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    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.

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    Wednesday
    Feb052014

    Try This for RootsTech2014: Close Up of Camera Setup for Microfilm to Megapixels

    Camera Setup

    After reading my article last week about using my Samsung WB350 wifi digital camera to photograph microfilm images, John H asked for a closer view of the camera mount setup. Here you go, John!

    As you can see, the camera is attached to the Joby Gorillapod tripod and the flexible legs of the Gorillapod are manuevered to hold the camera in position over the image. It did take a bit of experimentation to find the best way to adjust the legs. I found that two legs on top helped position the camera and one leg flexed to the underside of the ledge helped counter-balance the camera weight.

    I also tried the regular Joby tripod screw mount and the adjustable smartphone mount. The smarthphone mount gave a little extra reach to the camera and made it easier to adjust.

    Hope this helps! Have you tried a similar setup with your digital camera or smartphone to photograph microfilm images?

     

    Saturday
    Feb012014

    Microfilm to Megapixels: Use a Digital Camera as a Film Scanner

    The line to use the microfilm scanning machines at the Family History Library is longer than the line for the Women's Restroom at the Superbowl. Microfilm is cool. Digital copies of microfilm is way cool. But, it's RootsTech week and the Family History Library is packed with eager researchers. What to do?

    I was recently in Salt Lake City for ten days with the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), the Association of Professional Genealogy Professional Management Conference (APG PMC), and a bit of personal research. It was a perfect time to beta-test a new digitizing workflow.

    My equipment included the Samsung WB250F Wi Fi Digital Camera, the Joby Gorillapod with camera mount, and my iPhone 4S. And a pad and pencil for notes.

    My goal: to find a fast, efficient method to digitize microfilm images. 

    Camera vs. Film Scanner?

    Yes, the FHL microfilm scanners produce clear, crisp images at no cost to the user. But, sometimes -- like during busy conference weeks -- there can be a waiting line for time on the machines.

    And, yes, smartphone and tablet cameras with scanning apps can do a good job digitizing any image. But, I wondered if there was a method that might be faster, yield sharp images, and be easy to use.

    The Samsung WF250F is advertised as a compact 14 megapixel digital camera that performs especially well in low-light conditions. But, for me, it's standout feature is WiFi connectivity making it possible to use a smartphone as a remote shutter release. 

    I attached the camera to my Joby Gorillapod using a universal smartphone mount, and wrapped the legs of the Gorillapod around the film ledge of the microfilm reader. The camera was suspended above the image table.

     

    This photo shows the camera suspended above the image viewing table
    with my iPhone acting as a Remote Shutter Release. The
    smartphone shows the same view as the camera viewfinder.

     

    Next, I activated the WifFi link on the camera, connected to my iPhone and . . . the image viewed by the camera lens was now shown on my iPhone. The iPhone app allowed me to zoom in for the picture, adjust focus, and remotely activate the shutter. This was the most important feature. 

    The resulting photo was clear and readable. Certainly acceptable for reading, transcribing, and extracting information.

     

    Here is the image taken with the Samsung/WiFi setup. My iPhone is in the foreground.
    The image is certainly clear enough to be used on my computer for reading and
    transcribing. Click on the image for a full-size version
    .

    But, was it "as good as" the microfilm scanner? No. But using the camera at the microfilm reader was undoubtedly faster than unloading the film, going over to the microfilm scanner, reloading, and scanning images. 

    When Time is Limited

    My average digitizing time was about thirty images in ten minutes, or three photos per minute. With one hand on the microfilm handle to forward the film, and one hand holding my phone with my thumb ready to hit the Shutter button, I was able to quickly film the entire index to a Vermont Land Record book. The images are definitely clear enough to be read and transcribed.

    I may not use this method for all digitizing, but when the library is busy or I need to make many images from the same film, a WiFi camera is a cool tool for the digitizing toolkit.

     

    Friday
    Jan312014

    RootsTech 2014 Syllabus Now OnLine

    Roots tech

    RootsTech has posted the full syllabus for all scheduled event presentations online at the event website Syllabus page. 

    The website notes that the syllabus is "Available for a "Limited Time." Material is posted individually by session and in an all-session zip file download. This is undoubtedly good news for anyone who wants to preview the sessions or is unable to attend the conference and wants to know more about the topics and speakers.

