogging about it.

Here’s Joan’s post and I’m sure Susan‘s will not be far off. It’s very exciting!

Unlock The Past History and Genealogy Sydney Roadshow Day 1

I had a great time at the Unlock The Past History and Genealogy Sydney Roadshow today.

I saw two of the three talks given by Dan Lynch, author of Google Your Family Tree, and learned some things I didn’t know before, or had forgotten. I hadn’t been able to justify buying the book until today, and Dan was kind enough to sign it for me. I’m a fan!

I also saw both talks by Louis St Denis from Canada. Louis is Director of the National Institute of Genealogical Studies, a  supplier of online genealogical education. She spoke first about genealogical education and second about citing sources, which is an important topic we don’t see very often in this conference context. Despite the fact that Dan was speaking in the other room there was a pleasing number chose to listen to Louise.

Elaine Collins spoke about FindMyPast UK and Rosemary Kopittke spoke about FindMyPast Australasia, both showing us the riches to be found within these sites.  FindMyPast Australasia has an enormous amount of Australian and New Zealand material, all fully searchable, and you can try it out for 24 hours for free without giving your credit card details.

I had some serious fun tweeting about what I saw and heard; you can see my tweets here. I’ll be back there again tomorrow and I’ll try to see some different talks. The Twitter tag is #HGRS10.