RootsTech 2015

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Understanding Real Property Legal Descriptions for Genealogy: Rectangular Survey, Part Two

Streetside view of the Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey, a monument marking the site that served as the basis for the entire Public Land Survey System — the system by which most of the United States, outside of the original colonies, was surveyed. Located on the Ohio/Pennsylvania border east of downtown East Liverpool, Ohio, it is split between the city of East Liverpool and the borough of Ohioville in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Erected in 1881 by a joint commission of Ohio and Pennsylvania surveyors, the monument was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. The road on which it lies is Ohio State Route 39 and Pennsylvania Route 68.
In my last posts in this series, I discussed two different methods of describing real property. As I have pointed out, understanding maps, plats and land descriptions is a vital link in finding and identifying where ancestors lived. (See links below). There are three main types of land description in the United States (and elsewhere):
  • Metes and bounds
  • U. S. Public Land Survey
  • Lot and Block or subdivision survey
This particular post follows up with a discussion about how to read a land survey property description. First a short review.

Elements and units of the US Public Land Survey System: A) townships, B) sections, C) aliquot parts.
By Gretarsson (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A land survey starts with the establishment of a point of known location and elevation. Topographical mapping involves establishing bench marks, or locations of known elevation, in order to measure and draw slope angles. Surveying is normally conducted for the purpose of establishing boundaries for buying and selling land and so the starting point of the survey may or may not also be a bench mark. In the United States, the beginning point of the United States Land Survey is a monument located on the border of the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, on the North side of the Ohio River. See Wikipedia: Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey and the image above.

Surveying is both a science and an art and before the common use of geo-positioning technology (GPS or Global Positioning System) the accuracy of the positioning of the first survey point depended on the accuracy of other historical surveys and the degree of competency of the surveyor. Over the many years I have bought, sold and litigated issues involving real property, I have frequently encountered the limits of the accuracy of surveys. Unless genealogists are also involved in legal boundary dispute issues, they will be unlikely to become aware of the degree of accuracy of the historic surveys. I might add that years ago, boundary disputes involved differences that could be measured in feet. Today, disputes can involve differences measured in inches. Some of the earliest law cases I handled involved acrimonious battles over the location of a property boundary and in some cases, the decision of the court turned out to be arbitrary and simply wrong.

From a very simplified standpoint, working from and extending from a beginning survey point, the surveyors establish both a north/south line or the Principle Meridian and an east/west line of the Base Line. In the U.S., the land is then measured out into rectangular areas containing the same acreage. The U.S. Public Land Survey System (aka PLSS) is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management. Here is a map of the states included in the PLSS showing the main survey lines for each state.

Principal meridians and Baselines governing the United States Public Land Survey System.
You will note from the map that the eastern part of the United States and Texas are not included in the PLSS. You can also see that some states have more than one set of survey lines. In Arizona, where the two different surveys meet, they are off by a significant amount and the difference wrecks havoc with land descriptions near the boundary of the two systems. Conveniently and on purpose, some of the lines form the boundaries between states. Throughout the U.S. there are a number of "base line roads" that are so named because they follow a survey base line (usually approximately).

Because of the curvature of the earth, every 24 miles north and south of the base line, Guide Meridians are surveyed and established. Also, every 24 miles east and west of the Principle Meridian, Standard Parallels are established. Guide Meridians and Standard Parallels are designated as first, second, third etc. For example, First Guide Meridian East, Second Guide Meridian East and etc. Also, Firsts Standard Parallel North, Second Standard Parallel North and etc.

These All of these lines are established by using astral location techniques. The 24 mile sections are then further divided into four, six mile sections called Townships.


At this point the survey shows the townships or areas of 36 square miles, six miles on a side. The next step is to survey the boundaries within the townships. Here is a diagram (you can see the sequence above in the post) of what the divisions look like:
This General Land Office diagram shows the theoretical sectioning of a standard survey township.
The plat is labeled "theoretical" because many townships have physical features that limit the township from having a full 36 square miles. There are also places where larger tracts of land have not been further subdivided. Each individual square is called a Section and contains one square mile, usually approximately, and are consecutively numbered in a zig-zag pattern. The image above shows a township in the middle surrounded by parts of eight other townships. So Section No. 1 in the this township is surrounded by townships, counting clockwise, 2, 35, 36, 31, 6, 7, 12, 11, and back to 2.

