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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Genealogy on the run

 One day we were in Utah visiting relatives and one of the relatives unexpectedly hauled out a huge scrapbook of letters and photos of the family. I got my camera out of the car and set the book up at an angle on the front porch where there was sufficient light and had my wife turn the pages as I photocopied each page of the scrapbook. The pages were in plastic page protectors and were standard U.S. Letter size, 8 1/2 x 11. The pages were in a three-ring binder and I took two page spreads at a time. The scrapbook had almost 200 pages and I am going to guess that it took me, at most, ten minutes to copy the entire book.

The image above is a page of the text at 400% in Photoshop. To put it short, the pages are entirely readable and usable. The photos in the scrapbook were mostly photocopies of original photos and so the quality did not matter. By being able to take high quality images on a moment's notice, I saved the aggravation of finding a nearby copy machine and the cost of the copies. Today, if I had needed to use my iPhone, I could have taken a photo of each page, spent a little more time and gotten similar copies.  With a camera, I can easily take pictures as fast as someone can comfortably turn the pages.

So what does this mean? It means that the whole concept of taking notes, transcribing texts and other tedious tasks are things of the past. With the exception of those few repositories that will not allow any type of reproduction of their collections, it is tremendously more effective to take photos of the pages rather than try to take notes.

Another example, I was again in Salt Lake and had an hour or two free before a meeting. I popped into the Family History Library and began taking photos of books from Rhode Island that I needed for my genealogical research. In a matter of minutes, I gave myself a few pages from several books to go through when I had more leisure time, which, by the way, has never materialized. If you do this, make sure you take a photo of the title page first so you can remember which book the material came from. Is there a copyright issue? There certainly would be if I took photos of an entire copyrighted book. I will not reproduce anything I obtained here in this post or anywhere else. The rule for copyright is called the Fair Use Doctrine and it is summarized as follows:
In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a
commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted
work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted
As you can see, that doesn't help much. Use good sense, don't copy an entire article or book. Try to be judicious in what you take as "notes." Do not use the images for any purpose other than your own private research and certainly do not use them for any further publication purpose unless they are clearly out of copyright. 

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