Thursday, February 22, 2018

Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101

Isaiah 30:8: "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever."

Are you documenting your family's history?

Are you putting off talking to the elders of your family because you believe there will be time?

Have you recorded their stories with an inexpensive "tape" recorder?

Have you gone through old photos with your family elders?

Have you written on the back of old photographs who the people are and when the photo was taken? Make sure to use archive-safe writing implements.

Have you scanned these photos to make sure later generations could see them?

Have you placed online your family tree and its documents?

Do you care about your family's history?

OK. You are serious about documenting your family history -- now what? You have files, photos, clippings, and possibly a family Bible. How do you organize it?

Easy-to-use software programs are available. You just type in names and dates, and the software makes the family links. You can add photos, etc.

Here are two: Family Tree Maker 2017 and Roots Magic 17.

The Caswell County Family Tree is maintained using Family Tree Maker 2017.

Buy a genealogy software program. They are cheap, and will help organize your family's history.

Now that you have purchased a genealogical software program, loaded all your information -- what next?

[And, it is possible to circumvent entirely a software program on your personal computer. You can capture your genealogy straight to the cloud. While I have a love-hate relationship with, it cannot be ignored. You can use as the sole means of recording your family's history.]

OK. You now have purchased a genealogical software program, entered all your great family information, and now want to share it. Why share it? Several reasons, but two are paramount, at least to me: (1) family and friends can see your work; and (2) you may attract others interested in your family that know what you do not.

Until recently, was the easiest and cheapest (read "free") way to place your genealogical research online. However, (which is owned by had a security breach last year, and is slowly coming back online. But, if it comes back to the way it was, this is the way to go -- as you will be part of the World Connect Project.

Most of the online genealogical sites will require you to upload a gedcom file. This is the standard genealogical file that allows different programs and websites to recognize the same information. Your genealogical software program will allow to export your work to a gedcom file.

Have you ever experienced the joy of turning over an old family photograph and seeing that someone cared enough to document the date, people, and place of the image? Why deprive your descendants of this joy? And once this step is taken, buy a scanner and capture digital files of the photos.

How to Scan

This may be jumping way too far ahead for those just contemplating a scanner purchase to archive family photographs, but I will post it now, and periodically (and you should print it):

1. Resolution. Set resolution at no less than 300 dpi (dots per inch). This is critical.

2. Crop. Crop the image so as not to waste file space. However, this can also be done later using appropriate software (but with loss of the overall image). I use PhotoShop. It is very robust, but I rarely use the complicated features.

3. Output Size. This is the most difficult one to explain until you get comfortable with your scanning software. It sounds crazy, but is important.

Set output size or print size to 8 inches wide. Note that this setting has nothing to do with the physical size of the original that you place on the scanner. It refers to the size of the final scanned image if you were to print it. This, along with resolution size, allows the image to be manipulated (especially if you want to zoom in on a part of the photo). And, of course, you need not print or otherwise use the image as 8-inches wide, but this captures more image data. I do not always use 8 inches, but know it is an industry scanning standard. When in doubt, make it big. You can reduce size, but not make it larger (without degrading the image).

4. Descreening. If you are scanning a printed item such as a magazine, postcard, yearbook, advertisement, etc., select the descreening feature of your scanner. This will reduce the moiré pattern (that cross-hatching stuff that appears in the background). This is hard to do using post-scanning software without losing a lot of detail.

5. File Format. TIFF without compression is best as it captures more of the image information. It easily can be converted to JPEG for other uses. However, I am lazy on this, and often scan directly to a .jpg file, realizing that .jpg is compressed and that I have lost valuable image information.

6. Atmosphere. Select a cold day, get a fire going, choose a beverage of your choice (hot tea and honey work great), and go at it. A pile of photos will be scanned in no time!

PS There are other adjustments (and capture methods, including raw), such as gutter shadow, backlight, grain correction, dust and scratch correction, and unsharp mask that we need not cover here. You will catch on.

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