Swimming in Paper? Empty the Pool

Swimming in Paper? Empty the Pool

Going Digital 1

We all have way too much paper and genealogists have more than most. I welcomed the opportunity to get statements, bills and other documents of day to day life electronically — don’t even have to scan, just rename and save. Any document not smart enough to come electronically — tax bills for example — are scanned as soon as paid. My personal life is now fairly paper free.

But what about all those records, carefully collected over many years, of our ancestors? I know a woman who has eight file cabinets of it — one each for mother’s maternal line, mother’s paternal line, father’s maternal line, father’s paternal line and then the same for her spouse’s ancestors. I hope she never moves or has a fire, flood or other disaster.

In 2002 my cousin decided she wanted to add more ancestors to her DAR membership. Mine lapsed but she keeps hers up. I advised I could do a couple without much effort so she chose those two. Guess what? DAR wants a copy of the vital records — not the ones with an embossed seal but a copy. [More and more jurisdictions are giving up the embossed seal anyway.] I scanned all the documents, census records and vital records, printed them out and sent them to DAR. I saved the census records and other documents on my computer and tossed the paper. My cousin wanted to keep the vital records. As long as she is filing them it is fine with me.

I began scanning documents — pages, including title page for citation, of multiple histories of counties where my ancestors were mentioned, pages from many books, stacks of email [carefully printed out] from other researchers on various lines, web pages [carefully printed out] with information or clues.

Publications are nice but generally there are only a couple items I want to keep. So I read them all, then I scanned the articles I wanted to save and tossed the paper. Why aren’t journals available electronically? Some older ones are actually. You can obtain the NEGHR online as a member. The same is true of NYGBR which also has the complete collection on CD through 1960 available for purchase. There are undoubtedly others. I haven’t developed whatever it takes to tear TAG apart just yet but I heard they have discussed making it available electronically too.

I have eliminated two file cabinets. I have one over sized file drawer with documents still to sort through and a stack of legal size papers. My legal size scanner is elderly and prefers to work only in small batches. As soon as that stack is gone it will be retired. After that it will more efficient to go to a copy service — or to photograph them with a digital camera.

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