McClure, Rhonda R. Digitizing Your Family History.

Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2004. 188p., softcover. Index, illus. $19.99. ISBN 1-55870-708-5.

Both my parents were only children (no first cousins for me), so when my father died a few years ago, my mother began systematically sorting through nearly a century’s worth of inherited stuff from both sides of the family and giving the next generation “first dibs” on anything they wanted before the remainder was discarded. Of course, I grabbed anything relating to the family’s history, including old correspondence, military and employment files, and about forty pounds of old photo albums and several shoeboxes of loose snapshots.

I’ve been slowly, steadily working my way through them ever since, scanning not only photographs but also documents and old letters into a digitized format, cleaning up some of the older items with Photoshop, transcribing many of the holographic items, writing up brief text files (to be attached to the image files) explaining those people, places, and circumstances I could identify (and also copying my mother’s pencil notes from the backs of many of the photos), and collecting everything in some sort of order for later distribution to the rest of the family. (Those who are interested, which isn’t all of them, unfortunately.) Now, I’m reasonably computer-savvy and I have professional training in archival conservation, so all this seemed pretty obvious to me, but that probably would not be the case for many non-techies. Rhonda McClure to the rescue, as she has often done before! She begins by explaining at length the opportunities digitization offers for preserving (which is increasingly simple with a home computer) and disseminating documents and photos (via CDs and the Web). Then she discusses the relevant technology, including what to look for in an inexpensive flat-bed scanner (good ones are under $100 these days) and a digital camera (less than $200 now). The “Imaging Road Warrior” chapter is excellent; she recommends keeping a journal of research and sites visited in your word processor. (I never travel for research without my laptop, digital camera, and a small combination scanner-printer in the trunk.) She also does a good job of explaining the “why” of image-editing and enhancing vintage photographs without drifting too far into the “how” (which would take another book and would quickly be technically outdated), and suggests isolating faces of individuals in group shots for attachment to database entries in your chosen genealogy software. (I confess that had never occurred to me, but I’m doing that with my TMG databases now.) Digitizing and preserving audio- and videotapes is something I know very little about, but she seems to cover all the bases there, too. Then comes sharing and publishing (in the broadest sense) what you’ve digitized — which is half the point of doing all this in the first place. Even knowing that the pace of change in technology will cause sizable parts of this well-written volume to become outdated in a couple of years, I strongly recommend it.

Published in: on 6 November 2010 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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