    I will be presenting three sessions and participating in a panel discussion with Lisa Louise Cooke and Allison Dolan --

    Thursday, 10:30 a.m.
    Scrivener for Family Historians: Organize, Share, and Write Your Family History  RT1206 Syllabus

    Friday, 10:30 a.m.
    Panel Discussion: Self-Professed Uber-Organized Freaks Talk Genealogy Tech Organization with Lisa Louise Cooke, Allison Dolan, Denise Levenick
    RT 1417 Syllabus

    Friday, 2:30 p.m.
    The Paper-Less Genealogist: Organizing Your Genealogy with Digital Files GS 1208 Syllabus

    Friday, 4:30 p.m.  
    How to Scan an Elephant: Digitizing Your Family History from Artifact to Zombie RT1205 Syllabus

    I hope to see you at Roots Tech, but if you can't make it to Salt Lake City, stay tuned for highlights at The Family Curator.

    Monday
    Jan132014

    What's Better Than a Genealogy Conference in Salt Lake City?

    Answer: A genealogy conference AND a week-long genealogy institute AND research at the Family History Library!

    I love this banner outside the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

    The snow was falling Wednesday morning when I arrived in Salt Lake City, which means only one thing to a genealogist -- it's a great day for The Library! And I wasn't the only one who thought so. Colleagues from all corners of the country were busily working at the research tables and film readers.It always takes me a good half-day to get re-acquainted with where I am and what I need to do, but every visit to the FHL makes my orientation easier. I had a list of films and filming "projects" ready to go and was able to make good progress.

    Unfortunately, fellow Californian Sheri Fenley was stuck in fog and fuel-delays and missed most of the research day, but she was around for a great meal at The Red Iguana with SLIG Coordinator Christy Fillerup and friends.

     

    Meeting new and old friends for dinner. (Photo thanks to Adele Marcum)

    Arrived at last, The Educated Genealogist Sheri Fenley.

    Friday and Saturday, January 10 and 11, the Association of Professional Genealogists' Professional Management Conference offered two days of networking, workshops, and presentations for the 280 attending APG members. Keynote sessions by D. Joshua Taylor and Judy G. Russell kicked-off each day and a lively dessert reception offered time for networking with colleagues.

    Michelle Goodrum, Elissa Scalise Powell, and Shelley Bishop
    at the APT-PMC Dessert Reception, with Barry Kline in the background!

    Kimberly T. Powell, of Oakdale, Pennsylvania, was introduced as the incoming APG President, succeeding Kenyatta Barry of Santa Monica, California. Cathy Desmarais, CG, of Vermont will serve as APG vice president; Janice Prater of Denver, Colorado will serve as secretary; Joan Peake of West Virgina will serve as treasurer. The full APG Board is named here.

    Genealogists fortunate enough to make travel connections despite weather-related delays took advantage of research hours at the Family History Library. I spent an entire day happily examining microfilm and testing various methods of digitizing films at the film viewer stations. (Results forthcoming!) 

     

    View of Temple Square from the Famiy History Library.

    Sunday in Salt Lake City was a break between events before the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) gets underway with evening registration and classes on Monday morning. It will be another busy week of genealogy, snow or no-snow!

    Sunday
    Jan052014

    Happy Birthday, Mom!

    Suzanne brown

    Happy Birthday to my beautiful mom, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.

    Stay tuned to this space for information about the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant. Since 2011, in honor of Suzanne Freeman's interest in family history, each year a young genealogist is selected to receive funds to further his or her genealogy education.

    Previous student recipients have included Anthony Ray of Palmdale, California; A.C. Ivory of Salt Lake City, Utah; Elyse Doerflinger of Lomita, California, and Mike Savoca of Union, New Jersey.

    Wednesday
    Jan012014

    New Year's Day in Pasadena - Then and Now

    When my dad gave me his parent's old photo albums, I didn't expect to find snapshots taken in Pasadena, where I now live. My grandparents lived in San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana, both towns in Orange County, California. Pasadena was a bit of a drive, even in 1923. So, it was a nice surprise to find several pages featuring photos from the Tournament of Roses Parade, January 1, 1923. 

