Family History and Computers

I seem to spend most of my spare time conducting family history research. Either that or preparing lessons to teach others how to do their own research. That being the case it seems appropriate for this blog to concentrate on how to help others.

My comments may be best received by people who have not fully embraced modern technology, or by those just beginning their family history journey. I would also like to think there will be insights that will help anybody who cares to read these posts.

Family history research is a lot easier now than it was 50 years ago when I first started my journey, but that does not mean that it is easy. There is still a lot of effort involved. If anything, the process is more complicated now because computers and the internet have given us so much more material than we had access to before. But traditional research in a document repository still has its place.

As I said the last couple of posys, family history should be more than a collection of arcane facts and figures. Not only does finding out background information about the family, the neighborhood, local and national politics, and pictures of where your ancestors and distant cousins lived make it more interesting for you, but your children and grandchildren will love that kind of detail as well.

Remember, you will only be limited by your imagination. The information is out there! Next week I will try to break down the different ways you can use computers and other electronic devices in your research.

Posted in Computers | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stories and Memories for Family History

If you don’t recount your family history it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are. Madeleine L’Engle

A little while ago I was researching my great-great grandmother. She was born in 1838 and died in 1911. She, therefore, appeared in all of the available censuses for England & Wales. That’s from 1841 right through 1911. She was born in 1838, so it was no surprise to find her aged 3 in 1841. Even seeing her at age 12 in 1851 was not too much of a surprise. After all, the census of 1841 was taken 6 June, while that of 1851 was taken 30 March, and I was not certain of her exact date of birth at that time. But then I found her in 1861 aged 21. All of this was before her marriage in July 1861. I guess I should not have been surprised to find her aged 30 in 1871.

At this point I could see a pattern emerging and, sure enough, in subsequent censuses her stated age only went up by 9 years per census. And, by 1911 her age was given as 66. She died in December that year and, to my surprise, the person reporting the death correctly gave her age as 73, so somebody in the family (more likely several people) was aware of the truth. Even after her husband died in 1899, her age continued to go up by 9-year increments until her death.

So, some interesting facts there to help to flesh out her character. She was clearly concerned about what others through of her appearance, and was sufficiently dominant that her husband, and later her children, continued to pander to her.

Now, I suppose one could say that this conclusion is based on conjecture, but really, isn’t that what most storytelling is? You ask any football fan how a given goal was scored and you will likely get as many variations as there were fans attending the game. Besides, I really warmed to her after I saw what was going on, and it’s so much more interesting than just plain, boring, facts and documents.

At any rate, stories and memories should bring history to life. Don’t know much about a particular family? If you know where they lived you can always research the history of the area and show the type of work they were likely involved in and so forth.

Posted in Memories, Stories | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Preserving Pictures for Family History

It helps to bring family history to life if you can include pictures and stories as you gather information. I have had false starts in this area over the years but I would like to think that I am finally getting a handle on this.

I have had a scanner for many years. It works well enough but the software that goes with it is clunky and time-consuming. As a result I was not encouraged to use it a lot.

Three years ago i bought a QromaScan at Rootstech. It’s good, and i still use it occasionally, but it needs to be assembled before use and doesn’t always work as I would expect.

So what has changed? One of my purchases at RootsTech this year was of a portable scanner called a FlipPal scanner. It is high on battery use but so convenient. In the four days since it has arrived I have scanned 40 pictures, amended the metadata and placed it all in a spreadsheet. It will even scan pictures still in the frame, as well as being able to split large pictures between multiple scans and then seamlessly stitch them back together. The picture enhancement software is excellent as well.

Next week I’ll talk about stories because without them family history really is nothing but dry facts and figures.

Posted in pictures | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment