Click Here to Receive New Posts
in Your Inbox

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

    Now Available

    Follow Me

    Make a Quick Memorial Day Facebook Collage



    Do you have Civil War soldier ancestors in your family tree? Or veterans from any branch of military service? You don’t need heirloom photographs or Photoshop to make an easy tribute to your family veterans. With a few photos and an online photo editor like PicMonkey, you can easily create a custom Facebook cover collage to celebrate Memorial Day or any special occasion. My Facebook cover collage recalls the origins of Memorial Day in "Decoration Day," a time to "decorate" the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers.

    Choose Your Images

    You’ll need three to six digital images for your collage. I like to use an odd number, usually three or five. A mix of horizontal and vertical works well; you’ll be able to move the image and crop out any areas you don’t want to use.

    Select images and place them in a folder on your desktop for easy access. If you don’t have enough photos in your own collection, try searching public domain images in the Library of Congress Photo Collection, Wikimedia Commons, or The Commons on Flickr.

    Create a Photo Collage With PicMonkey

    PicMonkey online photo editor is one of my favorite photo tools. I discovered PicMonkey while looking for a free and easy photo editor to tweak images for the family history photo projects in my new book, and now it’s my first choice for simple tasks like adding text or creating a simple collage.

    I’ve found it easiest to select my photos first, then open PicMonkey for editing. Here are the basic steps I used to make a Memorial Day custom cover for my Facebook Timeline.

    STEP 1: Go to and select the Collage option. 

    PicMonkey Website

    STEP 2: Choose the Facebook Collage and the template you’d like to use.

    PicMonkey Collage

    STEP 3: Select and import your photos. Drag and drop the photos into the template. Grab the edge of the photo placeholders on the dotted line and drag to change the photo size. Click the “X” to delete unwanted photo placeholders. 

    Go to the Background tab (the icon looks like an artist's palatte) to change the background color and adjust the width of the photo borders.


    When you’re happy with the photo placement, click the EDIT button at the top of the PicMonkey Window. You’ll get a warning screen that your image will sent to the Editor and photos can no longer be adjusted. That’s okay.

    PicMonkey Edit

    STEP 4: In the Editor, click on the Text tab and add your text. Select the font, size, color, and adjust placement.


    STEP 5: In this last step, you can SAVE your creation to your hard drive and upload it yourself to Facebook, or you can SHARE from PicMonkey directly to Facebook (Twitter, Pinterest or other locations). Make your selection by clicking on the SAVE or SHARE button at the top of the window. 


    I saved my collage as "Pierce," the middle quality option to my hard drive, and then uploaded it to Facebook. If you want to save an editable copy of your creation, you'll need to register for a PicMonkey account.

    Enjoy! You’ll find more easy project ideas for sharing your family history in my new book How to Archive Family Photos, now available from ShopFamilyTree and Step-by-step instructions with dozens of photos and screenshots guide you how to make 25 Easy Keepsake Projects, including photo calendars, books, collages, fabric, and home decor.

    Read more about Decoration Day and Memorial Day:


    DAM Workflows That Really Work

    Does your photo workflow work? Or is it stuck somewhere in the “kinda, maybe, could be better” world?

    Like any routine task, managing your digital image files is easier and more efficient if you figure out a streamlined process and fine-tune each step to make it your own. I use Adobe Lightroom to manage my image files, but it doesn’t matter if you manage your files with Windows or Mac digital folders or with another photo software program, all basic photo management workflows should include several basic steps.

    Pin This list
    to help you remember the steps
    in your DAM Photo Workflow

    When I first started working with my family photo collection, I struggled to find a routine that was simple to master yet accomplished all the necessary steps to digitize, backup, archive and preserve my photos. In those early days, I focused on digitizing and scanned images at an unnecessarily high resolution which made the overall process take hours instead of minutes. Today, with more photos captured on my smartphone and digital camera, I’ve added a step to my workflow that includes rounding up images from different devices so that I’m working with everything in one central location.

    Step 1: Capture, Step 2: Import

    Whether you’re working with scanned images or new photos of your friends and family captured on your smartphone or digital camera, it’s a good idea to collect ALL your images in one place. You might do this manually by dragging and dropping files to a folder, or you might set up an automated system with Dropbox, ThisLife by Shutterfly, or iDrive. 