    PasadenaRoseParade 1PasadenaRoseParade 2

    I tried to find the church tower pictured in background of this photo, but I think either the route was different in 1923, or the tower has been torn down. I'm going to have to do a bit of research at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Headquarters Library or at the Pasadena Museum of HIstory.

    This year I learned that every year, local hot rod clubs meet in East Pasadena on New Year's Eve morning and cruise the parade route -- east to west, then west to east just like the parade. My dad brought his 1951 Ford pickup for the ride this year, but I missed catching his photo along the route. Too fast! Instead, I snapped these classics

    OldCar

    oldbus

    When I saw Dad turning the corner, we caught up with them for a great photo-op in front of the Pasadena City Hall.

    1951fordpickup

    Ed and Polly May with their 1951 Ford
    in front of Pasadena City Hall, December 31, 2013

    Tuesday
    Dec242013

    May All Your Christmas Dreams Come True

    Best Wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!

    vintage-christmas-www.thefamilycurator.com

    Monday
    Dec232013

    A Blog-Caroling We Will Go

    to FootnoteMaven's Blog, Hey Ho!

    "Silent Night" by Elvis. A favorite  rendition of my favorite carol. Thank you FootnoteMaven for continuing this wonderful tradition.

    Thursday
    Dec192013

    Why the Kindle HDX is In My Stocking This Christmas

    First Thoughts on the New Kindle HDX

    After snapping up the new Kindle Fire HDX 7" in the frenzy of Cyber-Monday sales, I admit to a bit of buyer's remorse. I wasn't sure I needed or wanted a second tablet. I'm already a happy iPad user and didn't want to replace my iOS device for mail, web browsing, social media. But I did want a better e-reader. And with new Kindle Deals almost every day, it seemed like a good time to take a closer look.

    A Kind of Kindle Tale

    I've been a fan of ebooks since the early Kindle days. My first e-reader was the Keyboard Kindle. I really liked reading outdoors, traveling with so many books at hand, the handy dictionary (I was an English teacher, after all!).

    Then, along came the iPad and the Kindle App that brought my ebooks to the Apple device. I liked the short LCD text on white, but the iPad really wasn't useful for reading outside the house. And, the bright screen was hard on my eyes for extended reading. The large screen was still great for PDFs and journals, but I enjoyed novels and heavy text more on the e-ink reader.

    When the smaller, lighter, Kindle Touch was announced, I gave my keyboard model to my husband and moved to the new model. To be honest, I was never a fan of the Touch. To my eyes, there wasn't enough contrast between text and background for comfortable reading. I liked the size and weight, but just didn't enjoy the reading experience. I went back to the keyboard Kindle and used the iPad.

    The  Kindle Paperwhite promised to improve readability with a built-in light in an e-reader that was as small and nearly as light-weight as the Touch. It worked. I could read in bed without turning on a light, and I could still read outdoors. New software features made it easier to annotate passages, upload PDFs, or go out on the web. 

    But a funny thing happened along my e-reader path. I got used to the nice bright iPad screen and seeing photos or other embedded images in crisp resolution or full color.  And the Amazon Kindle market exploded with new content, both print and video… and audio. 

    The Hills Are Alive. . . With the Sounds of Kindle

    Did I mention that I enjoy audiobooks too? When I was working on my graduate degree in English, I discovered that listening to audiobooks via Audible.com or other providers could help boost the number of 19th century English novels consumed in a semester. Older Kindle models don't all have audio capability, but of course, the iPad offers the world of iTunes and other web content.

    One of the less-known features of the Amazon jungle is the almost uncanny Whispersync -- whereby a spoken-word book will sync with your e-reader page. I wish this technology had been available when I was in grad school! I can only imagine enjoying all 848 pages of Dombey and Sons by alternating audio and reading. 

    The first generation Paperwhite didn't have audio capability; but the new Kindle Fire HD and HDX models offer a full color and audio experience. The newest Kindle Fire HDX offers "stunning" color and the exclusive Mayday Button. Plus, easier access to the Amazon jungle of free movie streaming and book borrowing for members of Amazon Prime (that's me!).

    Library Without Walls

    Did I mention that I love libraries? And as an Amazon Prime member, I have access to a BIG BIG library? Prime members can borrow one book per month for free; titles depend on the current selection. In addition, Prime members also have first peek at new releases through the Kindle First program and can download one featured book free every month. 

