Scanning Old Photos: Tips from a Genealogy Gems Listener

Dickson photo propertiesThank you to Genealogy Gems Premium member Scott Scott D. in Roswell, Georgia, USA, who recently sent in these hard-won tips for scanning old photos:

  1. I start with the assumption that I want to preserve order of my pictures. I also am not so worried about the filename since I can use tags within the photo for details.
  2. I use an Epson scanner.  After years and years of having a dozen scanners, I find the Epson software the easiest to use. It can scan multiple photos from the bed at one time, and it will automatically name photos according to whatever scheme you give it.
  3. When I scan, all of the photos are named Surname-Sequence-Side-Version-description. So, I have photos from my Bailey family named bailey-0310-f-v00.tif for photo number 310 in the Bailey group, front side, version 0 (which I use for the initial scan).  Next to it is bailey–0310-f-v01.jpg. Every time I change the photo and save it, I increment the version number.  No old version get thrown away. The back of the photo is bailey-0310-r-v00.tif.  Nearby these is bailey-0305-f-v00-Viola-1950s.jpg, which adds a bit of description. But, since it’s at the end, things always sort correctly.
  4. For documents, I use almost exactly the same scheme, but instead of just f and r for front and rear, I use p00 for page number of the document.  If I collapse a set of tif pages into a pdf, I just use the first document number for it.
  5. Finally, I use tags inside the pictures for surnames, places, names, etc.  Turns out Windows Explorer is actually quite handy at allowing you to edit photo tags without having to have any other programs. [He notes that, at least in Windows 7, his experience shows that the Windows Explorer search function does search the tags in the metadata.  To create tags, just right-click on the image. Click Properties. You’ll see a box like this the one shown to the left of the photo in this post. Click “Tags” and enter the keywords you’ll use to search for this photo.]

ipad_store_imagePrefer to use your mobile device to scan old photos? Learn about great apps for capturing family history images in my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.

Digitizing Colonial America: Help Is On The Way for Your Colonial Genealogy

If you’ve got British colonial roots in North America, you know how tough it can be to learn more about your family during that time. That’s why I was excited to read a

The Beaver Map, 1715. By Special Collections Toronto Public Library. Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons.

recent article in the  Harvard Gazette.

According to the article, plans are afoot to digitize and make available millions of British colonial documents. Yep, you read that right. Millions. There are still that many colonial-era documents sitting largely untouched in public and private archives, far from the reach of the everyday genealogist.

The Gazette reports not one but two major digitizing projects underway relating to British colonial documents in the U.S. Harvard University is leading the first project, which is already funded and underway. It will capture around 30 million pages of 17th- and 18th-century material from more than 1600 manuscript collections at 12 different Harvard repositories.

As if that’s not good enough news, a much larger project is in the works, too. A larger-scale Colonial Archives of North America has plans to digitally assemble pre-Revolutionary War material from Harvard and several historical societies, archives and Libraries in New England, New York and beyond (including Montreal). I was pleased to see that records relating to businesses, poverty, public health and indigent care will form part of the anticipated collection. These kinds of documents talk about everyday folks and their living conditions. Just what we want for our colonial genealogy. This second project is not funded yet but researchers are confident it will be.

Meanwhile, check out online resources like these for colonial documents:


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