    Gathering your photos in one location will

    • make it easier to backup and to archive your images
    • lessen the chance that a photo is “lost” or accidentally deleted
    • give you a visual overview of your image files
    • help you spot inconsistent filenames
    • make it easier for other computer users to understand and access your photo filing system

    You might think the last point is odd: why would you want anyone else to access your photos system? But, what if you’re traveling, ill, or unavailable? If you want your photo legacy to survive, your system needs to be understandable and accessible by others.

    Clip and save this infographic to remind you of each step in the overall photo workflow. Read more about DAM Workflows, including options for importing photos and setting up your own DAM system in my new book How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally.

    Available from ShopFamilyTree and

    P.S. You still have time to enter the Geneablogger's Giveaway for a free copy of my book, How to Archive Family Photos. Enter and Share for even more chances to win. Giveaway ends Wednesday May 13, 2015. ENTER TODAY!


    Win a Free Copy of My New Book: How to Archive Family Photos

    With Mother’s Day fast approaching, are you looking for a little something for that special mom in your life? If your mother loves sharing family photos and memories, and would like some help working with digital images, she’ll enjoy the step-by-step approach of my new book How to Archive Family Photos

    Beginning with the photos in your camera or smartphone, we work through the steps to 

    • move images from device to computer
    • select adequate storage 
    • add simple filenames
    • back up
    • add tags, captions, and keywords
    • archive
    • edit, export, and share

    But because most family historians have heritage family photos too, How to Archive Family Photos includes a section on scanning and digitizing old pictures. You’ll read how to choose the best scanner (or camera) for the job, how to set up your equipment, and then how to preserve those original photographs after digitizing.

    And finally, you’ll be inspired to share your family photos in a variety of projects, including collages, family history books, calendars, gifts, and more. Step-by-step instructions show you what to expect from different online photo services, and an entire section on Core Project Skills with Project Board worksheet will help you plan your next — and best — family photo project.

    WIN - WIN One for Mom, One for You

    Geneablogger founder Thomas MacEntee is hosting a Giveaway for a copy of my new book, with extra entries each time you Share the Giveaway information on social media. (You’ll see the “Share” options after you Enter the Giveaway). Read Thomas' review of my book HERE.

    Order Mom a Mother’s Day gift copy of How to Archive Family Photos with fast shipping from your favorite online bookseller, and enter to win a copy for your own library at the Geneabloggers Giveaway.

    Order from or ShopFamilyTree

    Enter the Geneabloggers Giveaway


    Disclosure Statement: Affiliate links are included in this post. Please see the Disclosure Page for more more information.


    The 5-Minute Mother’s Day Gift Every Mom Will Love

    Mosaic PhotoBook Cover

    Looking for a fast, easy, personal gift for someone special? All you need is

    • five minutes
    • a smartphone or tablet with the Mosaic App for iOS or Android
    • 20 photos
    • four days lead time for gift delivery

    Last summer, I wanted to send a small photo book as a thank you for a weekend visit to our nephew in Pennsylvania. My iPhone held snapshots from our tour of Hershey Park, fun blue-berry picking and next-morning pancake extravaganza with the kids, and a burger and sundae outing at the local diner.I selected my favorite photos, applied a little cropping and tweaked the color. Mosaic did the rest.

    1. Download and Install
      Download the Mosaic App for iPhone and Android from the app store for your device.
    2. Start Creating
      Click the Create a New Mosaic button and your camera roll will appear.
    3. Select Photos
      Choose the photos you want to use, or import photos from Facebook. Exactly twenty photos must be selected. Click NEXT when you’re finished selecting photos.
    4. Preview and order
      Tap the book to view the pages. Your photos will automatically fill the twenty-page book. Shuffle the cover photos displayed in the unique mosaic cutout. When you like the results, place your order.
    5. Enjoy!
      Sit back and know that your book will arrive in FOUR DAYS, in a custom gift box, delivered directly to your special someone. Allow more time for international shipping.

    TIP: Personalize your book with a printed message by using the ADD NOTE feature after the photos are placed on the pages. The finished Mosaic Book is square 7x7-inches, hardbound in black linen. Photos are printed in full color on smooth white paper. 

