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Monday, December 05, 2005

Handheld Scanners

From: Anita
I would like to be able to scan the handwritten documents into my computer. Have you (or anyone) had any success with scanning these type documents into their computer? What did you/they use to accomplish this? The scanner pens don't address handwritten print, only typed print. Thanks in advance.


Scanning old documents into your computer is an excellent way to preserve them, as well as share them with other researchers. Just realize that the document will appear as a GRAPHIC and will NOT be interpreted; computer software has a hard enough time deciphering the typed text of a document if it is arranged in paragraph format. OCR (optical character recognition) is the process of actually transferring each word of the document to a text file. It plays a very small role in the world of genealogy.

For instance, I just scanned the death certificate of my great grandfather. It was saved as a .jpg GRAPHIC file and then I attached it as a picture to my grandfather in my genealogy software program. The programs tend to call those multi-media files, because you can also attached sound files or video clips.

If I had attempted to OCR scan the file, it simply wouldn't have worked, because the death certificate wasn't typed out in a paragraph. Instead it had a lot of fill-in-the-blanks and 2 major boxes of information below his name. Those lines really confuse OCR software.

In addition to scanning in the death certificate, I also transcribed the information as completely as possible, taking care to note that at the time, death certificates were not given a specific number, but were merely entered into the Salt Lake County death certificate book in "almost" date order.

In notes for great-grampa,
~ and
As the description of the picture.

You are right, I hardly ever use the SOURCE option of genealogy software programs. I like being able to read ALL the additional information on an ancestor in the NOTES option, and not have other comments buried in the notes for a specific source. I learned to computerize my genealogy back in the DOS version of PAF. Windows hadn't been invented yet. I think Bill Gates was still teething at that time.

Ol' Myrt recommends a FLAT BED 4-way scanner/printer/copier/fax provided the scanner for your home office/genealogy computer room. You can't run old photos from the 1890s through anything else.

On the road, I would use a digital camera. You will get pretty good results without much practice. You'll learn that most often you can use sunlight through the window and turn off the flash. The camera can take photos of items on microfilm as well as in books.

Handheld scanners, that are like a pen, or about twice the size of a cell phone are OK if you are needing a quick copy of something small, but aren't too practical when dealing with items of a variety of larger sizes. You can't use a hand-held scanner to take the image of a tombstone! Go with the digital camera and get the 4-way instead of a hand-held scanner.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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