Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!

Email:

Navigation

Categories

Search

Archives

<July 2014>
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
293012345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
272829303112
3456789

More Links










# Wednesday, February 18, 2009
How to Convert Old Slides to Digital
Posted by Diane

Q. I have some 35mm slides that I want to put on my computer. Also, the color on these pictures has turned red. What’s the best method to save these slides?

A. If you have a flatbed scanner, you may be able to find a special attachment for scanning slides, but these don’t always produce good results. Nowadays, you can get a slide converter, such as VuPoint’s film and slide converter or the Imagelab Instant Slide Scanner, for around $100 to $150.

See a demo of a converter here.

Alternatively, your local photo lab may be able to convert the slides for you, or you can use a service (great for large quantities) such as ScanDigital or ScanMyPhotos.

Color shifting in slides is common, says photo expert Maureen A. Taylor. “To slow the process, store color photographic materials such as prints and slides in a dark, cool place that is not subject to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Large archives actually store their color materials in refrigerated vaults.”

Though it may not be possible to return the images to their brand-new appearance, most professional services can correct the color and remove scratch marks. Do-it-yourselfers can use photo-editing software such as Adobe PhotoShop Express (free online).

Make sure you save the unedited scans as TIF files, a format that does the best job of preserving image quality. Make copies of the images to edit. Store the edited copies as high-resolution TIFs, too. For sharing or posting online, copy the edited files as JPGs (which reduces file size).

Finally, be sure to back up your digitized images. The best way is with an online storage service.  Mozy is one; see more back-up services in PC Magazine’s online review. You also can save the files to an external hard drive kept in a location away from your home. Give copies to family, too.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 4:58:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, July 02, 2008
How to Order a Big Family Tree Wall Chart
Posted by Diane

Q. Where can I get a giant genealogy chart printed to hang on the wall at a family reunion?

A. Plenty of businesses will take your GEDCOM or genealogy software's proprietary file and turn it into a large wall chart. Find links to charting companies on FamilyTreeMagazine.com and Cyndi's List.

Some companies focus more on artistic presentations with photos and illustrations, which are beautiful but may limit the size of the chart; others specialize in, yards-long text charts showing every member of your family. Some do both.

Take a look at photos of finished charts on the company Web site. Narrow your list to companies that offer the type of chart you need, then look at the ones that can work within your time frame and budget.

Some questions to ask each company when you’re deciding which one to go with:
  • What are my options (if any) as far as chart size, typeface, text color and size, paper color, etc.?
  • Will I get to see a digital proof of the chart before it’s printed? (So you can make sure the information is correct.)
  • If I don’t like how the proof looks, are there any charges for making changes to it?
  • Do you keep the chart on file in case I want to order additional copies?
  • What is the charge for updating the chart with new genealogical information and having it reprinted in the future?
  • What special steps should I take to prepare my GEDCOM (or proprietary software file) before sending it to you?
  • What are your file specifications for photos? (If you want to include pictures in your chart.)
  • What delivery method do you use? How long will shipping take?
For best results, before you export your GEDCOM, go through your genealogy files and standardize date and place formats. For example, if you abbreviate one state name, abbreviate them all; and format your dates as day/month/year, as in 22 April 1907. Also make sure names are spelled correctly and check for typos.

When you tote the chart to your family reunion, remember to bring pens so people can add information or make corrections.

For our reviews of several chart-printing companies, see the April 2006 Family Tree Magazine.


family reunions | genealogy basics | Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Wednesday, July 02, 2008 1:53:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, April 11, 2008
No Heirs? How To Save Your Genealogy Research From the Dumpster
Posted by Diane

Q. What can someone who has no heirs do with photos, birth certificates and other family heirlooms so they won't be thrown away? Is there any organization they could be donated to?

A. Many libraries, historical and genealogical societies, historical museums and state archives accept donations of family papers, genealogical research and heirlooms.

Consider giving your items to a repository in the area that figures most heavily into your research. The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), for example, seeks family diaries, Bibles and other documents related to New England research.