    How to Archive Family Photos Cover web

    And, if you want to a help your mom conquer her digital photo chaos and find over two dozen creative photo projects like this one, order my new book How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally, featuring 25 Easy Keepsake Projects.

    Available from ShopFamilyTree,, and your favorite booksellers.

    Disclosure: Affiliate book links help fund this website. I am not a Mosaic affiliate — I just like the product and want to share it with you!


    Digital Storage Strategies for Sunsets

    Isn’t it strange when Real Life follows a premonition of something that you thought might/could/maybe would happen? You know, like worrying about losing your voice before a big event only to come down with laryngitis, or thinking “wouldn’t it be great…” and then finding an entire ancestral family in a cemetery when you were only looking for a single collateral relative?

    I’m pretty obsessive about backing up my digital files in a “belts and suspenders” sort of way. So, there’s no surprise about my favorite tip for digital photo management, shared in my guest post 5 Tips to Control Family Photo Chaos at the Blog:

    #1 Tip for Controlling Family Photo Chaos: 
    Collect Your Photos in ONE Location

    This advice might seem counter-intuitive for someone committed to backing up digital files, but it’s really just the first step to a simple and easy photo management system. When digital files are scattered across devices, cloud services, hard drives, and storage media the simple task of backing up files becomes a true chore. Duplicate files run rampant. Versions become orphaned. Worse, it’s hard to know what has been backed-up and what hasn’t.

    Yesterday, my external hard drive dropped off my computer radar; it just disappeared from the Mac Finder. Rebooting didn’t seem to help. It was gone. Since ALL my images are in that ONE location, I could be in trouble. I routinely move photos off my smartphone and iPad. I transfer photos from SD media cards and delete them. I clean off flash drives after research trips. But, all my images were backed up to a second external hard drive (My Photo Vault) and backed up again to a Dropbox account. In addition, archived DVDs hold yet another backup copy. I like and use Cloud storage like Dropbox, OneDrive, and ThisLife by Shutterfly, but I also like the faster speeds of backing up large TIFF format files to a local drive.

    Instead of panicking, I could easily plug in my Photo Vault drive and copy the images to a new external hard drive, my new Photo Library. Because all my photos were stored in ONE Location and backed from there, restoring the damaged hard drive was a minor mishap and not a digital disaster. I took a break for lunch and returned to my desk to find my files copied and ready to go.

    What's your favorite digital image storage solution?

    Find more strategies to help you safely and easily manage your photo collection in How to Archive Family Photos, available now at ShopFamilyTree and

    Photo by Anton Chiang on Flickr

    Disclosure: This post offers affiliate links which help keep this website online.


    Highlights from How to Archive Family Photos

    How to Archive Family Photos

    Introducing my newest book. . . How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally. As you can see, the Family Curator poster baby is speechless with excitement!

    My author copies have just arrived, which means that pre-orders and early orders are now being shipped from the FamilyTree Books publisher's warehouse. Online resellers like are accepting pre-orders now, with an expected shipping date in May.

    While you're waiting for Mr. Postman to deliver your copy, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tip and projects along with highlights from the pages of How to Archive Family Photos.

    If your smartphone camera is full of genealogy and family photos, like mine, you’ll find 240 pages of ideas to help you get control of the digital clutter and enjoy your photo collection with family and friends.

    Here’s a preview of the Table of Contents:

    PART 1: Organize, includes digital imaging basics like selecting digital storage devices and photo management software, as well as step-by-step guidance for gathering your images in one central location.
    Chapter 1: Getting Started
    Chapter 2: From Camera to Computer
    Chapter 3: Photo-Management Software
    Chapter 4: Online Photo Services
    Chapter 5: Digital Photo Management Work Flow

    PART 2: Digitize, focuses on your heirloom photo collection and best practices for scanning and organizing your digital images.
    Chapter 6: Collection or Clutter?
    Chapter 7: Prepare to Digitize
    Chapter 8: Gear Up
    Chapter 9: Start Digitizing
    Chapter 10: Organize and Preserve Original Photos

    PART 3: Create, showcases ideas for 25 Keepsake Photo Projects to help you get your photos off the hard drive and into fun projects you can share with family and friends. 
    Chapter 11: Core Photo Project Skills
    Chapter 12: Card, Collage, and Scrapbooking Projects
    Chapter 13: Calendar Projects
    Chapter 14: Smartphone and Tablet Projects
    Chapter 15: Fabric and Home Décor Craft Projects
    Chapter 16: Photo Book Projects

    I hope enjoy reading and using How to Archive Family Photos as much as I enjoyed writing it!