    For December, the featured Kindle First books included titles in four genres:

    Women's Fiction - Soy Sauce for Beginners  by Kirstin Chen

    Thriller - The Widow File  by S.G. Redling

    Romance - Sweet Nothings  by Kim Law

    Young Adult - Timebound  by Rysa Walker

    So, What Do I Think About the New Kindle Fire HDX?

    I'm getting there. First, I have to mention the Mayday button. I've never called Kindle tech support, but I've answered plenty of calls from family members who want a little help with their e-reader devices. I was intrigued by the notion of 15-second support response from a pleasant and helpful R.P. (Real Person).

    So, I received my new Kindle Fire HDX - 7-inch and all my Kindle books were already loaded. I started reading Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques  by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith right where I left off when reading the book on my iPad. The little 7-inch Fire is the perfect size for holding with one hand and the sharp screen makes the the text crisp and clear. The only problem was that in the evening and early morning, the screen was pretty bright, in fact, it was uncomfortably bright. And, although I could find the control to adjust font, font size, or change from white, to off-white paper, to black screen with white text, I couldn't figure out how to adjust the brightness.

    Mayday to the Rescue

    At 6 a.m I was searching the User's Guide and then in the Amazon forums for an answer. Finally, my husband looked over and suggested that I hit the Mayday button. I'd forgotten all about it. So, lying there in bed with my hair standing on end, I met Chuck  who answered my distress call in under ten seconds. 

    It was a good thing he couldn't see me because it was still early morning in Southern California. Chuck looked kinda like a guy-version of Amy, the redhead in the Amazon Kindle commercials. He spoke with a Texas twang and drew with a highlighter to show me the control I had missed. In less than a minute I had the brightness adjusted, and learned how to access the entire set of usability controls. (Of course, I could have just taken the user's tour when I first opened the device!).

    That was pretty cool. No, that was WAY COOL. To touch a button and have instant tech support. Score BIG for Amazon Kindle.

    Bottom Line

    Will the Kindle Fire HDX replace my iPad? No. I don't plan to move my email to the Kindle, and although the web surfing is super-fast on the Kindle, I still like the larger iPad screen size. 

    For me, the Kindle is a reading device. I've watched free streaming movies and TV shows on it and the color is fabulous. There's no buffering (like on my iPad) and the selection process is streamlined and direct. The 7-inch size makes is fine for a single user, but it's small. The size, however, is what makes it light and easy to hold for reading, and an easy fit inside my purse or a large pocket.

    As an e-reader, the Kindle really shines. And, there are many features I have yet to explore, like Goodreads integration, collection organization, and immersion reading where words are highlighted as they are read aloud in the audiobook version.

    Technology changes so quickly that I always feel one or more versions behind the cutting edge. The Kindles' lower price make it an attractive device for experiencing new features and new ways to enjoy books for a lot less money than other tablets. Combined with the benefits from Amazon Prime membership, the Kindle offers a lot of "bang for the buck" and I'm very happy with what's in my Christmas stocking after all!

    Here's the model I bought: Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch, Wi-Fi only, with Special Offers

    Kindle Deals are changing every day with new prices and financing announced often. Check out Kindle Deals for the latest specials. 

    The Kindle Fire HD vs. HDX

    Available in 7-inch or 8.9-inch sizes. Both the HD and HDX models have many of the same e-reader features, but only the HDX models have the highest resolution screen and the exclusive Mayday button.

      

     

    Note: Amazon Affiliate links.

    Monday
    Dec162013

    A Christmas Gift: Shades of the Departed Toys Issue

    ToysCover

    Shades of the Departed: Toys

    Editor/Publisher has donned her tiara to announce the Christmas 2013 issue of Shades of the Departed Magazine: Toys. Read your free copy here and Merry Christmas to all! Thank you once again, footnoteMaven, for a wonderful holiday gift!

    P.S. Miss Penelope Dreadful's Irish cousin Dervla Dreadful has provided a most charming contribution to Toys . Clearly, spinning tales runs in the family. 

