To Do List for BEFORE you Scan

To Do List for before you scan

If you’re planning to digitize photos or family history items anytime soon, there are plenty of things you can do now to get ready for your scanning project. Here’s a Scanning To Do List you can start plugging away at now to make your digital family history goals achievable. Each of these steps takes time and will simplify the final scanning phase.

To Do List for before you scan

To Do List Before You Scan


    • Gather items

      Think about every place you may have stored photos, letters, trinkets, etc. Set aside one place where you can pile all these items.

      If you’re going to have to clean up this area daily, you should tackle the project in smaller doses, i.e., scrapbooks only; loose photos only; trinkets only; letters only, etc.


    • Decide your final goal for the items

      Friends introduced me to Clayton Christensen’s Jobs-To-Be-Done Theory which I try to apply to my family history work. What job are you trying to accomplish? What product or service should you “hire” for the job?

      Genealogists tend to be like archivists, they save everything. Is this your plan? (It’s not mine.) Are you going to digitize everything? Are you only digitizing part of the collection? Do you want archival quality scans for posterity or low-quality scans for something more disposable?

      My plan is to digitize the materials I care about and then give the physical memorabilia to family members, so I want high-quality scans. I’m still weighing whether I’ll digitize everything, but I’m moving towards not.


    • Sort, Sort, Sort the items

      This is where you’ll spend most of your time. You’ll sort multiple times, in multiple ways, to organize physical items the way you want the digital files to come out.


    • Prep the items

      You’ll prep the materials by cleaning them and you’ll prep them by placing them in whatever order a scanning device dictates. And if you’re not going to immediately digitize what you’re prepping, be sure to come up with a plan to secure the items in their proper order so items don’t shift around (keep envelopes with the correct letter, etc). Decide what filename you’ll use for each stack of ordered items.


    • Research scanning devices

      Try to find the proper tool for the job. (A flatbed scanner is NOT the right tool for every job.) Call every local library, nearby school library, historical society, etc and find out what equipment they have and what it costs to use the equipment. Is it free? Is it free to society members? Can you rent the equipment and use it at your own home? You may prefer to spend $30 to join a society and use their equipment for a year versus paying $10 an hour for a lengthy project. Is it worth purchasing some scanning equipment? I’ve definitely weighed that option.




Gather everything in one place. In popular decluttering literature, this is the Konmari method of decluttering. If you’re planning to tackle photos, you bring all the photos to one area/pile. I want to digitize ancestral scrapbooks, letters, photos, you name it, so I devoted one room in my home to be a temporary staging area and brought every item of family history, for my side of the family, into that room.


Gather memorabilia to digitize


You’ll probably need to sort items multiple times, to bring order to the chaos. Here are the sorts I used.

1. Sort the pile by Surname or Family member. I now have stacks for each parent, grandparent, and then some great-grandparents and other relatives.

If you’re not extremely familiar with what your ancestor looked like at different ages, it’s essential to keep all their photos and belongings together, separated from other ancestors’ memorabilia.

Later, you may decide to scan all photos of a certain size at the same time, but they need to be sorted by person or surname so they’ll always be identifiable.

2. Sort by Item Type

Separating objects by type protects more delicate objects from damage and helps you assess the jobs to be done. I had six types:


Scrapbooks & Diaries




Family History Notes, Pedigrees, etc.

3. Sort by Item Size or Content

You may need different scanner settings based on the size of a photo or whether a paper is single-sided or double-sided. Your scanning process will be faster if you’re able to set the scanner settings for one size/type and scan everything for that scanner setting first, then change scanner settings for the next job. You don’t want to switch between single-sided and double-sided mid-batch. Or do double-sided scans when you know the back side of a photo or document is blank.

You also may find the scanner does a better job feeding the photos through if you have the same size photos going through in one batch. Sort smaller 2″x 3″ photos and 5″ x 7″ photos into different piles.

I found a great website,, by a professional photographer, and it includes free ebook downloads. He has very specific scanning advice for photos and slides and it’s worth downloading his book for details. He’s sent me follow up emails with links for more ebooks that are free to download, and while I’ve only looked at one of them, his is a mailing list I’m happy to be a part of.

 4. Sort by Digitizing Device

Autofeed Paper Scanner – The letters and envelopes I can run through a paper scanner. Most of the random handwritten notes and pedigrees can also be fed through this type of scanner. This job is fast and efficient.

