When Genealogy Paper is Eating Your House

Even with the availability of digitized records, every genealogist ends up with stacks of paper. Some of us remember, with fondness, the days of  being able to store all your genealogy stuff in a shoebox, Ha!

I can’t say that I’ve totally conquered my paper tiger, but I am making strides. Here’s how.

Genealogy paper is eating my house

Attack Plan #1: Sort & Scan

When my Aunt Lu passed away I inherited boxes of family photos and (best of all) a huge box of letters. Most of them were letters between my aunt and her mother (my grandmother). Some were from my dad and one was from my grandfather. My sister and I took an evening to sort all of the letters by date. Fortunately, my aunt always dated letters, so that part was easy. We then filed them chronologically in a archival box by year. That was the easy part.

Next, we started the scanning process. The good news is, my aunt was a prolific writer and her letters often went on for five or six pages, front and back. The bad news is, it takes a long time to scan so much paper as well as the envelope. But we started. We still have a lot to do, but we have the process in hand. For letters, documents, and paper, we use the Scanbot scanning app. It’s available for both iOS and Android. It’s free on both platforms, with in-app upgrades. I scanned a xerox copy of a probate inventory and I think Scanbot did a great job. (click the image to enlarge)  Scanbot automatically detects the edges of the paper and crops it accordingly. Save as either a JPG (image) or a PDF file. You can also share the image to social media.

Scanbot for genealogy

Scanbot for iOS

Scanbot for Android

Attack Plan #2: What about Photos?

Another app to the rescue. My sister and I will disagree on this one, but she loves having originals and I love having scans. So scanning images works just fine for me.

I use the Photomyne app. It’s available right now for iOS and coming very soon for Android.

Photomyne for iOS

Photomyne for Android (They have a sign-up for notification on release)

Here’s the deal about this app and why I like it so much. It can scan a photo album page and automatically detect  the edges of each image on the page. Once a page is scanned, you can open each image individually and rotate it, crop it and even apply filters to it.

Here are screen captures of my scans. (Click each to enlarge)

  • The first photo (left) is a picture of my original. I didn’t even have original photos – this is a page of xeroxed photos. I added this so you could see that even with a less-than-optimal original, Photomyne could still do a good capture.
  • Middle photo has an arrow pointing at the icon I can use to flip the image upright.
  • Right photo shows various filters I can apply to the image
Genealogy photo scansGenealogy scanningScan your photos for genealogy

So what do I do with all of these scanned images?

Attack Plan #3: The Cloud

I have used many Cloud services but the one I like the most and am using with vigor! is Amazon Drive. You can store all of your photos plus 5 GB of “other” media such as videos. If you love it you can pay $11.99 per year after the trial period. If you have a LOT of things to store (which I do), you can upgrade to the unlimited everything plan for $59.99 a year. I use the big plan because I store photos, videos, and a lot of documents (PDFs).

Here’s a link to give Amazon Drive a trial run to see if you think it works for you. It has a desktop component so you can drag things into the desktop program and it will sync to the Cloud.

I hope this gives you an idea or two about getting out from under the avalanche of paper.

Oh yes, I forgot a much-needed component: You’ll also need a sister who wants all that paper.

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