    Table Of Contents

    On The Cover Of Shades
    The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe - Editor

    Dressed To The Nines
    The Well Dressed Doll - Maureen Taylor

    Watch The Birdie
    Toys Used As Accessories In Photographic Studios - Brett Payne

    In2Genealogy
    Toys, Family Stories, & Junk Piles - Caroline Pointer

    Appealing Subjects
    The Appeal of Toys - Craig Manson

    Queen Victoria’s Dolls
    Wooden and Paper - fM

    Dervla “Dare” Dreadful
    A Dreadful Adventure - A Doll’s Story

    The Healing Brush
    Use Your Imagination - Janine Smith

    An iAncestor Christmas
    All I Want For Christmas - Denise Barrett Olson

    The Toy Shop Album
    Toys In Old Photos

    ArtiFacts
    Protecting An Antique Book - Denise Levenick

    The Last Picture Show
    Elijah B. Core - Children’s Portrait Specialist

    Monday
    Dec162013

    The Family Curator's Guide to Holiday Re-Gifting

    Cased Photographs

    How to Re-Gift a Future Family Keepsake

    If you're thinking about passing on a family heirloom this holiday season, take time to make your something so special that the recipient will be delighted you stayed out of the Mall and went shopping in your family archive.

    My late mother-in-law was the Queen of ReGifting. No last-year's fad gifts for this lady; her double-duty gifts were typically last-generation. She loved to shop at local charity  thrift shops, estate sales, junk sales, department store sales. . . you get the picture.

    One year, all the men in the family received multiple pairs of swimming trunks -- for Christmas. They were on sale. No kidding. Even California has seasons. The women received estate jewelry -- one sister-in-law opened a beautiful gold and jet brooch; another received a matching bracelet; my package held the earrings to complete the set.  We took turns trying on the complete ensemble and drew straws to see who would take it home.

    First Rule of Re-Gifting

    Do NOT break up an heirloom set of anything.

    My husband and brother-in-law celebrated birthdays a few days apart, so their mother often gave them similar gifts -- shirts and pajamas were popular until she found a new thrift store specializing in estate silver, or sorta-silver. One year they each received lovely silver covered vegetable dishes, engraved with someone else's initials. Sorry, but there is no way that the letter "S" looks like "L."

    Second Rule of Re-Gifting

    Think twice about giving gifts with Superman's monogram. 

    I enjoy displaying our son's little silver baby cups, dents and all, on a table in the dining room. My mother-in-law kindly gave brought over my husband's silver cups to add to the collection, but she didn't stop there. Soon, I had brightly polished baby cups belonging to Edith, Millie, and Baby Susie -- and we don't even have daughters! 

    Third Rule of Re-Gifting

    Consider carefully before changing a collection into clutter.

    My mother-in-law was generous to a fault, but every so often she scored big in my book.

    Breaking the Rules

    In the days when she was still cruising the streets of Pasadena in her '87 Olds, Mary trawled a regular route of second-hand stores in the greater Los Angeles basin. Noticing my interest in family history, she picked up several cased photographs on one excursion and  gave them to me "because you like these pictures."

    My mother-in-law appreciated beautiful handwork, and often gave me hand stitched table linens or embroidered hand towels. She recognized memories held by family keepsakes and wasn't put off by personalization. In fact, I think she knew that often the most interesting pieces are personalized. And, what's wrong with that? As long as there's room to add a new initial or name, a keepsake can keep adding more history.

    As the lucky beneficiaries of many re-gifts, it's sometimes hard to remember what keepsakes started out "in the family" and what started out in another home. In some cases, many years have passed since these treasures moved into our house, and I can't remember much at all about them. All of which makes me very appreciative of the few items that still hold their stories, whether it's a handwritten note tucked inside a coffee pot or a little piece of paper in a candy dish. 

    Vintage Candy Dish

    One of my favorite keepsakes. No strings attached with this candy dish. The note reads: "Nothing special about this but it is nice -- for candy, olives, pickles, etc."

    A Family Keepsake Needs More than a Tiny Gift Tag

    Before presenting your gift on Christmas morning, take time to write a short note to go along with the item. You don't need to have perfect penmanship; you're handwritten note is a memento all by itself. Use a dark ink pen or pencil on the best quality paper you have available -- old-fashioned rag paper stationery or a piece of "resume" paper will last the longest. Avoid newsprint or recycled paper.