You would think that if the country was marked out in Sections, that all land boundaries would follow the lines and be rectangular. Unfortunately, this is not the case. People still tended to sell land according the local conditions and land features so there are many oddly shaped parcels. The Sections are further broken down into smaller units. All this may seem to be arbitrary, but as I will cover in one of the next posts in this series, there are different ways of measuring land and these surveys are supported by measurements in "chains" which can be an actual physical chain of 66 feet. In this case, an acre is actually the area of 10 square chains. It all makes sense when you know the old systems of measurement.

Here is a diagram showing the section divided into smaller areas:
Muskegon County Register of Deeds
If the lots end up being odd sizes, there is still the possibility that the legal for any given lot is not easily understood or found on a map. So here is a legal description of a lot according to the way the system works, see if you can plot out where it would lie in the section:
Southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter, section thirteen, township two south, range two west. 
The shorthand for this description is:
SE1/4, SE1/4, NE1/4, Sec. 13, T2S., R2W
Here is another one to practice on.

S2 NE4; NW4 SE4; W2 NE4 SE4 SEC 6 T6N R30E EXC FOR A PORTION IN NW4 SE4.

Essentially, you have to take a piece of paper and draw it out. Carefully. Then you have to recite the description back as you look at what you have drawn. It helps to read the description from the right to the left and once you have it down, repeat it from left to right. 

Good Luck.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Digitizing Genealogy -- Beyond Resolution to Standards Part One

This is a continuing series of posts about the subject of digitizing records and photographs for the purpose of documenting and expanding genealogical research. In writing this series, I am trying to tread the mid-ground between being overly technical and simplistic to the point of ignoring real technical issues. It would be extremely easy for me to lapse into a jargon filled discourse on the finer points of both scanning and photography, but in interests to trying to help the average person, who is neither a professional archivist nor a professional-level photographer, I will continue with my attempts at making the entire subject understandable. If I fail in my efforts, there is always the venue of comments. I hope to make this series more of a discussion than a lecture. So, as always, I will welcome comments and may incorporate the issues raised in any comments into future posts.

While I am trying to make the subject of scanning and photography as they are used by genealogists more understandable, I am constrained by the fact that both areas are, in fact, highly technical in nature. In both scanning and photography, there is a level of use that is casual in the extreme. The practitioner slaps a piece of paper on a scanner and clicks the machines external scan button and makes a copy of the document. The casual photographer pulls out his or her smartphone and snaps away without out a thought about the process of using the photo for any particular purpose. All you have to do to see this in action is go to any event involving a celebrity and watch dozens (hundreds0 of people pull out their phones and take instant photos.

The real question is whether or not what we do as genealogists involves more than what is accomplished by the casual use of a scanner or a camera? At the other end of the spectrum of the users of these technologies, are the professionals whose concerns and demands sometimes seem incomprehensible and trivial to the average user. I have probably looked at millions of documents and just as many photographs over the years and I am often baffled by what is called professional. Photography is both an art and a science. But sometimes what passes for art is just bad photography.

As genealogists, we get a lot more out of a good photographic image than we do a "bad" one. We also get a lot more information out of a good scanned image than we do a bad one. This is particularly easy to illustrate with photographic images. Here are two photos from my huge collection that illustrate this point:


For the purpose of illustration, the identity and location of this image are not important, but it is a photo of my paternal grandparents' first home in St. Johns, Arizona. You can click on the image to enlarge it. Here is another image of the same home:


From a technical and even a genealogical standpoint, both of these photos are really bad. But the question raises, are there any other photos of the home in existence? The answer is that these are the only two photos I have showing the home shortly after it was built. The present home has been substantially modified and looks entirely differently than the photos. Here is a more current photo of the same house:


Do we throw away the old photo because it is bad? There are some who would probably do so, but the reality is that the first two photos, as bad as they are, are priceless because they document the construction of the home and show the condition of the property that can never be recaptured. By the way, the color photo is not that great either but the detail is much better and the lighting shows the house.

The answer to this quandary is that we cannot impose our own present standards on the past. We need to recognize that historical documents are just that, historical, and not decide on the quality of the images from our own more recent perspective.

At the same time, we also need to understand that our own technology enables us to do a much better job of preserving our own record and those we can rescue from the past.

In the next installments, I will discuss what our present standards are from both a practical and professional level. You might be surprised at the huge conflict in opinions at both levels.