     P.S. If you haven’t yet ordered the book, click HERE to save 20% and get FREE SHIPPING before May 1, 2015.


    Hello Texas! Come Say "Hi" at the Houston Genealogical Forum


    This weekend I’m traveling to the Lonestar State for the May meeting of the Houston Genealogical Forum. I’ll be presenting three sessions on preserving and digitizing family keepsakes, and signing copies of my new book How to Archive Family Photos.

    I’m excited to be visiting a state where my collateral relatives once lived and my grandmother frequently visited. Please introduce yourself and say “Howdy” if are able to attend the meeting.

    Hope to see you there!


    Please, Mr. Postman: Waiting for a Special Delivery of How to Archive Family Photos

    Photo of rural mailboxes

    It will feel Official when the paperback edition of my new book How to Archive Family Photos arrives at the door. If the preview PDF ebook is a hint, all the design details, charts, and photos that look gorgeous on my iPad will look great in the paperback edition too. So, I’m hanging out at the mailbox just waiting to see what today’s post brings my way.

    If you want to get in on an early copy, fresh from FamilyTree Books, this is a great time to take advantage of the FREE SHIPPING Special. Use the special Family Curator Coupon Code ARCHIVE20 and get another 20% off. But don’t wait too long. This offer expires April 30, 2015. ORDER HERE

    How to Archive Family Photos Cover web

    How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally is a practical handbook filled with solutions and strategies for organizing your growing photo collection.

    You’ll find:

    • practical ideas for managing smartphone, camera, and downloaded digital images
    • tips to help you set up a file naming and computer folder organizing system
    • best practices for digitizing your heirloom family photos
    • and MORE

    I loved creating the 25 Easy Keepsake Projects featured in my new book, and I think we came up with a great variety of  projects to inspire creatives at all levels of experience. From custom printed photos on fabric to designing a simple online collage or FaceBook Cover, I hope you’ll find new ways to showcase your favorite family photos.

    Order from ShopFamilyTree before April 30, 2015 and get FREE US SHIPPING and 20% off with coupon code ARCHIVE20.

    Also available for Pre-Order at

    Photo by Peter Mackey, “New mailbox - gas bottle cat.” CC License


    Hello, O-HI-O! When You Return to Your Ancestral State, Is It Reverse Migration?

    Auklet flock Shumagins 1986

    Naaah. It’s probably just Family History Travel! But, watever it’s called, I am very excited to be attending the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in Columbus, Ohio, April 9-11, most especially since discovering that I have at least three native Ohio ancestors from Athens County, Ohio. If their census reporting is accurate, they may even be among the “First Families of Ohio"!

    I’m looking forward to my first visit to the Buckeye State, and to presenting three sessions on preserving and digitizing family keepsakes. Be sure to say “Hello!” if you’re in Columbus for this great event, and please let me know if you have any tips on the Athens County Squires or Lampson families.

    Squires robert lindsay

    Robert Lindsay Squires, born 1836 Athens County, Ohio
    died 1911 Gardner, Johnson County, Kansas 

    I don’t know too much about the Squires-Lampson family, except that they moved to Johnson County, Kansas about 1864 settling in Gardner, Kansas where they raised their large family and lived the rest of their lives. R.L., as Robert was known, was the son of Robert Squires and Cecelia Dean, both born Ohio. R.L. outlived his wife Emma by 16 years, marrying for the second time at the young age of 63.

    Squires lampson

    Emma Lampson Squires with her youngest daughter, Emma, born 1884.

    Emma Frances Lampson Squires was born 1837 in Athens County, Ohio to Phillip W. Lampson, born Ohio, and Polly Tracy. She died in Gardner, Kansas at the age of 58, the mother of 12 children.


