Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Digital or Paper?

From: Auburn84
I am relatively new at this genealogy thing. I'm also a journalist, so this organization thing is driving me crazy.

I'm using Legacy, which seems fine, and am keeping most things on my computer.

My question is, do you recommend using the computer whenever possible? Should I also keep hard-copy files, or should I scan stuff in and keep it that way?

Today, I'm particularly interested in census files, because I need to file some of them. Trying to figure out a way to blow them up so the pertinent parts are legible. Don't know whether to keep the original link, a copy of the file on the computer, a printed-out copy in a hard file ... or all of the above.

Any suggestions?

Great site, by the way.

All of the above!

You are on the right track about using documents to prove lineage assumptions. As a journalist, you are aware of the need to cite your sources whenever possible, otherwise your work would only be suitable for sensationalistic supermarket tabloid publication.

Long time researchers are playing catch-up -- scanning documents to facilitate sharing and to save storage space.

Newbie researchers cannot gain the full perspective without being able to spread out the documents on their dining room tables to begin analysis.

During the immediate research process, you may need to print out zoomed-in and full page copies of documents to facilitate accurate transcription of cryptic handwriting.

Keeping the hyperlink to the original online image provides an easy method for quickly returning to the document, in case you lose your personal copy. Reasonable citation processes in genealogy, as with any scholarly research model, include mention of the archive and location. In your online research this would be the URL in question.

Yes, Ol' Myrt here knows that URLs change. Thankfully, your genealogy software will prompt for the original URL and the date you viewed the page when creating a "proper" citation for each item you collect.

Fortunately Legacy Family Tree and other main-stream genealogy management programs allow you to attach digital images to anyone in your database. You can do this in the "source" description area or simply add the document as a multimedia image (like a photo) for each ancestor mentioned in the document.

Just be sure to keep all genealogy-related photos and digital images of documents in a special folder on your hard drive, so things don't get thrown here and there all over your hard drive.

What digital genealogists seem to forget is the absolute necessity of routinely (read that as frequent and automatic) backing up the database and images to an off-site location. Mozy and other online sites come to mind and are a safer choice than a backup made to CD or an external hard drive in your computer room. No sense in keeping all your eggs in one basket. Check ZDNet and LifeHacker for suggestions here.

As to your question of blowing up pertinent parts of a census page for increased legibility -- you are right to recognize that by zooming in, you usually lose the column headings on those large census pages. You also lose the census heading, date, location and page numbers essential for citation purposes.

Remember, your Legacy Family Tree will allow you to zoom in to an attached digital image, just for the sake of sharing with someone.

And theoretically, once you've attached the item to ancestors in your database, you've already done the zooming when transcribing the entry into each relevant ancestor's notes.

I once created a framed presentation document, printed on decorative parchment paper, that was the full page of a parish register of christenings, with the zoomed in entry for our ancestor super-imposed on top. That may be an option in some cases. However, you want access to viewing the entire census page, because eventually you'll find the neighbors are quite possibly related. Alternately you may need to kn ow those names when you hit sticky wickets in your research and branch out into "cluster group" research. People did tend to travel and gather in groups from the old country and such.

Your file naming system can help with finding the original document and the zoomed in copy, as follows:

  • 1880USfederalFROMANWmG.tiff
  • 1880USfederalFromanWmGzoomed.tiff

Just a reminder that the bulk of genealogy research is still done OFF the net at archives, libraries, courthouses and churches, either by viewing records in person or on microfilm.

Microfilm is available through your local Family History Center, and to a lesser degree through local public libraries. I've saved thousands of research dollars by ordering microfilm of English and German parish registers, and having them delivered for a small fee to my local Bradenton, Florida family history center. Now I live in Salt Lake City part of the year, and continue to view microfilm and microfiche records from all over the world using the main Family History Library there.

Hope these suggestions prove helpful. Keep up the good work.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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