    Write a conversational letter to the recipient, or just  short history with bullet points, whatever style suits you best. Be sure to include --

    • the date and occasion for the gift
    • your name
    • the recipient's name
    • where you are each living
    • how you came to own or purchase the item
    • where and when it was made, if known
    • why it is significant to you or your family
    • why you are giving it to this person
    • a description that includes size, color, shape, etc. (If the item itself is lost or becomes separated from your note, someone will know what to look for.)

    You might consider attaching the note to the item in some way (on the back of a painting or piece of furniture), or adding an Heirloom Registry identification plaque with online registration of the keepsake's history. You could also photograph the item and place a copy of the photo and your note in your genealogy or estate papers so other family members will know what happened to this family heirloom.

    Family Heirlooms can be a wonderful legacy, but without the story, it's just stuff.

     

    Friday
    Dec132013

    Land Records Here We Come! Digging for Ancestors with Michelle Roos Goodrum

    DiggingforAncestors

    I am so excited about Michelle Roos Goodrum's new book Digging for Ancestors: An In-Depth Guide to Land Records, not just because I know it will be well-written and researched, but because I NEED THIS BOOK.

    I've been working with land records more and more and I've looked for a guide that would explain unfamiliar terms, give tips for transcribing and extracting information, and direct my research time for effective results. I can't wait to "dig into" Michelle's new book; from the topic list in the Table of Contents, it promises to answer a lot of questions:

    Table of Contents

    Introduction

    Quick Start: Top Ten Tips
    Getting Started with Land Records Research
    Using Deed Indexes and Deeds
    Transcribing Documents: Quick Answers to Why and How
    Understanding Extracts and Abstracts
    What are Dower and Dowry?
    Using the BLM in Your Research
    Baffled by Legal Property Descriptions?
    Let's Talk: State Land States
    A Look at Cash Entry Files
    Examining a Homestead File
    Using Land Records to Solve Genealogical Problems
    Cemetery Deeds: They're Land Records, Too
    Three Reasons to Visit the Old Family Home
    Google Earth: See the Past in the Present
    Fun with Land and Property Records
    Appendix A: Resources for Land Records Research
    Appendix B: Township Grid

    As Michelle notes, the contents includes material from her "Timeless Territories" column published at The In-Depth Genealogist, from her blog Turning of Generations, along with new material and resources.


    I have come to know Michelle from our shared interest in caring for family treasures; we both inherited a legacy of family photos, documents, and artifacts and have been working on digitizing and organizing the collections. Congratulations, Michelle, on your latest accomplishment. 

    Digging for Ancestors is available now as a PDF download from the In-Depth Genealogist and for Kindle, Nook, and in Paperback.

     

    Note: I was provided with a review copy from the publisher. I am an Amazon Affiliate.

    Friday
    Dec062013

    RootsTech 2014: Coming to a City Near YOU!

    Not content to merely "talk tech," RootsTech 2014, hosted by FamilySearch, is harnessing technology to make the February national family history conference available worldwide. This week I attended an online meeting for speakers whose sessions will be recorded and streamed, and learned that over 450 sites will be accessing RootsTech for their own family history fairs.

    The Roots Tech Team announced worldwide participation by LDS Family History Centers and local genealogy societies:

    RootsTech2014

    Twelve sessions will be streamed live and made available to visitors of the RootsTech website. Over forty presentations will be offered to organizers of off-site family history fairs, including my Friday presentation: How to Scan an Elephant: Digitize Your Family History from Artifact to Zombie. I'm excited to be part of this innovative program and be in Salt Lake City for the fourth RootsTech conference.

    Hats off to the organizers of this colossal endeavor. Each recorded session will be translated into ten international languages to make the content more accessible to viewers. I've been scrambling to submit my materials for the pre-conference work needed to translate and publicize the session choices available for the off-site family history fairs.

    RootsTech 2013 counted over 6,700 registered attendees and nearly 14,000 viewings of live-streamed sessions. By adding the international family history events, RootsTech 2014 must be nearly the largest family history conference worldwide.

    RootsTech 2014 will take place in the East Wing of the Salt Palace Convention Center offering bigger classrooms and a larger exhibit hall. Local conference hotels are offering special conference rates with extended days (helpful for a little research the Family History Library).

