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?

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Genealogy research in other countries

I am constantly surprised by the differences in genealogy research in different countries (and Australian states). We tend to take for granted procedures and availability of records in our own patch and then get caught out when we start looking at another country. Well, I do!

I am off to New Zealand for three weeks in a week. I’m going to the AFFHO Congress in Auckland on the 16-20th January, and I’m going a week early to do some research on my own family. I’m trying to prepare for the research I hope to do. New Zealand is a small country and yet the records are so decentralised. Most of them, anyway.

I found the same thing in Victoria. The attitudes to some of the records that I take for granted in Sydney, the birth place of the country, are totally different in Melbourne, where a totally separate colony was established without having convicts as its reason for being. It’s no criticism of them, just something I wasn’t aware of. Although it can blind them to records that are based in Sydney from the period before the establishment of the separate Colony of Victoria.

I’ve seen similar attitudes in posts from Americans enquiring about English research. They expect things to be similar to them and find it confusing when it isn’t. I personally find US research more confusing, what with records in courthouses and attics and all. Of course, I’ve never actually down any on-the-spot US research so what do I know!