Here are the previous posts in this series. You can also scroll down in the right hand column and see the Labels for the category of Digitizing Genealogy.

http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2015/03/digitizing-genealogy-resolution-is.html
http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2015/02/digitizing-genealogy-scanners-vs-cameras.html

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Digitizing Genealogy -- Resolution is always an issue

Roger Gilbertson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The manufacturers of both scanning devices and cameras have been locked in a pixel war for many years. As a result of this fixation, claims for high resolution are common. The results? The image shown above is an example of what is called a moire pattern. This is caused by the interference of the light rays and is very common in images where the pixel count exceeds the length of the waves of visible light. You can't ignore physics when you start to scan and take photographs. Before you run out and spend some hard-earned money on scanner or a camera, you should realize that resolution, as such, has its limits. At this point, we need some definitions:
  • Resolution -- the amount of small detail you can see in an image
  • Magnification -- how much an image can be enlarged
  • Contrast -- the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of an image
  • Sharpness or Definition -- the viewer's perception of the results of focus, depth of field, contrast, and the maximum potential detail inherent in the recording media
  • Depth of Field -- the area of sharpness in front of and behind the main object in an image
  • Grain -- the limit of the resolution of the media (from film photography; the size of the silver particles making up the developed film)
  • Image -- the product of a scanning or photograph process
  • Noise -- also known as artifacts, this is the amount of unwanted defects in the image
  • Wave length -- the distance between the tops of the waves in angstroms or Nanometers
  • DPI also LPI also PPI -- dots per inch, lines per inch and pixels per inch, all measurements of the resolution of a image making device
  • Optical resolution -- the actual or physical resolution of a scanner or lens
  • Sensor -- the light gathering mechanism for a scanner or camera
  • Megapixels -- the total number of sensors in a sensor array
  • Digitize -- using an electronic device such as a digital camera or scanner to create an image that can be manipulated and displayed with a computer-based device

OK, so let's start with a reality check. What is the absolute resolution of the human eye? This question means, what amount of detail can you see with your eyes assuming you have perfect vision?

You might be surprised to learn that if you put your eye's resolution into the terms used today for selling scanners and cameras that you can only resolve images at about 74 Megapixels. Interestingly, some high-end cameras are approaching that resolution level. But is resolution the end all and be all of making images? Not at all. The real issue, although the ads would have you believe otherwise, is the whether or not the image coveys the information intended. That is, can you read the document? That has more to do with contrast than resolution.

Here, I need to pause and sort out where I am going with this issue of resolution. There are really two completely different issues from a genealogical standpoint; the digitization of documents (i.e. paper etc.) and the digitization of photographs (i.e. images of ancestors etc.). Obtaining readable and acceptable images of documents is very different from digitizing photographs (unless they are photographs of documents such as microfilm etc.).

Now back to Megapixels and DPI. Digital cameras have, since they were first sold, have been touting the resolution of their sensors in Megapixels. Originally, the cameras were one or two Megapixels and lately, Canon has announced a new EOS 5DS and a companion camera, the EOS 5DSR, both with 50.6 Megapixel sensors. On the other hand, scanners are advertised with DPI ratings. For example, the Epson Perfection V600 Color Photo, Image, Film, Negative and Document Scanner claims a resolution of 6400 x 9600 dpi. So how do you compare the two?

It turns out that the numbers given by the companies that manufacture scanners are mostly exaggerated. The optical resolution of this Epson scanner is actually 6400 dpi. The claimed effective pixel count is 54,400 x 74,880 giving an incredible 4073 Megapixels. But there is a fatal flaw here in this reasoning. If that number were true, the file would be incredibly large. So how do you find out the answer to the question about comparison? You have to actually measure the resolution.

The way resolution is ultimately determined for lenses or for the produced image is to photograph or scan a standard resolution test document such as the 1951 USAF Resolution Test Chart or some other similar test. Here is an example of this type of chart:

EIA Resolution Chart 1956
This type of chart works with scanners, cameras and other optical equipment. But the catch is that buying the standard type of chart can cost from $300 on up.

After all that, for genealogists and archivists, there are standards for resolution. but that is the next post.


Monday, March 2, 2015

What has genealogy got to do with identity theft?

Locally, there was another flurry of news articles about the need to protect individuals in the U.S. from identity theft. Whenever this happens, I start getting comments, usually anonymous, about genealogist's fears that putting their ancestral information online will compromise their identity and make them vulnerable to identity theft. Despite waves of comments about the "huge increases" in identity theft, I have yet to hear about a single survey or study linking having an online family tree to an increased risk of the so-called identity theft.