    More News from Past Student Genealogy Grant Recipients

    Last week, I was excited to share the latest news from three recipients of the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Student Genealogy Grant. Here’s what’s new from two more young genealogist grant awardees:

    Mike Savoca

    Mike Savoca is an expert in onsite Italian research and recipient of the 2013 Student Grant award. He is a recent graduate of Kean University where he majored in History, and is considering working toward an advanced degree in archival studies. Mike recently worked on an archeological dig in a town located in upstate New York where his grandmother’s family once lived (pictured above) and writes, “It was amazing to be able to be a small part in unearthing physical history first hand!"

    Elyse Doerflinger is a graduate of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Elementary Education and is currently a first grade teacher at a charter school in Inglewood, in Los Angeles. She is a popular blogger and speaker at genealogy events in the Southern California area and writes frequently for genealogy magazines and publications. Elyse received the Student Genealogy Grant in 2012 and used the funds toward genealogy research and archival supplies for her family photo and document collection.

    Read more about the Freeman Student Genealogy Grant here, and encourage young genealogists to apply for the 2015 Grant Award today. Application deadline is April 10, 2015.


    Where Are They Now? Past Genealogy Grant Recipients Check In

    Five young genealogists have received the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Student Genealogy Grant and SCGS Genealogy Jamboree Scholarship since the award’s launch in 2011. It’s not surprising that each grantee was bitten by the genealogy bug at an early age and the family history fever is still burning brightly in each young researcher. Here’s the latest news from Anthony, A.C., and Paul:

    photo of Anthony Ray

    Anthony Ray was the first Student Genealogy Grant recipient in 2011; at that time he was a music major at West Coast Baptist College (graduated 2013) and active in the Antelope Valley Genealogical Society. Today, Anthony continues advanced musical studies while teaching voice and instrumental music, and is a popular genealogy presenter specializing in church records and Mexican research.


    A.C. Ivory, 2012 grant recipient, attended Jamboree from his home in Salt Lake City, Utah where he attended the University of Utah (graduating 2015). A.C. has worked as a professional genealogist for ProGenealogists in Salt Lake City, and is now the Training Manager directing continuing education/development for current employees and training new members of the ProGen team. A.C. was a recent presenter at RootsTech 2015.

    Photo of Paul Woodbury

    Paul Woodbury, 2014 grant awardee, attended Brigham Young University and graduated with degrees in Genetics and Family History. He is currently working as a private contract researcher for Legacy Tree Genealogists, DNA Detectives, and private clients. Paul is a frequent presenter and instructional assistant at DNA and Genealogy Institutes.

    2015 Applications Now Open

    Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Student Genealogy Grant. See the Student Grant Page for more information. Don't delay, the deadline to recieve all materials is April 10, 2015.


    HoverCam Document Scanner Review: Fast, Easy, VERY Portable

    As part of the research for my new book How to Archive Family Photos, I've been testing and reviewing all kinds of scanners and digitizing devices hoping to find the perfect tool for working with fragile old documents and photos. It seems I've been looking for a very long time. I want something fast and simple that delivers high-quality digital images in a variety of file formats suitable for preservation, research, and archiving. I like my Epson flatbed scanner for many digitizing projects, but I want a solution for working with oversize albums and other fragile items.

    I thought my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i  might be the answer, and it IS a wonder workhorse for office paperwork, dis-bound books, and literature. But I'm not ready to put my grandmother's 1917 marriage certificate through the rollers.

    I thought the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner  might do it all, and it IS my portable scanner of choice for anything that fits on the 4 x 6-inch scanner bed. The included Scan and Stitch software is reliable and produces excellent results, but it's not a practical solution for digitizing hundreds of oversize photo album pages, newspapers, and documents.

    I was ready to set up a permanent copy-stand solution with a digital camera, tripod, and lights when I learned about the HoverCam Solo 8 Document Camera  from Pathway Innovations and Technologies, Inc. in San Diego, California. Document Cameras have been popular classroom tools for some time, but only lately have advances in technology made the device a scanner alternative.

    HoverCam kindly sent me the HoverCam Solo 5 model to preview, followed by the newestHoverCam Solo 8 Document Camera  model featuring an 8 megapixel document camera and integrated device software. At the InfoComm show in Las Vegas featuring nearly 1,000 exhibitors, the Solo 8 won Best New Document Camera of 2014.

