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

Friday, September 10, 2010

Scanning, scanning and more scanning

My Great-grandmother, Mary Ann Linton Morgan, spent the largest part of her life dedicated to genealogical research. In the course of doing so, unfortunately, she managed to alienate the interest of almost all of her children and grandchildren in genealogy. Doing her research in the early to mid-1900s, she accumulated hundreds of hand written family group records and the associated documents, including journals, letters, histories and associated documents. When she died, there were no family members with even the slightest interest in carrying on her work or even in preserving what she had done. When I began my genealogical research, many years after she died, I was told no one knew what happened to all of her records even though my mother reported seeing a "garage full" of records.

During the first ten or so years of research, I could find little evidence of any of the work she had supposedly done. Until one day my mother asked me if I want some old boxes of records from my aunt (her sister). Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to see some actual old records. Some time later, my mother gave me the boxes. As an aside, she was not interested enough to actually look in the boxes, but knew they might be interesting to me. There is probably a story here about how an overwhelming interest in genealogy can have a negative impact on close family members.

As you can probably guess, the boxes contained tens of thousands of original and derivative documents accumulated by my Great-grandmother over the course of over thirty years of research. At the time, I got the records, home computers had progressed considerably and there were several programs that I could use to preserve the records. At the time, I started transcribing the letters and other documents and entering the family data into one of the early versions of Personal Ancestral File. I spent the next ten or twelve years working through the information in those boxes.

Ultimately, as the technology became more sophisticated, I began scanning all of the documents. I spent years scanning and scanning and more scanning. Some of the documents are now available in the Family History Library on CD. If you use a computer in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, you can search the database online. Just do a catalog search for Mary Ann Linton Morgan as the author.

Since that time, I have gotten tens of thousands of additional documents and photos and the scanning goes on and on. Today, I looked at the scanning folder and find 9,771 files in my genealogy folder and 60,744 documents in my document folder. By the way, I still have a huge pile of boxes from other family members to scan and process. I figure I may be about half way done with the records I already have and more are showing up all the time.

I will likely discuss this again in future.


  1. James,
    I invested in a Fujitsu Scan Snap 1500 scanner and now I can digitize a whole box of documents in less than an hour! Now, I just have to adjust the file names slightly.
    I have 4503 images in my scanned folder than need filename adjustment before they get moved into Documents (2593 files), Obits (1178), Photos (4484), or other folders.
    Its so nice to have my 'Library' on the pc instead of digging thru binders and boxes.... they are headed for their own attic graveyard until they get bequeathed to the local historical society.
    Great Post, Look forward to more!

  2. More than once over the last year I’ve wished there was a way I could look at some of the work Mary Ann Linton Morgan did, and you salvaged and scanned. I've been wishing extra hard this week. I had no idea that,
    “If you use a computer in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, you can search the database online. Just do a catalog search for Mary Ann Linton Morgan as the author.”
    I’ve returned from a short trip to the FHL where I did just that. It was like Christmas. What a remarkably diligent woman. What a treasure trove! And thank you for preserving and sharing.

  3. Scanning sounds like an intense job with that amount of information. How accurate were her findings?

    The interest just skipped a few generations. I suppose her granddaughters were not interested but still could not throw the information away.