Digitizing Your Genealogy Records

Posted by Aaron on

stack of books flying into a laptop computer to represent digitization

At some point, your genealogy paperwork, such as census records, wills, vital record certificates, photographs, etc. may be better preserved and managed digitally. This can be a huge undertaking, both in organizing so you can find it again and in performing the actual digitization process.

Many family tree programs, such as Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree and Ancestry’s online trees (personal subscription only) allow you to scan or upload documents, pictures and even audio / video files to attach to a particular person in your tree. The biggest issue with digitization is that digital formats change. For example, we often use .JPG, .PNG, or .TIFF files for pictures and .DOC and .PDF for documents, but these formats may change over time, along with the ability to access them.

What You Need

  • A place to organize the items you wish to digitize. You also need a system. You might want to organize by individual, or just by family. Or you may have historical items specific to a location important to your family. For some organization tips, see my previous blog.
  • A flatbed scanner / printer. There are handheld and auto-feed scanners, but for fragile and odd-sized documents, like pictures, a flatbed scanner would work the best. I use a standard printer with a copy/scan feature. It can scan up to 1200 dpi resolution in color or black-and-white. The only drawback is that the screen size is only up to 8 ½ x 11. A larger-format flatbed scanner / printer would be ideal. There are larger sizes available, such as 12-, 17-, 24-, and 44-inch. PC Magazine has some suggestions.
  • A computer and memory. You will need a computer with sufficient memory and /or an external hard drive, where you can save what you scan into folders organized by name or location. If you scan in high resolution, the files may be quite large and take up a larger portion of memory.

Sharing Your Digitized Photographs and Documents

In the current social media world, there are many other ways to digitize and share your photos and documents. Ancestry’s family trees are one outlet, but you could also get social media or photo storage accounts to share with family and friends, such as Flikr, Photobucket, Forever, Dropbox, Shutterfly, Google Photos or Amazon. Some of these sites also allow you to create digital scrapbooks that can be printed and given as gifts. With online photo storage, make sure to put the photos into folders or tag them to easily find them later.

Helpful Resources Available at Your Local Library

Check out these and other books which may help in your quest to digitize your records. They are all available at your local Fauquier County Public Library.

Happy Digitizing!

Mary Sue, Reference, Bealeton library

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