    Document cameras are typically used as demonstration devices and aren't known for smooth video or pristine pixels. The HoverCam Solo 8 changes all that with:

    • 8 megapixel camera
    • 30 frames per second refresh rate
    • 3.0 USB connectivity

    HoverCam and the Family Historian

    I have a lot of family documents and photos to digitize. A LOT. I've used a digital camera with and without a tripod and remote setup. I've used my flatbed scanner. But both solutions require a home setup for best results. I keep thinking, "Wouldn't it be great to have a portable digitizing device that's as easy as a camera but doesn't need the tripod?"

    HoverCam document cameras are powered by a single USB cable connection to your computer. I set up the Solo 8 on my dining room table connected to my Apple MacBook Air, and then I tried the device connected to a Dell Windows Laptop. It runs on either Mac or PC. I used it at home to digitize large photo album pages and various photos and documents. I packed it in a small tote and tried it out at the SCGS Library with books off the shelf. It was easy to set up, and simple to use.

    The device has two connection ports on the back side: one installs the software on your computer, and after installation the other port connects the cable to your computer for scanning.

    The articulating arm provides support for the camera and integrated LED lights (low and high). The entire camera folds up to fit in a briefcase and weighs under 3 lbs.  

    Digitizing With the Solo 8

    Most portable digitizing options provide images in JPG or PDF only. The large file size required for archival TIFF images makes it an impractical file format for smartphones and devices that store digital images on an SD card or flash drive. Because the HoverCam is connected directly to your computer, the device software can take advantage of the computer's processing power and hard drive storage capacity. I was able to digitize TIFF file format images, as well as JPG and PDF.

    The camera design provides a sturdy support for the camera, eliminating the need to carry a tripod or copy stand. This is a great feature.

    The lights can be switched on and off, low or high, to add extra illumination. I achieved the best results, however, with good daylight coming in through large windows. The HoverCam lights were fine with most paper, but when copying photographs or glossy paper, the reflection caused a reflective "hot spot."

    Software Features

    I've used enough different scanners and digitizing devices to know that the software is as important as the hardware in achieving consistent high-quality scans efficiently and easily. The HoverCam Flex software is available for both Mac and PC, but I've found more features in the PC edition, particularly the auto-scanning motion and time activated feature. 

    Some of the software features I especially like, include:

    • Option for TIFF format
    • Cropping 
    • Ability to rotate, enlarge for detail, and adjust alignment 
    • Autofocus, and focus-lock
    • Auto-Scanning feature takes an image at a set interval, or by motion-detection

    The Automatic Scanning feature is unique among my current digitizing equipment. Currently, this works only with the PC version of the HoverCam Flex software. I set it to take a picture every 3 seconds and turned the pages of a photo album to quickly create images of each page. 

    My first attempts to use the HoverCam Solo 5 camera and software last summer were frustrating. I didn't know that the Mac software lacked many features (now included) and I was disappointed by the quality of the 5 megapixel images delivered with the Solo 5 model. The improved 8 megapixel Solo 8 model is a vast improvement for pure scanning, and the video quality is much better as well. New instructional videos at the HoverCam website provide a good introduction to the device features, and most functions are fairly intuitive if you've used scanning software before.

    Professional Genealogist Barry Kline recently reviewed the HoverCam Solo 8 in the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly and commented, "The Solo 8 retails for $349, which is a mid-range price for document cameras currently on the market. However, the Solo 8 is no average document camera. It could easily become one of the most versatile tools a genealogist own."

    Digital Image Quality 

    The bottom line, of course, is image quality. How does the HoverCam Solo 8 compare to other digitizing methods typically used by genealogists? I made several sample images with my Epson Flatbed Perfection V500 Scanner and with both HoverCam models, the Solo 5 and Solo 8.

    Photograph Scan Sample

    Right Click to View Large Image Photo Comparison of HoverCam Solo 5, Solo 8, and Epson Scanner

    The color variation is the most noticeable difference between the images. A closer look will show more detail in the Epson scan, as compared with either of the other images, but overall I thought the HoverCam Solo 8 provided a very good digital image. 

    Document Scan Sample

    I have over 1,000 pages of handwritten letters yet to be digitized. I don't really need a pristine image for restoration and touchups, like I might want with a damaged photograph. Instead, I would like what I call a "research quality" digital image. This image needs to be sharp and clear so the handwriting can be easily read, and it needs to be in a print-quality resolution so I can later print out the document for reference. The best format would be archival TIFF, saving me the trouble of file conversion to archive the images for preservation.

