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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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    Entries in organize (13)


    Are You Doing the Genealogy Do-Over with GeneaBloggers Thomas MacEntee?

    Scan 2 images w guide

    Are you looking for a little help Digitizing Photos and Documents with the GeneaBloggers Genealogy Do-Over?. This week, GeneaBloggers Thomas MacEntee gives tips for eight best practices, including scanner settings, file formats, and duplicate copies for editing.

    You might be wondering why 300 or 600 dpi? Why TIFF? and Why create an archival TIFF copy? Good questions!

    Why Use a Standard Scanning Resolution?

    In researching standard best practices for archiving family history materials, I looked at the common practices of museums, libraries and archives nationwide where staff members and interns routinely digitize thousands and thousands of items. I learned that higher resolutions are used for film and for photo restoration projects, but for most items that will be viewed digitally or printed at the same size as the original, a standard scanning resolution is adequate and recommended.

    For institutions where volunteers and interns may be performing much of the digitizing and for family historians interested mostly in sharing and archiving photos and documents, standard scanner settings are efficient and easily understood. 

    Archives typically recommend scanning documents at 200 to 300 dpi and scanning photographs at 600 dpi. Images scanned at 300 dpi or more should print fine at the original size.

    Why TIFF?

    You may have heard recommendations to use the archival TIFF format when scanning your heirloom document and photos and been reluctant to devote computer storage to such large digital files. What could be so much better about a TIFF file?

    Thomas is right -- whenever possible, TIFF is the preferred file format for digitizing keepsake photos and documents. If you're going to the trouble to scan and save these items, scan only once with the optimal file format and resolution. Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is a non-lossy archival format. The plain English translation: TIFF files aren't compressed when saved, so your file retains all of the digital information. In contrast, JPG files are lossy files; the file is compressed each time a file is saved and some information is lost.

    Why Create a JPG Copy of a Digital Image?

    Yes, TIFF files are large, but TIFF is the best choice for archiving. Create a duplicate file in JPG format to use for editing, email, and photo projects. Archive the TIFF version as Digital Insurance to help you recreate a lost or damaged original in case of disaster. If your original is a JPG format image, create a copy in TIFF or JPG and designate it as your Digital Master.

    More Questions?

    Learn more best practices for working with digital images in my paperback or ebook edition of How to Archive Family Keepsakes including

    • easy scanning workflows
    • file naming
    • folder organization
    • recommended digitizing resolutions
    • backup strategies
    • scanner suggestions

    Digitize, Organize, and Archive with Genealogy Gems' Lisa Louise Cooke

    Gen Gem Logo

    How to Archive Family Keepsakes is featured in the newest Genealogy Gems Podcast, Episode 144, as Lisa Louise Cooke and I chat about the challenges of organizing family history photos and documents, genealogy research, and digital files. 

    I love talking with Lisa about genealogy and family history. Like me, Lisa inherited treasures from from her own family and her husband's family, too, and likes to use these special items for family history projects and genealogy research. Creating a home family archive can make it easier to locate photos for a quick photo project or find documents for a family tree; one trick is maintaining a good inventory list.

    Lisa and I also talked about using digitization to help preserve family artifacts, and how to move towards a paperless genealogy office when we're dealing with mountains of our own research papers. And yes, you can make real progress toward reducing paper in only seven steps!

    Tune in to the Episode 144 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast for tips and strategies from my new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, and ideas for digitizing, organizing and archiving your own family treasures.


    Short List: What to watch for in a family archive


    Can a genealogist ever have too much stuff? And, what do you do with all that inherited treasure? Allison Stacy, Editor at Family Tree Magazine, posed the question of how to Organize Grandma's Archive in the current issue of Family Tree Magazine and recently on the Genealogy Insider blog. Readers have responded with a host of ideas summarized by Managing Editor Diane Haddad.

    "I’m not one to make a mountain out of a molehill," writes Allison, "But this actually resembles a mountain."

    Allison has over two dozen bankers' boxes, several organized and labeled by her grandmother, and some packed full with notebooks, loose papers, and files. Any way you look at it, she has quite a task ahead of her. I know how she feels. When I first brought home my grandmother's accumulated treasures, I had no idea the sense of responsibility and confusion that would result.

    • How to preserve the most precious?
    • How to sift through the massive quantity?
    • How to decide what to keep and what to give away or throw away?
    • How to organize it all?

    I don't have all the answers, but in the past 12 years I've tried a lot of organizing schemes and settled on what works best for my situation. The Family Curator blog was born out of working with my grandmother's archive, and blogging has brought new insights to the problem.

    My first advice to Allison might seem overly simple, but I learned when it comes to family treasures -- think first, then act. Before you can begin to tackle your family history mountain, you need to know your goal.

    Do you want to simply climb to the summit, collating and labeling as you go? or Do you want take a leisurely hike, with time to admire the scenery along the way? Will you be taking along a movie crew to document your progress with plans for a book in the future? or Maybe you would prefer to conquer the summit, keep the memory, and move on to new adventures.

    Dealing with a family history archive is a lot like climbing a mountain. The mountain isn't going away, but the journey will be much more enjoyable with careful planning and preparation.