A local genealogical or historical society may be interested in your pedigree charts, records, photos or published family history. Or look for a museum or library with a collection—say, WWII ephemera or Italian immigrant photographs—that would make a fitting home for your treasures. Once you have a list of potential recipients, call each one to ask about its donation process.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Library in Salt Lake City also accepts materials it considers helpful to researchers. See its online donation guide for information on what the library can use and how to prepare your donation. 


No matter which facility you decide on, make your wishes clear in your will and designate a genealogy buddy to help your executor carry out your desires. You can't expect a repository to take everything you've collected over the decades, so include instructions for that person to weed through your papers to separate what can be pitched from what should stay. Or better yet, get organized now, while you have a say in the matter.
 
A new generation of Web sites gives you another option: Sites including Eternal Star and Story of My Life let you digitize and store photos, records and heirlooms forever. You’ll need to consider whether the material will be readily available to researchers (if that’s what you want) and what happens if the site goes out of business, and you’ll still have the originals to deal with.

For more tips on donating your research, see the Society of American Archivists' guide and Katherine Scott Sturdevant's Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents (Betterway Books, out of print).


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Friday, April 11, 2008 2:35:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Saving Old Family Newsletters
Posted by Diane

Q. My aunt found several copies of our family newsletter dating back to 1959 in an old suitcase. It appears they were run off on a duplicating machine because the typed part is somewhat smeared blue ink. The paper feels like carbon paper.

Any ideas or suggestions on how to preserve these and make the pages more readable?

A. Your newsletters may have been copied on a spirit duplicator (also called a Ditto machine) or a mimeograph machine, both popular in schools and churches until modern photocopiers took over in the 1960s and 1970s.

These machines produced copies from a waxed master, resulting in less-than-sharp print quality—letters that bleed; os and as that look like solid circles.

You can enhance your newsletters’ readability by scanning them and using photo-editing software (which comes with most scanners) to increase the contrast of the scan and remove stray marks. Try placing a plain white sheet behind the newsletter when you scan it.

If you don’t have a scanner, try a photocopier that lets you adjust contrast—a copy shop can help with this. Make sure your final photocopies are on acid-free paper (see below for suppliers), which is much slower to yellow and deteriorate than regular copy paper.

As far as preserving the originals, they’re undoubtedly on paper that contains acid. Place the newsletters in an archival file folder separated by sheets of buffer paper (which has a low pH level to help neutralize the acids in your newsletters), and put the folder in an acid-free envelope or box.

For even more protection, treat your newsletters with an acid-neutralizing spray such as Archival Mist. Test a small area first to make sure the ink won’t run.

Acid-free paper, archival folders, buffer paper, acid-neutralizing spray and other supplies are available at many scrapbooking stores and through online retailers such as Archival Methods and Light Impressions.

Store the original newsletters away from sunlight and protect them from extremes in temperature and humidity—a closet in the living area of your home is best. To prevent wear and tear, use your digital or paper copies for reference.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 4:28:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Skinny on Scanners
Posted by Allison

Q I’m in the process of digitizing my family photos, and I have to wonder: Does the type of scanner or software really matter? I am not correcting any of them; they’re going in “as is” because 98 percent are in excellent shape.

A Of course, the companies manufacturing such gizmos like to play up the benefits of their products’ features—and it’s true that a $500 scanner can do things a $100 scanner can’t. But for genealogists, it’s kind of like choosing between a Ford or a Rolls Royce: Although the Rolls offers lots of bells and whistles, you'd probably opt for the cheaper Ford if all you really care about is getting from point A to point B.

We recommend family historians scan photographic prints at 300 to 600 dpi for archival purposes. (If you plan to enlarge any far beyond their original size, however, you’ll probably need to scan those at a higher resolution.) Today, flatbed scanners in the $80 to $100 range offer 1,200-dpi or higher optical resolution—more than enough for the type of scanning you’re doing.

If you have a lot of photos to scan, you might want to pay a little extra to get a model with a document feeder or other convenience features. Old photos, which often have cardboard backings, won't work with feeders, though. So you'd have to skip the feeder anyway if you're working with heritage photos.