    In these two scans, I compared the quality of the HoverCam Solo 5 (5 megapixel document camera) with the HoverCam Solo 8 (8 megapixel document camera). 

    Right Click Image to view full size Document Comparison of Hovercam Solo 8 vs. Solo 5

    Both images are clear and easy to read. The 8 megapixel image is sharper, but the color cast is definitely tinted. The original paper is actually closer to the Solo 5 image. This may be due to the available light. I spent an entire day testing the two cameras and natural daylight lessened throughout the day. The Solo 8 image was made with the integrated camera flash; the Solo 5 image was made with flash off using natural daylight. I think this makes a good test case because many times, we don't have the luxury of working near good natural light in a research facility and we will need to use a flash. For research purposes, both images are more than adequate. For archival purposes, however, I do prefer the more natural color achieved without using the camera flash. With the flash turned off, the Solo 8 produces an image with similar color to the Solo 5 image displayed above.

    Newspaper Scan Sample

    My final sample included a 1964 newspaper clipping. And yes, the newsprint is just about this color. I think the Solo 8 did a great job with this little clipping, providing a cropped, ready to print/archive/transcribe image. The HoverFlex software also offers OCR capability, which I tried with this news clipping, with limited success. The clipping just doesn't offer the clarity needed for a good OCR transcription.

    HoverCam Solo8 Samples 3

    The HoverCam and Genealogy

    A mobile document camera is really a great digitizing tool for the researcher or family historian seeking a solution that is:

    • fast
    • mobile
    • versatile
    • affordable

    The HoverCam Solo 8 is a useful device for:

    • The family historian who wants to scan individual pages in dozens of photo albums and scrapbooks to preserve the context and captions of photos and memorabilia.
    • A researcher needing a portable camera/tripod/remote shutter solution that will be permitted in institutions such as the National Archives in Washington, D.C. or other archives and libraries.
    • A genealogist digitizing fragile handwritten letters or documents.
    • The archivist who wants to quickly digitize entire books or other bound material.
    • A researcher looking to enlarge an item, signature, or detail for closer study.
    • Anyone moving toward a paperless office by converting a large amount of paperwork and books to digital images.

    For the genealogist who has few physical items to digitize and who primarily downloads digital images from the internet, any kind of scanner is probably unnecessary or seldom needed. The flatbed scanning capability of an All-in-One Printer-Scanner-Copier combined with the occasional use of a smartphone with scanner app may be very adequate for occasional digitizing needs.

    As new models of the HoverCam Solo series are introduced, older models drop in price. The HoverCam Solo 5, 5 megapixel document camera is under $300 at, the HoverCam Solo 8  model with an 8 megapixel camera runs about $349. The camera comes with integrated software, ready to start digitizing your next family history project. 

    Note: Pathway Innovations kindly sent their newest document cameras at my request, with no obligation for a positive review. All testing, comments, and evaluations are my own. If you decide to purchase a document camera using my Amazon link, The Family Curator receives a small percentage which helps defray website costs. Thank you for your support.


    Student Genealogists Invited to Apply for Genealogy Grant

    Levenick woodbury

    Paul Woodbury, recipient of the 2014 Freeman Student Genealogy Grant with Denise Levenick, Grant Committee Chair at the 45th Annual SCGS Jamboree Scholarship Breakfast. (Photo by Pieter Breitner)

    The Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant Committee is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Student Genealogy Grant. Student genealogists between the ages of 18 and 23 are eligible to apply for the $500 cash award.

    The 2015 Southern California Genealogy Jamboree sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society will provide a full conference registration to the SCGS Jamboree in June where the award will be presented. This is a unique opportunity for a young genealogist to attend a premiere regional conference and meet genealogists from throughout the nation.

    The Student Grant was established in 2010 by family and friends in memory of Suzanne Winsor Freeman, family historian and life-long volunteer, and an enthusiastic annual attendee at the SCGS Jamboree. Past recipients include Elyse Doerflinger (Lomita, California), A.C. Ivory (Salt Lake City, Utah), Anthony Ray (Palmdale, California), Michael Savoca (Toms River, New Jersey), and Paul Woodbury (Provo, Utah).