Notwithstanding this simple fact, I still get comments like the one I did yesterday expressing a reader's intent not to put his genealogy online and using words that prevented me from quoting or posting the comment. But then again today, I got another comment from my dear friend, Anonymous, that I could print:
Correct me if I'm wrong because I also worry about this but have decided to use online genealogy , if someone really wants to get your identity its not that hard all they have to do is what everyone searching for their roots do and look up cencus records, birth records, obituaries, etc old newspapers wedding and birth announcements etc. Is there really anyway to keep information from ending up on line and if you don't put your information up whats to stop a family member also working on family tree? In order to use your information to get into your bank they would have to know were you bank first and you don't put that information on genealogy trees I can see someone maybe trying to open a new account with some of information you share but they would still need a social security number for that wouldn't they and that is not something you'd post on your tree,
I made no attempt to correct either spelling or grammar. In this case, Anonymous is certainly right. There is a disconnect between the issue of identity theft, however it is defined, and the fact that I have common ancestral information online. The simple fact is I share ancestral information with hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. I have investigated this issue over and over again during the past few years and cannot find one iota of evidence that online genealogical information can be used to establish a false identity. Most genealogists are blissfully unaware of the huge amount of personal information about them and their lives that is already online and has nothing at all to do with genealogy. In fact, few genealogists would know where to go to find out this very personal information.

Let me give a very simple example, mentioned above by Anonymous: Social Security numbers. Why would you or anyone think that your social security number is not readily available to anyone who cares to know? Think about it. You have to use it to file income taxes, obtain a driver's license, obtain insurance, get medical help, enroll in school, apply for a loan and almost anything else in our society that requires identification. I had to present my social security card, the original card, to get a driver's license in Utah. What was there to keep the clerk who was processing my license from copying my number and using it to "steal my identity?" Nothing. My own number was once my student number at the University of Utah for seven years. It was also my Army ID number for eight years. 

Let me start with a simple fact. There is no consistent or generally accepted definition of the term "identity theft." When I speak of identity theft, what am I talking about? What do you think it is? Are we talking about losing a credit card or about someone taking out a loan in my name? Both of these actions are considered identity theft. For your information, the National Crime Victimization Survey of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice of the United States, includes three general types of incidents in its definition of identity theft:
  • unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account
  • unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account
  • misuse of personal information for a fraudulent purpose.
By the way, the latest statistics for identity theft date from 2012. Here is a more specific definition of identity theft from the latest Bureau of Justice Statistics
Identity theft is the attempted or successful misuse of an existing account, such as a debit or credit card account, the misuse of personal information to open a new account, or the misuse of personal information for other fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining government benefits or providing false information to police during a crime or traffic stop.
Here is a further continuation of the issue from the same report:
In 2012, the misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account was the most common type of identity theft — experienced by 15.3 million people. An estimated 7.7 million people reported the fraudulent use of a credit card and 7.5 million reported the fraudulent use of a bank account such as a debit, checking or savings account. Another 1.1 million persons had their information misused to open a new account, and about 833,600 persons had their information misused for other fraudulent purposes. 
The most common way victims discovered the identity theft in 2012 was when a financial institution contacted them about suspicious activity on an account. About 2 out of 3 victims did not know how the offender obtained their information, and 9 out of 10 did not know anything about the identity of the offender.
Can you see any connection between this and the fear that putting your genealogical data online will compromise your identity?  Now let me ask a very simple question. How many of you have insisted on using a newly issued credit card with an encrypted micro-chip in all your transactions? We have the technology to prevent nearly all of the current credit card issues, but do not use them. If you do not know what is involved in the new credit card technology, see EMV smart chips which are used throughout the world, except in the U.S.

