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Contact me at Mom25dogs@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Tuesday Tip - Organizing Digital Genealogy Files and Manipulating Digital Genealogy Photos

Tuesday’s Tip is a daily blogging prompt at Geneabloggers.com used by many genealogy bloggers to help them post content on their sites. What advice would you give to another genealogist or family historian, especially someone just starting out? Remember when you were new to genealogy? Wasn’t it great to find tips and tricks that worked for others? Post your best tips at your genealogy blog on Tuesday’s Tip.

My tip today is how to use your digital camera or scanner and software for your genealogy photos or scans. When I first started, I would make paper copies (aka hard copy) on the copying machine or printers at the library of documents or book pages as backup of my research. I.e. whenever I found a family on a microfilm of the 1880 U.S. Census, I would send it to the printer. Or if I found some information such as a will of an ancestor in a Will Index book then I would copy that page on the library copy machine. Now, I take along my camera and take photos of pages (be sure to take a photo of the title page too) or screen shots.

Now I am using Ancestry.com instead of going to the library to look at books and microfiche. From Ancestry.com, you can save a digital copy of that census page or record. You can save it to your Ancestry.com "Shoebox" (a digital filing cabinet that comes with your subscription) or to your computer. So I no longer keep hard copies of these things.

Then there are the photos of gravestones, cemeteries, churches, family homes, maps, etc. All this, I keep digitally.

There are two things I do to keep these digital files of documents and photos organized. One is to develop a filing system on my computer and the other is to make sure I make notations on these photos. Let's look at both of these.

Digital Filing Cabinet

Your computer can be organized using "folders" and "sub folders". You probably know of some of these folders already. They are "My Documents" and "My Pictures". You may also have "My Music" and "My Videos". These are on your hard drive and it's where you should already be putting your documents, pictures, music and videos. But you can further organize these main folders.

If you went into your company's front door and then walked to the Human Resources department and then to the filing cabinets that line one wall and went to the filing cabinet that is labelled "Employees" and looked in the top drawer labelled "A-B" and found the hanging file folder that was labelled "Aa-Ab" and then found the file folder labelled "John Aaron", then you have an idea of how to organize files.

How do we apply this to our computer? Well, your hard drive is the physical building (just like your company's physical building). The main folder of "My Documents" would be like that Human Resources department. Within that "My Documents" folder you can create sub-folders just like those filing cabinets ranging against the wall in the Human Resources department. Then, within the subfolder you can create sub-subfolders and sub-sub-subfolders just like the filing cabinet drawers and the hanging file folder in the example I gave you.

How do we create these subfolders? In File Explorer, you click on your hard drive, usually the C: drive unless you are working from a different hard drive. For instance I have a very large external hard drive (4 Terrabytes) hooked to my laptop via a USB cable and I use that as my main working drive. With Windows 10, you will select "This PC" which is essentially how they've organized the C: drive for you. Look for the folder, "My Documents" on the left side of the window and click on this to select "My Documents". Now "My Documents" is open in File Explorer on the right hand side of the window. Place your mouse inside the right hand side of the window and right click. Select "New" from the little menu that comes up. Now type a name for the new subfolder you want to create.

Here is how I have my folders and subfolders organized for genealogy:

This PC -> My Documents -> Genealogy Documents

So within "My Documents" is a subfolder named "Genealogy Documents".

Now I click on the subfolder of "Genealogy Documents" to open that sub folder in the right hand side of the window in File Explorer. Since this is a brand new subfolder, there is nothing in that right side of the window. I place my mouse indicator in that empty space and right click and create new sub-subfolders.

This PC -> My Documents -> Genealogy Documents -> Smith Family

I create subfolders for each family line that I research. So as I begin working on another family line, I create a subfolder for that family line in my Genealogy Documents folder. Right now I have probably 50+ folders and I add new ones as I work on new lines.

I do the same thing in the "My Pictures" folder. I created a subfolder called "Genealogy Photos" and then family folders within that one.

This PC
...My Documents
......Genealogy Documents
.........Smith Family
..........Doe Family
..........Harris Family

This PC
...My Pictures
......Genealogy Photos
.........Smith Family
.........Doe Family
.........Harris Family

Manipulating Digital Files

I use Adobe Photoshop Elements as the software that I use for my photo software. I use it to try and repair bad photos, for my digital scrapbooking and for labelling photos. There are other photo editing software that can do more or less than Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Let's look at this. For repairing photos, I'm not as proficient and my software is not as expensive and versatile to repair photos by too much. I can lighten, darken, remove some blemishes, etc. I consider that simple repairs. But some photos are so damaged that it takes more than what I can do. For instance I have no idea how to repair this photo. It seems to be a photocopy of an original. It's very grainy. It has some weird green splotches and plenty of blemishes. One thing to keep in mind is if you need to do extensive repairs, you need as good a digital copy of the file as you can get. The more pixels the better. So, if you are scanning a photo that needs a lot of work, be sure to scan it at the highest pixels or dots as possible. You can select the best resolution on your scanner and it will take more time to scan and will create a large file size.

Now, this photo I could do some work on. For instance, I can crop the photo so that I have the woman alone and/or the man alone. I can straighten the picture so that they are straight. I can lighten or darken. I can change it to Black and White.

Another way I use Adobe Photoshop Elements is to add information to a photo. I like to keep one digital copy of a photo without any labelling. But I also like to add labelling and save it as a separate file. Here are some examples:

This is a census page and I circles the pertinent family and added the source reference information in red at the top. I did this using a text box.

On this death certificate, I shaded the important information.

Here is a photo I took of my husband at the gravestone of one of his ancestors. This cemetery is nearly lost, in the woods on private property. I wanted to be sure I documented the GPS coordinates. I labelled this photo with where this cemetery is located, who is buried there, their relationships, the inscriptions.

Here is the same cemetery but not just one stone. Many of the graves are unmarked graves so I placed arrows in the photo indicating them.

In this group photo, I labelled the names of those in the group. If I had any further information, I would have noted that too such as what the occasion was, where the photo was taken, date it was taken, etc. But I don't have that information.

In this photo, I put the address of the homeplace and whose homeplace it was.

Another group photo but only one person is a family member. I used an arrow and text box to label this photo.

This is a map of the small town where I lived as a child. I was able to locate and shade places I remember and I labelled these places.

This is not a photo. I actually used Adobe Photoshop Elements to create a diagram of the old farmhouse we lived in while we lived in Elizabethton, TN. I added everything I could remember even to the furniture placement. Then I saved it as a .jpg (photo format) file.

Finally, here is a digital scrapbook page I created. This is a photo of my mother and a baby ME in front of the pink and white trailer we lived in before moving to Elizabethton, TN.

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