    “The Student Genealogy Grant pays tribute to Suzanne Freeman’s dedication to youth volunteerism and family history by awarding the annual cash grant to a young genealogist attending the SCGS Annual Genealogy Jamboree, Southern California’s premiere regional genealogy conference,” notes Denise Levenick, committee chair and Freeman’s daughter.

    We are especially grateful to Jamboree for providing a three-day conference registration to the grant recipient,” she adds. “SCGS is truly a leader in conference organizations by encouraging youth involvement in genealogy through the popular Kids’ Camp Interest Group and through the student grant project.

    Born in Olathe, Kansas, Suzanne Winsor (Brown) Freeman moved to Orange County, California with her family in the early 1930s where she attended school and lived most of her life. She developed a strong interest in family history sparked by the stories of her mother’s early life in Colorado and Kansas. After retirement Suzanne moved to Green Valley, Arizona where she was active in the local genealogy society. She enjoyed returning to Southern California each year in June to attend the SCGS Jamboree. Suzanne passed away after a brief illness in Tucson, Arizona August 28, 2010.

    The $500 cash award pays tribute to these interests by awarding the annual cash grant to a young genealogist attending the Jamboree. In addition, a complimentary three-day conference registration to the Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree will be provided by the Jamboree conference.

    Any genealogist who is between the ages of 18 and 23 and is a current student (full-time or part-time) is eligible to apply. The recipient must attend the 2015 SCGS Jamboree in Burbank, California to receive the award. 

    Funding for the cash award is provided by the family grant program; Jamboree registration is provided by the conference. Individual contributions to the grant program are welcome at the Student Grant Webpage.

    Application deadline is April 10, 2015 midnight Pacific Daylight Time.Application details and forms are available at the Student Grant Webpage

    Suzanne Winsor Freeman’s Obituary is available here.


    Looking for A Few New-to-You Genealogy Blogs?

    The Family Curator is delighted to be included in CrestLeaf's new list of 14 Genealogy Blogs You Might Not Be Reading. . . but Should! 

    From Ancestors in Apron Strings to Young and Savvy Genealogists, the alphabetical list of online family history reading offers a wide variety of topics and subject matter. Thanks, Crestleaf!


     Infographic Created by


    About Genealogy Conferences and Salt Lake City. . . One More Thing

    Before we wave farewell to February and the flurry of travel to and from Salt Lake City for RootsTech, the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference, and various other personal and/or sponsored research trips to Salt Lake City, I have to mention just few more highlights that can't be overlooked.

    It didn't happen in the Salt Palace Convention Center or in the classrooms at SLIG. It wasn't part of a gaggle of genealogists gathered for dinner or lunch. 

    Salt Lake City is the Genealogist's Disneyland because it is home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Library, otherwise known as The FHL, a deep and rich resource of worldwide family history information open to anyone from anywhere in the world. Yes, open, free of charge, to researchers who are not church members, yet are encouraged and assisted by LDS volunteers and staff at this world-class facility.

    FHL Reflection

    Main door of the Family History Library reflecting a view of Temple Square across the street.

    Each time I walked through the doors of the FHL I was greeted by friendly smiles and welcoming voices. And the thousands of genealogists visiting during January and February were greeted the same way. Unlike some libraries, museums, and other research facilities, there are no donation boxes, admission fees, or user forms to complete. The operating hours are expansive and the library is clean, well-lit, and well staffed.

    The Family History Library truly is a special place. 

    • Thank you, FHL volunteers and staff for the many wonderful hours I was able to spend browsing in the stacks, at the film readers, and working at the library tables during the conference and institute weeks this winter. 
    • Thank you, young assistants in the ScanPro line worked so earnestly to make sure my scanned film was "picture perfect."
    • And, Thank You, LDS Church for your all-inclusive policy to open the Family History Library doors to all.
    Because the FHL doors are open to everyone, I was able to locate my Vermont ancestors' birth records, view land deeds from my great-grandfather's Kansas farm, and read the shaky handwriting of a 17th century Connecticut church record. I found enough raw data to keep me busy for months, or at least until my next visit.

    It can't be easy to be a gracious host to over 22,000 visitors in one February week, or hundreds of avid researchers during an intensive institute, but the FHL does it well. Thank you.

    Find us on Google+