    Registration is now open, but special events are filling quickly. Register now for this great genealogy event! 

    Sunday
    Dec012013

    Holiday Gift Guide: Geeky Gadgets for the Genealogist on Your List

     

    The teenagers and grands on your holiday shopping list might not think of themselves as family historians, but consider this: 

    Every instagram photo, every snap of that baby's smile is a future family keepsake!

    Lately I've been working on new articles and presentations featuring digitizing your family history, and I've come across several fun and useful new gadgets that have made their way into my gear bag. Of course, a few of these are still on my holiday wish list, but I couldn't resist sharing my favorite geeky finds that will make great holiday gifts for the genealogist, or shutterbug, on your gift list.

    Faves Under $15

    My Personal Favorite #1 Geeky Gadget: The Joby GripTight Smartphone Mount

    It might not look like much, but the Joby GripTight Mount is my choice for Number 1 Geeky Gadget of the year. This really, really small expandable grip fits iPhones and most smartphones and turns your camera phone into a digitizing powerhouse. Screw the Joby GripTight Mount to any tripod with a universal mount or add a GorillaPod Tripod to make a DIY tripod with a chair or fence rail. When you're finished, detach the phone and collapse the mount to stow it in your pocket or clip to a keychain. Also available as a kit including mount and tripod Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand.

    #2 Favorite: Remote Shutter Release

    Anyone who spends time digitizing family keepsakes with a smartphone or digital camera knows that sometimes shutter jitter can create fuzzy shots. A remote shutter release, either wired or wireless, lets you step away from the camera to operate the shutter and achieve crisp, clear images. Unfortunately, most compact digital cameras don't include a port for a shutter remote, but it's worth checking to see if the genealogist on your gift list could use a remote.

    The $6.99 Satechi Remote Shutter works great with my Canon Powershot G11/12 series and is compatible with several other Canon cameral. 

    Genealogists' Gravestone Gadget

    Move the light where you need it most to photograph fading tombstone inscriptions using the NEEWER 32-Inch Collapsible Light Reflector. This portable reflector won't be as crisp and bright as a real mirror, but it's quite a bit less fragile.

    The kit comes with five different reflectors (translucent, silver, gold, white, and black) but the white and metallic will be most helpful directing light on tombstone carving. A handy pouch holds the reflectors between cemetery outings.

     

     

    Smartphone Camera Macro Lens

    If you use your smartphone to snap close-up photos the Easy-Macro Cell Phone Lens Band is an easy way to add optical zoom to most any smartphone. The lens is attached to a flexible band that snaps over the phone, with or without case, giving instant access to the macro lens without sticky adhesive or wobbly clips.

    I'm always on a quest for new camera filters and lenses, especially something that fits over a case. For this price the quality doesn't compare to a real camera lens, but it adds a bit of fun to the camera gear kit.

    Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Sketch Kit

    Does your favorite genealogist already own a Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner? The Flip-Pal Sketch Kit accessory adds note-taking ability with a transparent write-on/wiipe-off film that lets you identify photos and make citation notes that will appear with the scanned image.

    Kit comes with three erasable markers and clear acrylic sketch sheet. 

     

    Great Gadgets Under $100

    Eye Fi SD Card

    These little memory cards speed up digitizing by automagically transferring your snapshots or scans directly to your computer, smartphone or tablet device. The Eye-Fi Mobi Wireless Memory Card, transfers image files to your mobile device, while the Eye-Fi Pro X2  model handles camera RAW files and transfers to MAC or PC computer.

    Olloclip iPhone Lenses

    Don't you sometimes wish you could get a really good close-up photo, or maybe a wide-angle shot with your iPhone camera? The Olloclip 3-in-1 Lens for iPhone 4 & iPhone 4S  is winning awards for  its high quality optical lenses designed to bring iPhonography to a new level. Choose from the 3-in-one Lens that delivers wide-angle, macro, and fish-eye capability, or the Olloclip Telephoto Lens + Circular Polarizer for iPhone 4/4S  that brings telephone and polarizer lens to the iPhone. Models for both iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5 are available; unfortunately, Android smartphones are not included. The high-quality glass optics in Olloclip lenses have earned high praise in MacWorld and Wired. 