When will we stop hearing about identity theft? Probably never. When will credit cards stop becoming so much of an issue? When the EMV standard is adopted. Here is the latest:

That will change as the first major milestone in EMV deployment occurs on October 1, 2015. While it’s not a hard cutoff, that date is being referred to as when liability shifts for the American credit card industry. Starting in October, the least technologically equipped party will pay the cost of fraudulent transactions. If a retailer has an EMV compatible terminal, but the bank doesn’t issue an EMV compatible card, then the bank is responsible for the cost of fraud. However, if the cardholder has an EMV compatible card and the retailer hasn’t upgraded its systems, then the retailer will be liable.Read more: http://thepointsguy.com/2015/01/emv-chips-and-credit-card-security-what-you-need-to-know/#ixzz3TF2dwNHX
What has this to do with genealogy? Not much.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist -- Chapter Fifteen


This is an ongoing series of chapter by chapter comments on the book,

Meyerink, Kory L., Tristan Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

I am now commenting on Chapter 15: "Jurisdictions: Who Created the Record?" by Loretta Evans, AG.

Whether the analogy is the one used by the author of this chapter, Russian dolls, or my own, a stack of pancakes, the idea is the same. Records about individuals and families are kept at various geographic levels of the entities making those records. The concept of jurisdiction is not an easy one for most people to understand. The word is used in a very general sense to include all sorts of divisions of all sorts of organizations. This chapter of the book contains a list of examples of the types of records created by different jurisdictions of government, churches, fraternal organizations, social organizations, schools, businesses and many others.

Two of the largest online resources for genealogists, the FamilySearch.org FamilySearch Catalog and the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki are organized to reflect the real-world way records are located. If you begin a search in either resource by entering a place name, you will see a list of available records for that place organized by category. You can also see links to any enclosed area where additional records may be kept. The complicating factor, of course, is the that records tend to move. Older records may stay in the place where they are created, but may also be moved to larger archives, libraries or other repositories. Records may also be created on a local level, such as a death certificate in the United States, but maintained on a state level.

There are really two main questions to ask about records:

  • Where were the records created originally?
  • Where are the records located today?

In both cases, it is implicit in the process of researching your ancestors that you determine an exact location where an event occurred in the individual's life. I have been teaching a class on research beginning this past week, and it has become abundantly clear that finding records about an ancestor absolutely requires knowing an exact location where an event occurred. It is all too easy to choose the wrong person from those with similar names and dates, unless you are extremely careful in recording the places where each event identified occurred.

Knowledge of the place of an event allows you to then identify the jurisdictions of the various record keeping organizations or entities that may have created records pertaining to your ancestor.

NO PLACE = NO ANCESTOR OR THE WRONG ANCESTOR

If you are researching back on a particular line, you must move from place to place. You cannot begin a search for records until you identify the next level of places. General locations such as "Ohio" or "Prussia" are absolutely useless. This is especially true because jurisdictions change over time. The date something happened can be approximate, but the place has to be exact.

How exact is exact? In many cases, you may have to identify the house where the family lived. This is true whenever there are a number of people with the same or similar names living in the same area. Some countries where this is the common rule include Wales, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other areas where similar names are found in abundance.

What happens if you find a pedigree and none of the places where events occurred are listed? This is really common when people list their "ancestral royalty." It is also common on a very localized level with records that came from family Bibles. In each case, the list is nothing more than a suggestion to start doing research. As I have said many times previously, when copying starts, genealogy ends. When you start copying dates and names out of a book, off of a family tree or other similar source without verifying the information, you have left reality behind and are now in fantasy land.

This chapter seems rather simple, but in fact, it is the core concept of genealogical research and cannot be emphasized too much or too many times.

You may wish to review some of the preceding chapters:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Digitizing Genealogy -- Scanners vs. Cameras

If the entire world is buying smartphones and cell phones with cameras, why are we worried about separate cameras or even flatbed scanners at all? Can't we just take a photograph of our documents with our phone and leave it at that. Why bother with a bulky, less-than-portable, scanner? If scanners are needed, why do the FamilySearch Document Acquisition people use cameras? Why have cameras been used for archiving since about 1938? Why don't they just scan the documents?

The answers to all these questions involve complex issues, some practical, some economical, and some chiefly political in nature. The answers also involve the evolution of technology and the rate at which technological changes are adopted by archivists and document conservators.

To start this particular discussion, I need to show three images. One, obtained by a camera and then developed as a microfilm image and subsequently digitized, the second, an image altered by modern image enhancement techniques, and the third taken by a modern digital camera directly from a document.

