Favorite Genea-Technology Tools

Not so long ago in a galaxy not too far away, the word “genealogist” may not have been associated with the most technology-savvy person.  The image that came to mind may have been more of a bookworm-librarian searching through piles of books and papers  in dusty old archives.  Today, many genealogists are very well versed about the latest computer technology because it helps to advance our research so much!  So set your GEDCOM-phasers on stun as we uncover the topic for the 43rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Technology!

When I first heard the topic, I thought we’d be writing about technological advances in the lives of our ancestors or during our own lifetimes.  But, that’s not quite the slant towards technology that the Carnival-goers are writing about.  For this edition, three questions about Technology were posed:

What piece of hardware (besides your computer) do you most rely on for your genealogy and family history research?

This may be an unconventional answer, but for me it’s my digital camera.  While I have a fancy digital SLR for vacations and family portraits, it’s my tiny fit-in-your-pocket digital Casio Exilim that gets a genealogical workout.  How can you utilize a camera for family history research?

First, the obvious answer is to take photos of living relatives and current places.  Did you finally meet your third cousin twice removed?  Take a photo!  Visit your ancestor’s old street, church, or town?  Take more photos!  Tombstones of your relatives?  Take a photo and you don’t have to stand around the cemetary taking notes!

Another great way to use your camera for research is to take photos of…photos! Relatives may not want to loan out their treasured original photos of your shared ancestors, and we all can’t travel around with a laptop and a scanner.  But, with some attention to light and camera settings, it’s easy to snap a digital photo of another photograph.  Watch out for glare on the surface of the photo, and use a macro or close-up setting on your camera.

You can also use your camera to take photos of documents, as long as there are no copyright infringement issues.  My camera has a “Macro Mode” specifically for text.  Hold the camera steady!  This also works if you want to take a photo of a record on a microfilm reader.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ll be visiting the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in April.  Since they allow the use of cameras, I’ll keep you posted how this turns out.

What piece of software (besides your internet browser) do you most rely on for your genealogy and family history research?

This one is harder to answer.  Based on my camera answer above, I’ll have to say my imaging software.  I use PhotoImpact by Ulead, mostly because it came with my old scanner and it was easy to use.  It may not have all of the bells and whistles of the newer programs, but it does a fine job of helping me edit my photos.  It’s also useful for editing images of documents, such as snipping a piece to show on this blog or capturing an ancestor’s “autograph” from documents.

What web site/blog (besides your own) is indispensable to you?

Steve Morse’s One-Step site
.  Without it, I would not have been able to find several folks in the Ellis Island passenger lists and many others in Census Records.  Steve Morse’s search tools get around indexing issues or errors by allowing you to search in many other ways and on many different “fields” of the records.  There will always be some ancestor that eludes searches, but Steve’s site makes it easier to find the rest.

What are your favorite genea-tech tools?

[Submitted for the 43rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Technology Tips for Genealogists]

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5 thoughts on “Favorite Genea-Technology Tools

  1. Donna,

    Wow! I’ve once again learned something new. I’ve never been to Steve Morse’s site but I will definitely bookmark it now.

    I also enjoyed your tips for using your digital camera. I never even thought of using it to take pictures of pictures. I have many relatives who have old photos but refuse to allow them to be scanned or even taken out of the picture frames. I’m gonna have to check this suggestion out!

  2. Ken,

    Thanks for visiting. I’m sure you’ll enjoy Steve Morse’s site. As for the camera, I never thought of using it for taking pics of photos either until I was faced with that very situation. If someone won’t actually loan you the photo, then you might have a better shot at just snapping a photo. If it’s still in a frame though, it will be tricky because of glare off of the glass.

    Donna

  3. In my family there are/were three portraits that we kids always knew would become the center of a tug-of-war. One was of my paternal grandparents, Joseph and Mary (Hodick) McHugh on their wedding day (1925). One was of my parents on their wedding day (1959). The last was of my mother’s mother on her confirmation day (ca. 1914).

    The one of my parents has not been seen in years. Fortunately we have other portraits of this day that filled the gap.

    The one of my paternal grandparents, we had a 9 x 7 copy of that a professional photography shop was able to adapt to a more typical width and enlarging. I then had copies of this made. Which is good that we had the 9 x 7 since the original enlarged copy was in a bubble frame, which would have made copying and photographing very difficult.

    The one of my maternal grandmother on her confirmation day was a different story. It was too big to put on a scanner even at the photography shop (without spending a fortune); besides, it was crumbling on the sides and I was terrified to let more hands touch it than absolutely necessary. My friend, however was able to take a decent digital photo of it, and the photog shop was able to restore the photo from that image (the original is deteriorating quickly).

    So yes, taking photos of photos is a neat trick. Now there are no fights over who gets the pictures as we each have a copy! Now, fights over other things…..

  4. I’m glad you focused on the topic of what we need to do NOW to preserve our own history for the future. Photographs are the perfect method.

    Thank you for the great article.

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