    I've compiled a short list of things to look for when sorting through a family archive, but sometimes it helps to get specific. Do you have a suggestion to add to the list?

    The Family Curator's Short List
    What to Watch for in a Family Archive

    1. Vital records (birth, marriage, death)
    2. Employment records (pay stubs, job contracts, resume)
    3. Educational records (school photos, report cards, citizenship certificates)
    4. Church records (church bulletin, receipt for donation, photos)
    5. Names and addresses (club, church and school rosters, personal address book, community directory)
    6. Military records (service record, correspondence, photos)
    7. Family history (narratives, charts, genealogy)




    Tech Tip: How to Auto-Create a List of Sequential Numbers in MS Word

    After spending way too much time manually typing numbers for my genealogy documents and files, I finally found a way to generate an automatic list of nicely formatted sequential numbers. Now I can quickly make:

    • divider tabs for MRIN family numbers
    • file folder tabs
    • sticky labels to correspond with my photo file numbering system

    Many people like to use a “real” filename for their family photos, but because so many of the photos from my grandmother’s collection are “subject unknown,” I decided to use an informative letter-number filename.

    The first two letters indicate the item is from the Arline Kinsel archive; the next letter indicates the Photo collection, the numbers indicate the photograph’s individual file number:

    AK-P001 = Arline Kinsel archive Photo 001

    In the past, I manually prepared a sheet of labels in Microsoft Word, but this was clumsy and time-consuming. Lately, however, I have used a very easy SEQ script that is already available in the program; I just didn’t know it was there.

    I found these easy to follow instructions at Allen Wyatt’s WordTips and adapted them for my own use.

    Here’s what I do to make sequentially numbered photo labels

    1. Open or download a Word Template for the labels I want to use; such as #5422 Multi-Use Labels.
    2. In the first label space, type the recurring prefix: AK-P0 [zero]. (see example 1)
    3. Immediately following the prefix, type Ctrl+F9 and Word inserts a field.
    4. Type SEQ and a space; type a name for the sequence numbers, such as Photo.
    5. Press F9. A number appears in the field.
    6. Format the text with font, size, style.
    7. Copy the first label using Ctrl + C.
    8. Paste the contents to each label in the left column using Ctrl + V.
    9. I now have one column of labels, all the same.
    10. Select and Copy this column (Ctrl + C) and paste into the second column (Ctrl + V).
    11. I now have a full sheet of labels all the same.
    12. Select ALL using Ctrl + A.
    13. Press F9. All fields are updated with sequential numbers.

    Hooray! Do you have another method to create easy sequential numbers?


    Steps 1-3, optional add a leading zero

    Step 9 - one column formatted for numbering

    The completed sheet of labels.


    Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research

    This article was written for my local genealogy society newsletter. You are welcome to use it in your own society online or print publication; please credit

    Genealogists may not see eye to eye on the Perfect Organizational System for data and sources, but they will certainly agree that they would rather spend time finding ancestors than filing papers. The challenge is to create a system that suits the personality and habits of the user and is easy to create and maintain.

    Here are four systems worth investigating –

    Organize Your Paper Files

    Genealogical Research Associates recommends using a straightforward numerical system based on Marriage Record Numbers in conjunction with your genealogy database software program. An illustrated tutorial provides step-by-step instructions for setting up and filing papers.

    Finally, Get Organized

    Dear Myrtle (speaker and podcaster Pat Richley) describes her system of 3-ring notebooks in the first monthly installment of the series “Finally, Get Organized: January 2009 Checklist.” The monthly PDF checklists highlight different aspects of genealogy work, from organizing files to time management. Find the organizing blog posts by typing “checklist” in the “Search This Blog” search box.

    Organizing Your Files

    Folders, binders, and overall concepts are all discussed in a comprehensive article on the FamilySearch Wiki. Beginning with a discussion of the value of organizing your files, through organizing principles, setting up a system, maintaining your files, and using document numbers for filing, this article lays a good foundation for any genealogy filing system.

    How I Organize My Genealogy

    Elyse Doerflinger is a college student and experienced genealogy blogger and speaker. She has recorded a series of YouTube videos featuring step-by-step instructions for setting up a genealogy filing system and staying on top of the paper piles. Browse videos by Elyse90505 for more simple, effective filing tips.

    If you haven’t found The Perfect System yet, don’t despair; keep looking and asking questions. And, as you investigate all the many possibilities, use a simple system that helps you stay in control of your research so you can spend your time finding – instead of filing – your ancestors.

    Ten Tips for Organizing Genealogy Research

    1. Sheet Control – Use standard 8 ½ x 11-inch paper for all notes and printouts.
    2. Stay Single – One surname, one locality per sheet for easy filing.
    3. No Repeats – Avoid errors; write legibly the first time.
    4. Dating Yourself – Always write the current date on your research notes.
    5. Be Color Clever – Distinguish family lines with different colored folders, binders, tabs.
    6. File First – File one research trip or effort before starting the next one.
    7. Ask Directions – Write your own filing instructions; a big help when you take a long break.
    8. Supply Closet – Keep a stash of folders, plastic sleeves, tabs, printer ink.
    9. One File at a Time – Work through paper piles steadily; the mess didn’t happen in one day.
    10. KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly! Use an easy to set up, easy to maintain system.


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