(Note that slides and negatives require a scanner built for that purpose—rather than a regular flatbed—to get the best results. Such models have high resolutions and correspondingly high price tags.)

Likewise, you’ll probably find that the photo-editing and -organizing software that came with your scanner or computer will work fine for your needs. Once you’ve had an opportunity to get familiar with the program’s setup, you might decide you want to “step up” to another program that has additional features or an interface better-suited to your working style. Adobe’s $100 Photoshop Elements is one popular choice—but you certainly don’t need to shell out $650 for the professional Photoshop program, which is loaded with fancy features you’ll probably never need.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | computers
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:56:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, December 10, 2007
Untangling Terms of Use
Posted by Allison

Q I wanted to use a Web site such as Kodak, Shutterfly, PhotoWorks or Snapfish to order a mousepad with my ancestors’ photos on it. But all these sites’ terms of use state that I have to give up my rights to the photos! For example, PhotoWorks' terms say, "You hereby grant to PhotoWorks, Inc. non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, publish, copy, modify, transmit, display and distribute your Content for the purpose of delivering the Service and warrant that you have a right to grant such a license. In addition, you warrant that all moral rights in any Content and uploaded materials have been waived and do hereby waive any such moral rights." I feel that if I use the service of one of these companies, I’ve already paid it for the service, therefore it does not--and should not--have any rights to my photos. Why do  these companies think they should be able to do this?

A You'll find this type of standard disclaimer when you use any photo Web site. Unfortunately, all the legal mumbo jumbo and complicated wording make most companies’ terms of use, er, challenging for the average consumer to understand. We’re not legal experts and therefore can’t offer legal opinions. But as scary as this clause may sound, it doesn’t appear that PhotoWorks is trying to take away any rights from its customers. Let’s look at it one part at a time.

1) The first key phrase is "for the purpose of delivering the service." In order to produce your calendar, put your photos on a CD, create an album, or make whatever product you've ordered, the company of course has to digitally reproduce, possibly edit and print your photo. Therefore, you'll be required to legally grant the company the right to use your photo. You're only giving the company the right to create the product you asked it to, nothing else.

2) You grant this right "non-exclusively"--meaning that you also can extend your rights to anyone or any other company you wish.

3) The statement "[you] warrant that you have a right to grant such a license" is also important: It's an acknowledgment that you actually have the copyright or permission to use the photos you upload. This statement protects the company against legal action if a customer reproduces photographs illegally. For example, say you get your kid's picture taken at Olan Mills, then you scan one of the photos and upload it to PhotoWorks so you can order a product. That's a violation of copyright law, because professional photo studios almost always copyright their work (that way, you have to buy the photos from that studio). It would be impossible for PhotoWorks or any such site to vet all the photos its users upload. By PhotoWorks' inclusion of this statement, Olan Mills (in this example) couldn't sue PhotoWorks if PhotoWorks' users were reproducing Olan Mills' copyrighted photographs without the studio’s permission.

4) "Moral rights" has nothing to do with morality, but with the copyright holder's right to attribution and to the integrity of the work (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights). Again, in my not-legal opinion, by "waiving moral" rights, you're waiving your right to have a "credit line" on a PhotoWorks products and allowing the company to "change" the image by affixing it to a coffee mug etc.

When you boil it down, what PhotoWorks is asking is common-sense stuff and shouldn’t raise red flags for most family historians. Of course, some services or companies may include some terms of use that you simply don’t agree with—which is why we encourage consumers not to ignore them. If you see something that concerns you, you can choose not to use that service—before it’s too late.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | Web tips | copyright
Monday, December 10, 2007 5:00:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Family Tree- and Photo-Sharing Web Sites
Posted by Diane

Q We received this question via our MySpace page: I’ve heard about Web sites that will host pictures to give my family its own sharing place of current pictures of our kids (considering we're all over the United States). Do any of these also have a genealogical chart you can fill in?

A It sounds like you could use a family-oriented social networking Web site. Many of these sites let you upload photos, build a family tree online (you may even be able to upload a GEDOCM to cut down on data entry), create profile pages for family members and even add important dates to calendars.

Usually, you can opt to keep your family’s pages private by giving everyone a password, and you can also grant certain people editing privileges.

