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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Sense of Urgency -- A Review of Past and Present Digitizing Projects

Genealogists generate paper. I can remember in past genealogy classes, the instructor would always seem to have a huge family group sheet binder with hundreds of sheets. I suppose I was supposed to be impressed, but mostly I just felt tired. I passed the family group sheet binder stage of my existence years ago when I started to enter all of my information into various genealogical database programs. Then I began accumulating documents, photos and other extraneous paper.

Very early on, in the world of computers, I realized the value of digitizing documents. I purchased my first scanner and began the process of adding all of the documents to my computer files. My first major project was digitizing thousands of documents inherited from my Great-grandmother Mary Ann Linton Morgan. That project took several years of work and culminated with the donation of the documents to the Brigham Young University L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library in Provo, Utah. Here is a screen shot of the catalog entry:
The entry is also in See The collection is also online at the Salt Lake Family History Library. See

OK, so I sort-of finished that project, but at the same time, through a cousin, found three more boxes from my Great-grandmother and my Aunt. I started working through those boxes. Meanwhile, I got a huge number of additional documents from my father's family and through my own research. All of this went into the digitization file. About this time, I began to realize we had an interesting, life changing, challenge. How do I get all this done?

By the way, apart from the genealogy files, I was also digitizing 40 years of business records consisting of hundreds of thousands of documents. I may have mentioned my grandson digitized all summer and made over 30,000 images but only managed to finish a few of the dozens of boxes.

Fortunately, that was only the beginning. My wife inherited a number of boxes of her own to add to the pile, including hundreds of Family Group Records from her family and hundreds (thousands) of documents and photographs.

One of my cousins (by marriage) had a huge collection of hundreds of photos and documents from my Great-uncle. That project went on priority and took a few months. We finally gave the family a copy of everything on DVD and added all those documents to the stacks.

Last year, as I have related before, we most fortunately found the Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson Photograph Collection of photographic glass and acetate negatives taken in the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s. I estimate over 3000 total negatives and prints. That has taken me almost a year to process just over 1000 photos.

During all this time, I was working with FamilySearch on a pilot digitizing project, scanning the Mesa, Arizona City Cemetery Records. That project involved scanning 13,113 images which, I am told, are now in line to be added to the Historical Record Collections. That project is complete.

Meanwhile, I am aware of another collection of six boxes of documents that I am waiting to receive and begin processing. That could show up anytime.

I spend at least one full day a week processing documents with no end in sight. Right now, I have almost 76,000 images and photographs in Lightroom to process, not including the huge business files and other archive items. Do you see why I may have a sense of urgency?

In my next installment of this review, I will talk about my current method of handling all of these images. Most of the genealogically valuable images will end up in repositories at some point in time.


  1. You need to hire someone to help you.

  2. Great work. I would love some thoughts - when you have time!!!! - on how you handle the data side of the scanning. I have attached some document to my genealogy software however this is not the best way especially when sharing images with family. I have considered a separate database as I use Microsoft Access at work. The info about the images often is just as important as the image.

    Looking forward to you piece on handling the images also. Fran

  3. What kind of scanner do you use?

  4. I'm looking forward to reading about your electronic file system that enables you to find the images you want!