Slide Scanner – This is a very job-specific scanner, intended for 35mm, 75mm, etc slides.

Camera/Scanning machine – The scrapbooks, diaries, and some objects will need a specialized camera/scanning machine so I can take pictures of each page/item. I may use a flatbed scanner for the diaries if it’s not destructive, but the scrapbooks have three-dimensional objects in them and can’t be squashed against a screen. This job is slow and tedious.

Flatbed Scanner – The flatbed scanner is for larger photos/papers or mounted photos. This job is slow and tedious.

Auto-feed Photo Scanner – The auto-feed scanner is for smaller photos and postcards. This job is fast and efficient.


Prep the Material for Scanning. Think “Garbage in, Garbage out.”

You need to think about the digitizing device you’ll be using and possibly spend more time preparing the material to be digitized vs. the time spent actually digitizing.

With letters, take the extra time to stack the letters (and their associated envelope) in the order you want the digital files to be created. Group all of one family member’s letters together, or group them as letter & response letter, or whatever your preference.

With photos that go through a feed scanner, you need to know how the machine works.put photos in proper order for Autofeed Photo scanner

For the auto-feed photo machines I’ve used, the machine pulls photos from the back of the stack, in other words, the first photo that will be scanned is the one laying flat against the machine. I can stack a number of photos at one time but they need to be stacked first to last, from back to front, with the photo facing outward (towards you) and upside down. That’s the order and direction the machine will pull the photos through.

Flatbed scanners and Camera/Book scanners are slower processes. Flatbed scanners will usually scan right to left, top to bottom. So if you’re planning to lay multiple photos on the bed at one time (scanners will recognize the separate photos), stack your photos in the order you intend to lay them down on the flatbed.

If you’re scanning a scrapbook with multiple items on each page, plan to scan the entire scrapbook in addition to each page & its parts. In the photo below, I’m planning to use a camera/book scanner to digitize this scrapbook and I’ll take scans of the entire album as it’s laid out as a book, then I’ll take scans of individual pages & scans of individual items on each page (see the second photo of the songbook that is on this scrapbook page).  Scrapbook page with multiple items to scan

Pamphlet on scrapbook page

Be prepared to clean the materials and machines before you scan. I highly recommend buying a can of compressed air you’ll have on-hand to clean the scanner before, during, and after your scans. It’s amazing how dirty the scanners get. By the end of a big scanning job, you may start seeing dust on your digitized scans. And of course, you’ll want to leave the scanner clean for the next person.

As far as cleaning photos, I’m following the advice of Konrad at If you sign up for his free ebook he’ll also send you “How to Double Your Productivity and Finish Your Scanning Twice as Fast.” In this second e-book he shares these tips:

  • Get an air-puffer (not compressed air because it can spray some moisture that will help debris stick to the photo);

  • lint-free cloth, and

  • Isopropyl Alcohol (at least 98% alcohol)

If there is dust/debris on your photo you’ll blow it off with the air-puffer and if necessary, add some Isopropyl Alcohol to the lint-free cloth (not the photo) and gently dab/wipe the photo to remove debris.

He also recommends buying lint-free gloves from a photography store. I’d use those gloves for all memorabilia types, if not to protect the materials, to protect your hands from the moisture they’ll pull from your hands.

Finally, have your digital filenames planned in advance and include them with each sorted stack you’ve prepped for scanning.


Woohoo! You’re finally ready to scan! If you haven’t sorted by Name, Type, Size, Device, and Prepped your material, you shouldn’t be here. Seriously, Garbage in, Garbage out. A digital mess is just as ugly as a physical mess and may be harder to clean up. Unless there’s an urgent deadline for a digital end-product, don’t scan till you’ve gone through the steps to successful scanning.

What type of scanner to use and where do I find one? Amazon is a great place to search for scanning equipment and read reviews/compare specs. Before you “Add to Your Cart” and marry yourself to a machine, be sure to visit a library or society that has scanners you can use and then try each one. I’m constantly weighing the cost and inconvenience of travel against the cost and convenience of owning my own equipment. So far, traveling and lugging my boxes to a library where I can use high-quality machines has won out.

I’ll share my specific, step-by-step scanning tips in future blogs but congrats if you’re at this point and even heartier congratulations if you’re NOT at this point, but you ARE taking the time to organize your digital solution.

