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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Digitizing Genealogy -- Introduction to Scanners

CanoScan LiDE40 is Canon's A4 USB CIS flatbed image scannerBy Qurren (Qurren's file) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Scanners are becoming ubiquitous and have been inexpensive for some time. Genealogists really need to invest in a scanner and use it regularly. The idea here is to not only provide a link to a document or other source, but also include a copy of the original. This is quite easy to do if the document is online, unless it happens to be copyright protected or watermarked in some way. Usually, right clicking on the document or image will let you save a copy to your own computer or other device. Most of the larger online genealogical database programs also have a way to download an original copy of the documents in their collections. The image can then be attached as a media item to an ancestor in your own desktop genealogy program or to an online family tree. There is also a program from, that will make a copy of the online documents, with a citation to the source, and allow you to transfer that file to Family Tree.

But here, in this post, I am exploring the world of scanners for those times when you need to scan your own documents or photos. Here is an example of a scanned photo from my Great-grandmother, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson's Photographic Collection:

This particular image was scanned with a Canon CanoScan 8800F. The latest version of this scanner is the CanoScan 9000F Mark II for about $200. This model is considered to be a film and negative scanner but will also do an excellent job of any document or photo. An entry level Canon scanner costs about $50 retail and will do just as good a job of scanning a document or photo as the more expensive film and negative scanner. It is just slower and has fewer features. Here are a few of the current models and prices of the different manufacturers' less expensive, flat-bed scanners. You may be able to find a better deal online for the same models.

  •'s #1 Best Seller is the Epson Perfection V600 Color Photo, Image, Film, Negative & Document Scanner for $212.12.
  • The Canon CanoScan 4507B002 LiDE110 Color Image Scanner is $59.99 from
  • HP Scanjet G4050 Photo Scanner from the HP Store at for $179.00

Scanners are going to vary in price by the following criteria:

  • The speed of the first scan after turning on the scanner
  • The speed of the scanner usually in pages per minute
  • The resolution claimed by the manufacturer
  • The size of the scanning bed from 8.5 inches by 11 inches up to 11 inches by 17 inches or even larger
  • The color depth of the scans, i.e. 16-bit up to 96-bit color
  • Sheet feed capability
  • Whether the scanner will do negatives and slides
  • Networking capability
The machines fall into several categories depending on functionality. 
  • Hand-held scanners
  • Flat-bed scanners
  • Sheet fed scanners
  • Large format scanners
  • Work group scanners (networked for sharing)
If you want to explore the capabilities of the different types and models, it is best to go to the individual websites. Here is a list of the major manufacturers. You may have to look through some menus or search for the scanners.

By the way, all of them claim to have the best scanner and there are websites out there that support any one of the manufacturer's claims. I am not sure anyone has tried all the new models and compared them feature by feature. I have had good use out of both my Canon and Epson scanners over the years. Presently, I have and use scanners from both manufacturers.

Here is a list of the previous posts in this series:

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