The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 10, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Many researchers making the move to digital records

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — When searching for data and other information about ancestors, genealogists in the past often contacted distant cousins by telephone, and they exchanged handwritten letters. If the search was successful, the researcher was rewarded with printed copies of old photographs, diaries, old letters and similar documents.

That type of research is rapidly changing. Today, distant cousins rarely exchange printed copies. Instead, they share digital images.

Researchers use a variety of ways to collect and store data. Those methods include digital cameras, scanners, cellphones, personal laptops, local hard drives and cloud services. The digital images are shared via email messages, websites, Facebook walls, DVDs, blogs and YouTube videos.

The new technology has many advantages. Digital copies are easily modified, stored and shared. They can also be quickly searched for content.

For baby boomer researchers such as myself, however, the path of new technology is strewn with stumbling blocks.

How should the copies of digital documents and photos be organized so that they can easily be located? Instead of dozens of images, we now have hundreds to thousands of images. How do we note that some are original copies, while others have been modified? How do we add labels?

How do we update our old records to the new formats? How many of us still have old home movies (8 mm films) that we never got around to transferring to beta tapes, which we never got around to transferring to VHS tapes Ñ which have yet to be converted to DVDs? I doubt that I am the only researcher who still has some files stored in formats that the new computers don’t recognize.

The answer may be at your local library, museum, genealogy society or historical society, which often offer classes to help patrons with these types of problems. If the classes aren’t offered, submit a request.

If all else fails, hire a teenager to help you organize your archival collection of genealogical records.

Suggestions or queries? Write to Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or email