In my experience, the bulk of your time should be spent on the first five steps, so there’s definitely something you can be doing now to prepare for a scanning project, that does not involve any sort of electronic device.

Good luck in all your family history projects. And if you’re not tackling a scanning project over the holidays, remember at family gatherings to pass the photos and record the memories. My very best wishes as you ring out 2017 and ring in the New Year!

December 20, 2017 |

How to Record Family Stories this Holiday Season


As we get together with family and friends, the holidays are a great time to record family stories and share them online with extended family.

On Thanksgiving Day, we got together with my husband’s mother and started talking about her ancestors from Norway. She’s the oldest living relative on her side of the family and she was telling stories from her childhood no other living family would know or remember. We panicked and asked for a Thanksgiving Day redo. Would she please go home and come back with her family albums?

Instead of playing Canasta on Thanksgiving Day, we went through my mother-in-law’s old magnetic photo album, scanned photos, and uploaded them to FamilySearch with her memories of her ancestors.

How to record and store photos and stories for free FamilySearch OnGenealogy

A great place to record and store family stories is FamilySearch. It’s completely free and there’s never a charge for storing photos, audio files, or stories. Even better, anyone who creates a free FamilySearch account can search the entire body of tagged photos/stories/documents, so it’s an easy way to share with extended family (rather than using Dropbox, etc).

FamilySearch Memories can be accessed with a phone app or your personal computer. If you opt to use the phone app you can download it for iOS devices at the Apple Store or Android devices at Google Play. I use both the phone app and my personal computer. There are more available features if you use your computer but the phone app offers easy portability as well as an immediately available photo and/or audio recording device.

First I’ll share how I to use FamilySearch Memories on a personal computer and then I’ll share some information about the phone app.


If you have an account at FamilySearch, in the upper right-hand corner you’re prompted to Sign In, otherwise, you’re prompted to create a Free Account before you can add photos or stories or visit the Gallery.

Create a free account at FamilySearch


With a free account at FamilySearch, you’ll select Memories from the top menu bar.

FamilySearch Photos and Memories


Below is a screenshot of the Memories menu at FamilySearch with the top menu bar expanded so you can see your options which include:

  • Overview, is a page for beginners to learn what’s available and be linked to other menu options

  • Gallery, is where you’ll go to Add a Memory (photo, story, or audio)

  • People, if you have a free family tree at FamilySearch, People displays every deceased person you are related to who has a memory (photo, story, or audio) uploaded and tagged to a person at FamilySearch Memories

  • Find, is where you’ll search the entire tagged FamilySearch Memories database, by an individual’s name, for any photos, stories, or audio clips about that individual

Menu options at FamilySearch Memories OnGenealogy blog


Visit the Overview page if you have any questions about FamilySearch Memories and what it offers. You can use this page to Add a Memory by following this path:

Select Memories, then select Overview, then select Add a Memory, or Go the Gallery, or See the List View



The Gallery is where you’ll add all your memories.

On the top menu, first select Memories, then select Gallery

You will be taken to a page that looks like this. Yours will be pretty empty if you haven’t added memories before.

Add a Memory at FamilySearch OnGenealogy blog


First, you’ll move your cursor to the type of media you want to add, and you’ll select that media option.

Your options are:

  • ALL

  • a photo (camera icon)

  • a story (book icon)

  • a document (paper icon)

  • an audio file (microphone icon)

Then, after you’ve selected a media type, you’ll hit the green + button.

Steps to follow to add a memory at FamilySearch Memories OnGenealogy blog


How to Add a Photo in the Gallery

So to add a photo to FamilySearch Memories, Gallery:

First, you’ll move your cursor to the camera icon

Then, you’ll select the green + button

Now that you’ve selected add a photo, you’ll be prompted to Drag and drop files to upload or Choose Files (from your computer)


FamilySearch Memories file requirements

In our case, we needed to quickly scan a few old photos before we could upload them.

Don’t have a scanner?

There are phone apps you can use to create scans of documents or photos (PhotoScan by Google for iOS or Android is one option). You can also check with your local library or a nearby Family History Center to see if they have scanners you can use. (Any service at an LDS Family History Center will be free. I’m going with my mother-in-law to a local Family History Center to scan the rest of the photos in her magnetic album because they have a high speed, automatic-feed scanner which will save us hours of work.)

We have an old scanner, nothing exciting, and we quickly scanned some photos and saved them on our computer as .tif files at 600 dpi so we’d have high-quality scans for our personal library. Then we saved a second copy of each photo as a .jpg file to get the file size below the 15 MB maximum permitted for photos being uploaded to FamilySearch Memories.

You can also attach photos from connected accounts at Facebook, Instagram, or Google Photos. FamilySearch supports these file types: .jpg, .tif, .bmp, .png, .pdf, .mp3, .m4a, and .wav, up to 15MB.

After you upload a photo you have lots of options for things you can do with the photo. The effort I put into this on Thanksgiving Day was pretty minimal, but I’ll show you what I did.

  1. I tagged Minnie in this photo to add this memory to her page in the Family Tree. Now this memory can be seen by others.

  2. I gave a brief description of the photo, especially helpful because the filename I used was pathetic.

  3. I used this option to add a story about Minnie.

  4. I didn’t do anything here, but anyone who views this photo on FamilySearch can comment and connect with you. Sometimes family members will comment on a photo I’ve uploaded or add their own story in the comments.*

FamilySearch Memories options


*If someone adds a comment to your photo/story/audio file, it will show up in your Gallery with a comment icon on the far right side.

Comment alert in FamilySearch Memories Gallery

How to Add a Story to your Photo

Back to adding a story to a photo. I opted to add a story to this photo using the Add button (by the Green Arrow 3 above).

When I added the story, I quickly typed what my mother-in-law said. These were just off the cuff remarks and can be edited later for a more polished family history. I love hearing not only the memories but the actual speech patterns of the storyteller. If you read the story below, you’ll see it’s in desperate need of editing for clarification and accuracy.

Below is a picture of the story I added to the photo.


Uploading photos and stories to FamilySearch Memories

How to Add a Story with no Photo

Back to FamilySearch Memories, if you have a story to tell, but no photo, move your cursor to the book icon and then select the green + button.

Add a Story at FamilySearch Memories

I was on the phone with an aunt who is the oldest living relative on my mother’s side of the family and she started to tell me a family story from her father’s side of the family. I’d never heard the story and I knew it would die with her if I didn’t write it down so I quickly logged into FamilySearch and added the story to “Memories” and then attached it to our deceased ancestor, Laura Ella Vernon, on a shared family tree. When I’m adding stories told by someone else, I preface the story with that person’s name and either “recollections” or “memories” to let people know who is actually telling the story. FamilySearch records me as the contributor and I don’t want people to be confused and think these are my personal recollections.

Adding a story to FamilySearch memories


You use the Find menu to search the ENTIRE database of tagged Memories at FamilySearch and find photos, stories, or documents uploaded by anyone. These memories need to have been tagged (attached to a person’s page at the Family Tree at FamilySearch) in order for them to show up in your search results. So be sure to tag any of your memories you want to share.

Go to Memories, then Find, and type in a name. You can limit your search returns by photos, stories, or documents.


How to find photos stories documents at FamilySearch Memories OnGenealogy blog


If you’ve created a free family tree at FamilySearch, there’s a menu option, Memories, then People, which will automatically pull up all tagged photos, stories, documents, etc for any person in your family tree.

In the People image below, I didn’t add all these photos and I don’t know who some of these people are, but I can select View My Relationship beneath any photo and FamilySearch will show me how I’m related to them.

(This is one of the benefits and drawbacks of a FamilySearch family tree, it’s a shared family tree you don’t solely control, but you benefit from all the work distant relatives do, extending your family tree. Somewhere, you need to have a family tree you alone control.)

Finding ancestors photos and stories on FamilySearch


Long Story Short

So, long story short, you’re gathering with family for the holidays, either in person, online, or by phone. Do yourself and your posterity a favor and take a few extra minutes to record the family memories. You can use the camera on your phone (remember to have the volume on) or type stories into your computer as they dictate, but don’t let the opportunity to record family memories slip away.

One of my regrets is not leaving a recording device going as we gathered for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party when her six sons told stories about their childhoods. It was like sitting in a confessional hearing “what really happened.” How the fire really started, what really happened when Mom and Dad went on a dream vacation and left the oldest son in charge, etc. As they were telling stories and we were all laughing, I thought to myself, “I’ll never forget that story!” Wrong. Two years later I can’t remember what had us laughing so hard.

If you don’t want to stifle the family fun by pausing to type up a story, ask everyone’s permission to turn on your video camera and record them telling their stories (remember you can’t upload video files to FamilySearch Memories, but you can type up the story from the video) OR ask if they’ll let you record their voices as they tell their story, using the FamilySearch Memories app to record/create this audio file. But absolutely ask permission before you record someone.

  • DO ask permission before you record a story

  • DO record the story, with permission, in some format, be it video, audio, or text

  • DON’T record a story without permission (I’ve been told some family secrets that I was specifically asked not to share. These will die with me.)

  • DON’T miss an opportunity to save memories of your ancestors and make them accessible to your family and posterity

If you opt to use the phone app instead of your personal computer, you’ll still need to create a free account at FamilySearch but you’ll have the added benefit of being able to instantly record a story on your phone (audio only) you can then upload to your FamilySearch Memories. There’s never a charge for storing these memories at FamilySearch and once you’ve synced your memories they will be removed from your phone, clearing up space on your device. With the app, you’ll also have access to all your memories at FamilySearch and you can pass your phone around and let others see the stories and photos you’ve uploaded.

And last of all, once you’ve created an account at FamilySearch, you can search the Memories/Gallery for any stories or photos about your relatives others may have uploaded. This is a feature you can only do from a personal computer. The phone app does not let you search the entire Gallery at FamilySearch; it only lets you search your personal gallery.


Happy Holidays and remember to record and share those memories!


November 24, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 27 – TinEye Reverse Image Search for Genealogy


TinEye Reverse Image Lookup





On Day 27 of Family History Month try out TinEye for Reverse Image Lookup. If you have an image in your digital files and you don’t know the source of the image, you can upload it to TinEye and let them search for a match online. The searches and image returns are free.

“Using TinEye, you can search by image or perform what we call a reverse image search. You can do that by uploading an image, or searching by URL. You can also simply drag and drop your images to start your search.”

“TinEye constantly crawls the web and adds images to its index. Today, the TinEye index is over 23.2 billion images.”

TinEye for Reverse Image Search




I had a map in my digital files but didn’t label the image with the website where I found the map. I uploaded the image to TinEye and let them search for matches. In the picture below, TinEye found two matches on the internet and the second match,, was where I’d found the map. Now I have the source I need.

TinEye matches


I personally haven’t had any success using TinEye to find family photos I need to identify, but I’ve had great luck with maps and images from websites.

You can also upload any stock image and see where it’s been used, in case you don’t want an image that’s been used too many times. And you can upload your own social media photos or copyrighted images and see if they’re being used on any other sites. (TinEye doesn’t save the photos you upload for searches.)

Best in your searches!


October 26, 2017 |

RootsTech 2018 registration and other September specials!



RootsTech 2018 registration opens Wednesday, September 20th!

  • Read the FamilySearch media release for more details and discounted pricing

  • Visit the OnGenealogy Events page for updates and hotel information

  • If you can’t attend in SLC, we’ll share their livestreaming, free class list when it’s announced!




Save Your Photos Month is wrapping up!


Some fun ideas for September from the web include:







Various Photobook companies are offering specials

  • in South Africa is offering up to 30% off photo products

  • Mixbook is offering 50% off first time orders and has other sales as well

  • Chatbooks turns your Facebook posts into photobooks

  • Caroline Guntur the Swedish Organizer Organizing Your Photos offersThe Swedish Organizer has a free email course for organizing your photos. She is also offering 10% off her Digital Photo Organizing Masterclass. Join her email list for regular offers including a great freebie download, A Checklist for rounding up all your Digital Photos (something you need to do prior to organizing everything).








ScanMyPhotos September specials

  • ScanMyPhotos has several photo specials available and is still offering a deal on photo scanning that must be purchased now but can be redeemed any time in the next 6 months. Buy two boxes, get the third free. They ship you empty boxes for your photos, you ship them back and they scan and return all your photos. This amounts to around 6,000 photos scanned for $0.05 per photo.









Other Genealogy Deals:




Blaine Bettinger Intro to DNA Crash Course free download book
















Forces War Records free tutorials and guides




















Free Genealogy Webinars this week:

Free Legacy Family Tree Webinars for genealogy and family history




FamilySearch free genealogy webinars




BYU Family History Library Webinar Series






Best in your research, whether it’s fee or free!


September 18, 2017 |

Genealogy deals the week of September 11th




This is the week if you have Nordic ancestors!!!

FamilySearch International is hosting the Nordic Family History Conference 2017 with both onsite and webinar offerings. This conference has regional classes for Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland and will be held Monday, September 11, 2017 through Friday, September 15, 2017.

Nordic Family History Conference 2017 schedule



Don’t forget September is Save Your Photos Month!























Various Photobook companies are offering specials

  • in South Africa is offering 20% off photobooks, calendars, etc.

  • Mixbook is offering 50% off first time orders and has other sales as well

  • Chatbooks turns your Facebook posts into photobooks

  • Caroline Guntur the Swedish Organizer Organizing Your Photos offersThe Swedish Organizer has a free email course for organizing your photos. She is also offering 10% off her Digital Photo Organizing Masterclass. Join her email list for regular offers including a great freebie download, A Checklist for rounding up all your Digital Photos (something you need to do prior to organizing everything).








Scan My Photos buy 2 get 1 free deal

  • ScanMyPhotos is offering a deal on photo scanning that must be purchased now but can be redeemed any time in the next 6 months. Buy two boxes, get the third free. They ship you empty boxes for your photos, you ship them back and they scan and return all your photos. This amounts to around 6,000 photos scanned for $0.05 per photo.













On Sale till Monday, September 11th, 11:59 pm ET

Ancestry 50 percent off sale

  • is offering 30% – 50% off select Ancestry packages for first-time subscribers
















Other Genealogy Deals:




Blaine Bettinger Intro to DNA Crash Course free download book
















Forces War Records free tutorials and guides




















Free Genealogy Webinars:






Best in your research, whether it’s fee or free!


September 10, 2017 |

Labor Day Weekend Genealogy Deals!



Follow the OnGenealogy blog for fee and free genealogy deals.


Save Your Photos monthSeptember is Save Your Photos Month. has a link to events worldwide. Watch your favorite photo sites for sales and specials in September.

Tips for water damaged photos Hurricane Harvey

In light of Hurricane Harvey and Save Your Photos month, ScanMyPhotos has a timely article with 8 tips for saving water damaged photos.


Free on Saturday

SCGS free webinar Irish History and Records


Free through Sunday


LFT free Disaster Planning Guide download


On Sale through Monday:


DNA tests

MyHeritageDNA sale

  • MyHeritage DNA, Labor Day Sale, now through September 4th, MyHeritage DNA tests are $69, marked down $30 from their regular price of $99, not including taxes or shipping, order two kits for half price shipping, order three or more kits for free shipping

Mixbook photo books on Sale Labor Day weekend


Free through Monday



Ancestry free Labor Day weekend records


Other Genealogy Deals:


Photo Scanning

Scan My Photos buy 2 get 1 free deal

  • ScanMyPhotos, ScanMyPhotos is offering a deal on photo scanning that must be purchased now but can be redeemed any time in the next 6 months. Buy two boxes, get the third free. They ship you empty boxes for your photos, you ship them back and they scan and return all your photos. This amounts to around 6,000 photos scanned for $0.05 per photo.


DNA Tests

AncestryDNA sale

  • AncestryDNA, extended sale, AncestryDNA tests are $79, marked down $20 from their regular price of $99, not including taxes, shipping is free if mailed in the United States

FamilyTreeDNA sale

  • FamilyTree DNA, extended sale, FamilyTree DNA is offering 20% or more off various DNA tests




Blaine Bettinger Intro to DNA Crash Course free download book



Forces War Records free tutorials and guides


Free Genealogy Webinars:

Legacy Family Tree free webinars


Family History Library free webinars week of September 4


Best in your research, whether it’s fee or free!


September 1, 2017 |

Canadiana Discovery Portal for Genealogy

2 has a free search engine for its digital collections from libraries, museums, and archives throughout Canada. Unlike Héritage which searches specific collections held at Library and Archives Canada, the Canadiana Discovery Portal searches over 40 partnering institutions with over 65 million pages.

Canadiana Discovery Portal


The Portal provides a wealth of free Canadian history online, including: books, journals, directories, newspapers, government documents, photographs, maps, and postcards.

Canadiana Discovery Portal is a great resource for genealogists and family historians looking for primary source material and images related to Canadian history and many of the images are in the public domain and can be used freely.

There will be a paywall for some of the search returns and after viewing the initial few pages of a document you may need to subscribe to Early Canadiana Online to have full access to the document, including the ability to download copies in PDF format. Subscription prices are very reasonable, currently $7.50 (American) for one month’s access with no automatic renewal or $75 (American) for one year’s access with no automatic renewal–a great value for the offering.

Happy Hunting! #FamilyHistoryMonth

October 21, 2016 |

International Save Your Photos Month!


Family History photos

The idea behind Family History in 15 minutes a day is we need to be consistently keeping our family history organized and this can be done in short, daily sessions. And what better time to organize the photos than International Save Your Photos month!

The reason a house stays clean is because someone intentionally washes dishes, runs laundry, vacuums, etc. We don’t just do it one time and *poof* it magically stays beautiful. Ditto our family history and genealogy. We’re adding to our family history each day we wake up and start afresh: we take pictures, we talk to people, we journal (okay, you journal). Genealogy stops being “fun” when we’re disorganized and repeat the same searches, reshuffle the same papers, look for the same photos, etc. Managing our “system” clears out time and space for useful research.

Here are a few “Family History in 15 minutes a day” ideas in honor of International Save Your Photos month:

  • Take 15 minutes a day and sit in front of your computer deleting photos you don’t want/need

I’m not talking about rash decisions to cull family photos, just delete the obvious junk. I take photos at stores to comparison shop or remember when a sale ends, photos to text friends and ask if we need it for a project. I’ve got photos of things I sold in online classifieds. I use my phone camera every day, multiple times a day. It’s easier than taking notes. Just snap a pic of something you need to remember and voila!, it’s yours forever. Except you don’t need it forever so take 15 minutes to get rid of the clutter that distracts from the images that still matter.

That said, I had 29,000 photos on my computer and after deleting the junk I still have 27,000 photos that I actually want to keep. Now, on to organization.

While you’re at it, follow @CarolineGuntur, i.e. the Swedish Organizer, on Twitter. Her organization tips are very helpful, she’s extremely good at what she does, and who doesn’t need a little coaching and encouragement now and then. Even if you’re not ready to tackle your photos, she’ll give you the boost you need to tackle something. 

  • Delete photos from your phone after you’ve downloaded them to your computer. This is an easy “downtime” activity (waiting in a doctor’s office, kids’ lessons, etc.)
  • Visit and in honor of September being “International Save Your Photos Month,” sign the pledge and learn what you can do to save your photos.

A few ideas from their site: 

  • create a digital folder for each of your children with their photos
  • scan photos for digital preservation (not a 15 minute activity unless you’re just scanning a few select photos)
  • call a family member for the story behind a photo
  • record an older family member’s stories as you flip through an album with them
  • When your child brings artwork home from school, quickly snap a picture of them holding the artwork. Then feel guilt-free when you secretly toss it.
    Elementary School Art photos

    Elementary School Art photos

That beauty no longer resides in our home (the artwork) and my son is none the wiser. I used to take shots of the art alone, but frankly, what gives meaning to the art is the child behind the creation. 

I’m specifically ignoring the large, devoted projects like pulling out the boxes of old photos, scrapbooks, etc., and organizing and digitizing them. Been there, done that. That’s an important project but not a “housecleaning” job you do in 15 minutes or less. And there are some huge time-saving techniques I’ve used that I’ll share in another post. Big projects are fun but it’s our simple, daily routines that keep our lives organized and enjoyable.

Good luck and here’s hoping 15 minutes a day will improve your genealogy and family history work!

September 6, 2016 |

Family Tree Photos


I really loved this article: Among Koreans, Giving Death Your Best Face by Rena Silverman, about the Korean tradition of having a nice portrait photograph taken as part of the normal funeral preparations we all make.

My husband has very strong feelings about remembering people in their prime, especially when it comes to family tree photos.  We don’t concern ourselves with community family tree lineage arguments, but my husband WILL fight for control of the photos that are displayed. He feels strongly that a person should be remembered as they would likely think of themselves-in their prime.

His dad passed a few years ago and he hates seeing a “grandfatherly” photo appear on the tree. We swapped it for one of his father’s college photos. You go back two or three generations and you probably have no choice but to use a photo of someone in their later years-their age at the advent of good photography and the means to have nice photos taken. Not anymore.

Never has a generation had greater means, access, and skill for taking photos. Millennials will not lack for good funeral photographs. I love that Ms. Sohn, from Ms. Silverman’s article, visited seniors in churches, senior centers, and community centers and gave them the gift of a nice photo, even photoshopping a few to let them remember how they felt in their prime.

I remember in my youth hearing a retired gentleman speak to an audience and he addressed the young people saying, “I see you running right past me and I know all you see is an old man, but in my mind I still feel like I’m 16, like I’m one of you.” That’s always stayed with me. At first it was such a foreign idea, that he thought he was like us in any way, then it became my underlying assumption about aging, that we still think as a younger version of ourselves.

So in honor of the Korean tradition of giving death its best face, I found a photo of my mom from her high school graduation that I’m uploading to my FamilySearch and MyHeritage family trees. She died at forty-two, so all her photos are youthful, but this one seems appropriate because she had the heart of a teenager. Whether its with online family trees for the deceased or our living elders, let’s pass this tradition down-enabling youth to relate to their elders by seeing them the way they see themselves.

Juliet Vernon high school graduation photo

Juliet Vernon high school graduation photo




May 19, 2016 |

Historic Journals from RootsTech 2016


If you have old letters, diaries, and family papers that have been stored for years but not transcribed, Historic Journals from RootsTech might be the site for you. And even if you aren’t the one who inherited the family papers, maybe the one who did has shared it online and you’ll find it here.

Document uploaded to Historic Journals

Document uploaded to Historic Journals

Historic Journals is an online family history website with both free and fee offerings for finding and sharing your ancestor’s journals, wills, letters, photos, and more. Historic Journals pulls data from the free family tree site, You can upload documents and allow others the privilege of helping transcribe them. “The privilege” haha. We all know there’s a reason they’ve been sitting in boxes for years. It’s work. It takes time. And it can be tedious. The problem is, yours might be the last generation that will be able to read them and these documents often contain important leads and clarify relationships and once they’re lost, those helps are gone.








Screenshot of Historic Journals page where you view and transcribe documents and tag ancestors

Screenshot of Historic Journals page where you view and transcribe documents and tag ancestors

When you upload an image and give rights to others to transcribe the document, you or anyone you’ve given rights to, can choose to add a transcription (there are options to zoom in and out), edit the transcription, etc. You can also tag individuals named in that document and once they’ve been tagged, if you’ve chosen to make the document public, they’ll go into a database where Historic Journals will allow other descendants to view the document and transcription.









How am I related? feature on Historic Journals

How am I related? feature on Historic Journals

Historic Journals has a “How am I related?” feature that detects any tagged person in a document who is your direct ancestor using the free trees on  Historic Journals will highlight your ancestor’s name and prompt you with “How am I related?” and if you select this question it will pull up the inserted fan chart with your descendancy from the tagged individual. So in my case, Joseph Pomeroy Cass-Hannah Cass-Polly Lamb Wells-Eudora Adelia Stone-Martha Eudora Randall-Randall Webber Tayler-me









Shared letters, biographies I can access because my ancestors are tagged

Shared letters, biographies I can access because my ancestors are tagged

This is a screenshot of the library on Historic Journals where I can see:

  • what I’ve contributed
  • what others have contributed and shared that pertains to my ancestors
  • what others have tagged my ancestors in
  • other public items

In each of these groups I’m given the “How am I related?” prompt with a descendancy chart if my direct ancestor is tagged.




Free Genealogy Fan Chart from Historic Journals

Free Genealogy Fan Chart from Historic Journals

My husband thinks my fan chart is embarrassing because I haven’t completed all my 6th generations, but if you can overlook my struggles, here’s a view of Historic Journals feature where they give you an expandable fan chart for your ancestors. You can search the fan chart for some common genealogy problems:

  • loops
  • duplicates
  • birth after child’s birth
  • birth after death
  • birth after marriage
  • marriage after death

Historic Journals highlights these potential problems in orange. Yikes! I have a marriage recorded after the person died, so I’ll have to check into that one.

Historic Journals also has a pioneer feature and if you have ancestors who were Mormon pioneers they’ll all be listed on this page, with “How am I related?” prompts.

They also have a Mormon Migration feature where they’ll list any ancestors who are part of the Mormon Migration database (1840 and 1932).

Even if you don’t need to transcribe and share letters and documents, if you have a free tree on, you’ll want to check out Historic Journals for free features to see if anyone’s shared documents that might help you with your family history research.

April 22, 2016 |
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