Before presenting the three examples, I need to explain what you are going to see. Document reproduction (and all photographic processes) depend on the quality of the physical document. Old documents are seldom in pristine condition and are subject to a variety of natural forces that may destroy the original documents and make them unreadable: fires, floods, mold, insects, chemical changes, rough handling, and many more. Original reflective light photography could do very little to improve the readability of the original document. Microfilm images were often unreadable. The advent of digital imagery and the technology involved has developed ways to restore unreadable images and even reveal images that are invisible to the naked eye. But much of this image enhancement technology depends on access to the original documents. There is only so much that can be done to enhance a poor microfilm image of an unreadable document. In addition, if the original document is unreadable, there are both temporal and economic issues the arise if document restoration techniques are to be used. More about this later on in this post and the series.

Here is the first image without any particular photographic enhancement. This is a copy of a U.S. Census record directly from the original documents as shown on Archive.org;


You may have to click on the image to see any detail. Here is a screenshot of the section of the document pertaining to my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner:


Again, you may need to click on the document to see the detail.

Here is the same page of the same U.S. Census record from FamilySearch.org:


Here is a screenshot of the two documents side by side:


You might not be able to tell, but the second image, from FamilySearch.org, has the contrast enhanced to show more detail. Both are fairly good images, but the second one probably shows more detail than than the first even though it appears darker.

Here is a current digitized image from FamilySearch.org. The format of the way the image was taken reveals that it was taken directly by a digital camera. This is a sample of the Tennessee, Freedmen's Bureau Field Office Records, 1865 - 1872 from Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Here is an enlarged section of this same Tennessee document:


You can see that the quality of the digital image is still very good even with some bleed through from the backside of the document.

The point here is that the limitations of the original often eclipse the sophistication of the technology and that there is little that can be done to enhance an image even with modern technology because of time and cost constraints. Would a modern scanner produce a better image? Yes, likely, but the problem is that the originals are not in a place nor do they have the format that would lend itself to using some type of scanner.

Most of the discussions about making a comparison between using a scanner versus using a camera revolve around the issue of resolution. Cheap scanners could make a higher resolution image than a cheap camera. Archive quality digital cameras were extremely expensive. The main issue was and still is, the resolution of the image. It was not until relatively recently that consumer or prosumer digital cameras achieved an acceptable resolution. I will have a lot more to say about the technical aspects of making digital images in successive posts.

Here are some the basic considerations, pro and con, between using a camera and a scanner:

Pros for using a camera:

  • Easy to set up.
  • Relatively fast imaging.
  • Quick transfer of images to a computer or storage device.
  • Can be used with very large documents.
  • More likely to be allowed by a record repository.

Cons for a camera:

  • The cost of a good quality camera is considerably more than the cost of a good quality scanner.
  • Depending on the digitizing requirements, additional equipment, such as a camera stand and lights might be necessary. 
  • Maintaining the proper focus across the entire image may be difficult, i.e. keeping the document flat with damaging the document. 

Pros for using a scanner:

  • High quality images.
  • Avoids much of the bleed-through on pages.
  • Relatively inexpensive for good quality.

Cons for a scanner:

  • Bulky, cannot be used at all in some document locations.
  • Much slower than a camera.
  • Original documents may be injured in the scanning process.
  • Some documents cannot fit on the scanning bed and would have to be scanned in sections.
  • Not as frequently allowed by record repositories.

One of the most common discussions about the use of scanners and/or cameras revolve around the distinction between scanning a photo and scanning text (i.e. documents without pictures). In this series, I hope to show that digital cameras have evolved to the point where they are more than just an alternative to scanners, but now have become the most effective tool for genealogists and archivists of all kinds.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Famberry launches “Famberry Search” & GEDCOM Upload


The private collaborative family tree builder program, Famberry.com, has made the following announcement:
London, England (February 27th, 2015) Famberry (www.famberry.com), the private collaborative family tree builder, is please to announce the release of “Famberry Search”, an interactive search facility that uses key indicators from your family tree to give you the most relevant search results and an opportunity to connect with related family. The more you add to your family tree the better the Famberry Search results. 
In addition to the standard checks for matches as you grow your family tree on Famberry, the Famberry Search facility will help users who have hit brick walls with certain names and want to check for any other families that have connections to specific names.

As part of the announcement Famberry is also releasing GEDCOM import and export facilities to allow users to transfer family tree information from their private applications to the sharable family tree environment of Famberry.
This seems to be a concept that is getting more popular, the idea of having a relatively simple family tree structure that allows collaboration and connectivity. I think the die-hard genealogists are not going to be attracted to this type of program as their primary database, but it could be very attractive for families not entirely embroiled in family history, not as a substitute for more detail, but as an adjunct.