Other Gadgets and Helpful Technology

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Computers and Genealogy

This article is part of a series.

Overview of Computers and Genealogy
The Internet and Family History
NGS Guidelines for Publishing Web Pages on the Internet
Family History Software
Collaboration and Sharing
NGS Guidelines for Sharing
Online Options for Family History Education
Security Concerns with Technology and Family History
Other Gadgets and Helpful Technology

This article originally appeared in "Computers and Technology" by Juliana Smith in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Digital Cameras, Scanners, and Image Editing Software

When digital cameras first hit the market, they were expensive and not in most researchers' budgets. As they have grown in popularity, and as the technology has matured, they have come down drastically in price. Family historians use them as tools for photographing fragile documents, cemeteries and tombstones, pictures that can't be removed from frames, and even microfilm images.

While cameras are no stranger to the genealogist, digital cameras have a distinct advantage in that you can immediately view the photograph you've just taken and know whether or not you got the shot you wanted. This can be very important when taking photographs in a cemetery far from your home, for which visits may be a rare and expensive occurrence.

When a digital camera is not available, traditional photographs can be digitized later using scanners. Scanners have also come down immensely in price, and there are models that are portable enough to take with you in a briefcase to your local courthouse or archive.

Once an image is digital, it can be enhanced for better readability, and defects like cracks and spots on photographs can be removed, using one of many image editing software packages that are currently on the market. Most digital and digitizing equipment comes with software, but alternate programs are available for purchase.

When altering an image, you should always keep a copy of the original. This serves both as a backup, should something go awry in the editing process, and as proof that the changes made were merely cosmetic, should any of your alterations come under scrutiny.

Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)

Personal digital assistants, or PDAs, are also increasingly popular with family historians. With several software programs available for use with PDAs, genealogists can now take their entire family history file with them in their purse or coat pocket. PDAs are also great for taking notes and making research to-do lists.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) can pinpoint your position to within fifty feet. These tools can be particularly helpful in recording the location of graves, unmarked old cemeteries, ancestral homes, and other geographical features of significance to family historians. Some genealogical software programs have features that allow you to record the latitude and longitude of significant locations, thus preserving the information for future family historians. In addition, when traveling or researching in an unfamiliar location, possibly in a foreign country, a GPS system can help get you where you need to go safely.

Removable and Portable Drives

Portable 'hard drives' are increasingly useful. Because of the increased capacity that these drives allow, they come in handy when copying files from a desktop computer to a laptop for a research trip, or for backing up files.

With some available in keychain sizes, many of your computer files can come along with you in your pocket when visiting family or some location with a computer.


Coming soon...

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