    I've been frustrated when trying to photograph framed documents and photos under glass one time too many, and am looking forward to putting the Olloclip Polarizing Lens to the test soon. Combined with the telephone, the CPL (Circular Polarizing Lens) will also cut through smog, haze, and fog making those grey winter skies less daunting.

    Big Ticket Gadgets

    Of course, you might also be looking for a Great Big Geeky Gadget for your favorite genealogist. Something like a new tablet or eReader.

    You'll have lots of choices in the world of mobile tablet devices, from Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy 7-inch Tab 3

    to the Apple iPad Mini

    and the Kindle Fire HD  and new HDX. 

    When comparing models, check compatibility with the available eBook platforms for access to a growing library of genealogy reference books and family histories. Titles available in the Amazon Kindle Store can be read on all kinds of tablets, not only the Kindle ebook readers. You will need the Kindle App, for iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad or for Windows Android.

    Amazon Prime members have the added benefit of borrowing books, including many genealogy titles, from the Kindle library to read for free with the Kindle App or on a Kindle device. 

    Talking About eBooks

    Save on shipping and wrapping by sending your favorite genealogist an eBook download via Family Tree Books, iTunes or the Amazon Kindle Store. Search Genealogy or Family History for a growing selection of titles, or lend a helping hand to the keeper of the stuff in your family by giving a copy of my book How to Archive Family Keepsakes.

    Happy Holidays!


    Note: Affiliate links help support The Family Curator website and blog. Thanks!

    Saturday
    Nov302013

    Tutorial: Using Photoshop Elements Photomerge to Stitch Scanned Images

    California Southland Magazine July 1925

    On a recent research trip I found a large early California magazine I wanted to duplicate for further study. I could have photographed the page, but I also wanted to try out a new-to-me portable scanner, the Canon CanoScan LiDE210 Scanner.

    These little scanners have been around for awhile, and have become popular for onsite research because they deliver the quality of a flat-bed scanner and are powered by a single USB cable to a laptop. The low profile and 8 1/2 x 12 scanning surface make it a good choice for scanning oversize documents in fewer images. 

    The scanner hardware is easy to use, but the software is clumsy and overly-complicated. I had trouble trying to figure out how to set file formats and file-saving locations, and finally just used the AutoScan setting hoping I could get the images I need. It took me a while to realize that it comes with two completely different scanning options 

    -- one operated through the Canon Solution Menu and another through the ScanGear Driver. The scans are accessed through the MP Navigator EX, where you can rotate, adjust, and edit the images.

    When I looked at the digital images later, I realized that some of the oversized pages were digitized in mixed file formats, some PDF and others as JPG images, and the JPG cover images were made in different directions, one horizontal and one vertical. 

    PhotoMerge mag

    Fortunately, Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 can easily reassemble scanned images, as well as regular digital photos. I use the Photomerge feature for all kinds of projects, and think it's one of PS Elements best tools.

    Photomerge is accessed through the main File Menu, and offers more than simple stitching for oversize images. The feature can actually perform several different tricks; most are designed for digital photographs, but will work well on scanned images too.

    Photomerge Group Shot can be used to create a group photo with the "best of" from several different images. So, if someone's eyes are closed in one photo and a different person is yawning in another picture, the two photos can be combined to have one good group shot. Think of the possibilities! No more rabbit ears!

    Photomerge Faces does something similar with to combine portraits and make one great image. The idea is that you can select what features you like in each portrait -- hair, eyes, mouth, etc. -- and combine them into one "better" portrait.

    Photomerge Scene Cleaner removes people or things from your photo by replacing the annoying tourist with scenery from a similar image.

    The mode I use most often is the Photomerge Panorama. Photoshop Elements offers several different styles of panorama, but I've had good results relying on the Automatic method. Access the Photomerge feature through the File Menu: 

    File > New > Photomerge Panorama

    PhotoshopElements Photomerge

    I selected Auto and browsed for the files I wanted to stitch together. After selecting the files, I clicked OK and Elements stitched everything together as I watched the software open the files and reassemble the multiple images to the full-page magazine cover like Magic!

       

    Amazon Affiliate Links to products personally purchased and used by me! Elements 12 is the latest version; I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 for this project.
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