06 January 2014

Holidays are over & your "cousins" are bugging you to scan the photos and documents you have! What is a family historian to do?

Ida Rajala Acey & Richard Alfred Acey, long ago scan of an original photo (now lost), c. 1916-1918
Copyright Diane L (Acey) Richard

The holidays are over.  When the family was together everyone was oohing and awing over some of the treasured family photos and documents.  And, now, they all want a copy.  What are you going to do?

One obvious answer is to “scan” what you have so that you can share digital copies.  What does that mean?  How do you get started? What’s the best way to proceed?  So many questions!  Here is a list of places where you might find some answers.

+ Creating & Editing Digital Photos (About.com, Kimberly Powell)
+ Scanning Your Personal Collections (Tony’s Genealogy Blog)

Don’t have a scanner or access to one.  Do you have a digital camera or even a film camera?  Taking photos of photos is how many decades ago I got images of priceless photos from distant cousins on my father’s side.  They may not all be the “best” photo and you know what, they are invaluable to me even if not taken with perfect lighting, not centered properly, etc.  They are invaluable because otherwise I would not have those documents.

Ida Rajala Acey & Friend, photo of a photo, c. 1907-1911
Copyright Diane L (Acey) Richard

Don’t have a camera either?  Consider getting color photocopies made at a local office supply store.  I have my original photos and documents in my safe and on my walls and given to my sisters are color (or black & white as appropriate) photocopies of the originals.  I also asked relatives who live in England to make copies of documents and photos in their possession.  I then scanned what I received to share.

Margaret Joyce Fountain Acey, scan of a b&w photocopy of a photo album page (now lost) c. 1954
Copyright Diane L (Acey) Richard

Basically, there are many options on how we can “share” what we have with others. 

Additionally, I consider doing this a form of insurance.  If I hold the original copies of these one-of-a-kind photos or documents, what happens if I have a house fire, a hurricane strikes or some other disaster befalls my house?  Are these then presence heirlooms forever lost?  Not if I made a copy of them (using any means possible).

For example, the above photo is a bad scan of a torn photo.  In one of our moves, this one image disappeared from my collection.  After 20 years of looking, I’ve given up that I will ever again see the original.  I am so thankful that I scanned this image those many years ago.

In another situation, I created some photo albums for the family and then I actually made some really horrible black and white photocopies of pages from the album.  Unfortunately, a few years later, these photo albums are no longer.  Again, I am thankful that I have those horrible photocopies since the photos of my mother (deceased over 20 years ago) as a young woman are priceless to me.

One caveat – as you digitize or copy or photo “original” photos and documents, please do hold onto them and please do “print” at least one copy.  Read With the push towards digitization, are we more likely to “lose” memories? about potential hazards of going completely digital!

So, now that the hubbub of the holiday season is over, consider what you might do to “share” and “preserve”

What tips would you give?

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