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

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Use your digital camera to do research

I have to admit that I am not very good at taking notes. Usually, after I get through I can't make out what I was writing about. When it comes to doing research in family history, I have a tendency to forget what I have seen and done. I do use Research Outlines and keep track of the sources I search, but sometimes I have a hard time remembering what the source looked like until I find myself searching it again. Digital photos have changed all that and cut down the amount of time I spend reading books and records in the libraries and repositories.

This is a downloaded image, saved to a flash drive or to the computer, of a U.S. Census record. I insert this image here to show the quality of downloaded images, so you can see and compare to a digital photo.

This second image is a photograph of a cemetery document. It was taken with a Canon XTi camera at 10.1 Megapixels. I used a camera stand to hold the camera and the image was automatically transferred from the camera to my computer by a USB connection to the camera. The blue lines are the base of the camera stand and used to align the image. I realize this image is a little crooked but I use it to demonstrate the quality of the image, not how straight it is.

The second image is highly readable. If you click on either image, you will get a full size view of the two images. The photograph actually shows more in the image than it does in real life looking at the paper. Since you can magnify the image, details that would be missed on the original paper show up clearly, such as, pencil marks and erasures.

This method of collecting information has a lot of advantages. You can spend more time looking and less time copying. You can copy all of the material and not just make notes. You don't have to pay for copy costs and you can go back and read the original record anytime you want to. You also save space by not having a huge stack of old copies of books and records.

Surprisingly, I have also had good results taking pictures of microfilmed records. I just point the camera at the projected image and click away. I do have to be careful that I am bracing the camera against the projector or using a tripod. I can't say that this type of use pays for the camera, but if you take enough pictures at libraries and repositories, you can certainly save a lot in copy costs.

More later

1 comment:

  1. Good advice. I am surprised more people don't use their digital cameras to copy documents for all the reasons you mention. I often use a digital camera to copy old family photographs where the person is nervous about letting them out of their possession - you just need to watch out for reflections.