You’re in luck! The January 2008 Family Tree Magazine (now on newsstands and at FamilyTreeMagazine.com) has an overview of genealogy social networking sites. Here are some family-photo sharing sites that also let you create a genealogy chart:

Amiglia offers basic tree-building (when our reviewer checked, you couldn’t enter places or events besides birth and death), photo- and video-sharing. There’s a free trial period; after that, the site costs $49.95 per year.

Geni is a graphically cool site where you can upload photos and add a calendar and a family tree (with dates and places of birth and death, but not baptisms and burials). Our reviewer found navigation easy, and the site is free.

Ancestry.com Member Trees is also free, but after you add a tree, you’ll see “shaky leaves” that indicate Ancestry.com’s subscription-only databases may have records on your ancestors. Member Trees lets you add photos and video clips with searchable descriptions, and create a book using Ancestry Press.

MyHeritage offers an easy way to type information into a tree, or a more-elaborate, downloadable Family Tree Builder. You also can upload photos. The free Basic plan limits storage space; you also can choose a paid plan for $2.95 to $9.95 per month.

If your family’s on Facebook, relatives can upload a program called Family Tree to their profiles and use it to create a pedigree chart. See the Genealogy Insider blog for more information.

With the capabilities of Web 2.0, these sites are updated frequently and new social networking sites are popping up all the time. If the whole family will be using the site, let other people weigh in on which you choose.

Readers: Which family social networking sites would you recommend? Any tips for families that use a site? Click Comment to post here, or add your two cents to our Web Watch Forum.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | Web tips
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:59:36 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Monday, August 20, 2007
Make a Resolution: Viewing Online Photos
Posted by Diane

Q Momto3boyz asks this question on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum: My cousin put some pictures on a family Web site. When I pull them up, most of them come up in thumbnail sizes. When I try to zoom in or enlarge them so I can see the faces, I lose the sharpness of the pictures. Any suggestions on how I can enlarge these pictures?

A How you can view images on a Web site depends mostly on the person who posted the images.

You could copy the thumbnail images to your desktop by right-clicking on each one, then selecting the Save to Desktop option (on a Mac, you’d control-click the photo or simply drag it onto your desktop). Then you could zoom in by opening the photo in an image viewer such as Picture Viewer (Preview for Macs). But as you've found, you won’t be able to see much detail anyway.

That’s because Web standards call for posting photos at a relatively low resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch). This reduces a photo’s file size so the Web page won’t take forever to load. So usually, if you try to take an image off most Web sites and enlarge it for your family history book, say, the image looks blurry and pixilated, like this:



Your cousin may have intended to link the thumbnail photos to larger versions of the images (as we did for this Photo Detective column), but forgotten to do so.

Your best bet is to ask your cousin to send you higher-resolution versions of the photos—that means 300 dpi, which is the resolution needed if you want to print out the image with the same dimensions as the original. If you want to print out a larger photo, you'll need an even higher resolution.

When you scan a photo, you can select the resolution in your scanner settings—see the owner's manual for help with this. Likewise, if you have a digital camera, you can set it to take low- or high-resolution photos.

The photo on this Photo Detective blog posting, for example, is high resolution so you can examine its detail. Save it to your desktop, open it an image viewer and zoom in, and you’ll see what I mean.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Monday, August 20, 2007 5:11:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Kids' School Projects: Interviewing a Grandparent
Posted by Diane

Q My daughter has to interview her grandparents for a school project. Do you have any suggestions for questions she can ask?

A Not only do assignments such as this one bring families closer, they’re also a great way for kids (and their parents!) to learn about their family history and history in general.

Scott Kelly, who conducts oral histories through his company Oral Family Histories, offers these questions to get you started:
  1. When and where were you born?
  2. What were your parents’ names?
  3. What is your happiest memory of your father? Your mother?
  4. What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?
  5. What are the names of your grandparents?
  6. What is your happiest memory of your grandfather? Grandmother?
  7. Where did you grow up?
  8. What did you do for fun as a child?
  9. How did you like school?
  10. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  11. Tell me about your first date.
  12. How did you meet Grandma/Grandpa?
  13. Tell me about the day my mom/dad was born.
  14. What advice would you give to new parents?
  15. What jobs have you had?
  16. What are your strongest memories from your time in the military?
  17. What would be your recipe for happiness?
You and your daughter can edit the list together based on the length of the interview, what your daughter wants to ask about, and any project requirements (for example, her teacher may want her to focus on a particular topic such as military service).

Your daughter may want to jot down significant historical events that occurred during her grandparents’ lives, such as the Great Depression or the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Then she can ask about them with a question such as, “What’s your most vivid memory of growing up during the Great Depression?”

If she’s been learning about the Great Depression in school, she’ll see how it affected everyday people and maybe even find herself an answer to that perennial question, “Why do we have to learn this?”

She also might be interested in how her grandparents’ childhoods compare to her own: Did they have similar hobbies? What chores did they have to do around the house? How did they like their brothers and sisters?

Kelly suggests interviewers use a question list as a guide, not a rigid framework. It’s OK if the conversation leads your daughter to ask questions not on the list, or her grandparents to tell stories not related to a particular question. Looking at old family photos may spark her grandparents' memories, too. (Find more oral history interviewing tips on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.)

Make sure you record the interview for posterity (and in case your daughter needs it for a report) using a digital voice recorder or a videocamera (get pro’s tips for filming interviews in the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine).

If filling in a family tree chart is part of the homework, use the free downloadable forms on FamilyTreeMagazine.com. Your daughter's grandparents would probably love to see the finished project.


Oral history interviews | Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Tuesday, July 17, 2007 5:13:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, May 10, 2007
Saving Old Scrapbooks
Posted by Diane

Q I've discovered scrapbooks my mother made in the 1930 and '40s. They include photos and paper ephemera such as party napkins and dance programs. The scrapbook pages are black and the items are glued on. What's the best way to preserve this material? Also, I'd like to take pictures of each page. Should I use a traditional camera with no flash or digital camera with a built-in flash?

A Those albums with black pages were common during the early 1900s, and people often wrote in them with opaque white ink. "Black scrapbook paper is not the best choice for photo storage," says preservation expert and blogger at The Practical Archivist Sally Jacobs. The paper's high acid content can make it brittle over time.

The glue your mom used may be acidic, too. "Even so, it would be unwise to try to deconstruct the scrapbook," advises Jacobs. That's because you can lose important caption information, and separating glued-together paper is a risky move best done by a professional archivist.

Jacobs recommends inserting acid-free, buffered tissue between the scrapbook pages. ("Regular-thickness paper would make the book too thick by the time you finish," she says.) Buffered paper contains alkaline ingredients, which will help neutralize the acids in the black paper and slow their migration to the album's contents.

Then, to protect the book against light and dust, store it flat in an archival drop-front box in a size as close as possible to the dimensions of the scrapbook.

You can purchase archival tissue and boxes from suppliers such as Archival Methods, Gaylord Brothers, and Light Impressions.

"Bring out the scrapbook and show it off to anyone who wants to see it, but tuck it away somewhere safe the rest of the time," Jacobs says. That means in a house that's cooled in the summer and heated in the winter, ideally in an interior closet to reduce temperature fluctuations. Avoid attics and basements.

You're on the right track in wanting to visually preserve the pages. The problem with using a built-in flash is that you can get a glare from shiny surfaces, such as a glossy photo or anything metallic, in the book.

"If the scrapbook doesn't have anything reflective on the pages, you might get away with the digital/flash camera," says Family Tree Magazine's photographer Al Parrish. "But it would probably be safer to use some sort of available light, such as outside on a cloudy day, with the camera white balance set to Auto." Parrish also highly recommends a tripod.

You could try doing this yourself, and if you're unsatisfied with the results and you can afford it, hire a professional photographer to shoot the book.

Keep an eye out for the September Family Tree Magazine, on sale July 17—it'll have an article full of simple ways to preserve and enjoy heirlooms.

Got advice or stories of your own? Post them here.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Thursday, May 10, 2007 3:43:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]