Spare 15-minutes to Digitize Your Family Treasures

What enables easy sharing of your genealogical research, ensures backup of your discoveries, prepares for an emergency, and simplifies inheritance?  If you guessed digitization, give yourself a pat on the back.

In 2008, a massive flood that drowned parts of Cedar Rapids, Iowa impacted my friend. Before the waters submerged her neighborhood, she had time to save many things, but she didn’t think the flood would fill her basement. When she returned home, she realized that her high school treasures were water logged when the basement had taken in so much water, it came within one foot of reaching the ceiling. Salvaging these soggy, smelly treasures was impossible. Had she digitized her photos and photographed her memorabilia, she would have retained some of those treasures even though the physical items were unrecoverable.

Don’t let this happen to you! Preserve, preserve, preserve. Recognize that disasters range from natural disasters such as flood, fire, hurricane, and tornado but can also include divorce, or misguided family members who are ‘trying to help’ clean your house.

Another advantage of digitization is you can keep less stuff. (gasp).  I know, as genealogists, we are in the habit of saving things from the past. But when we keep too much stuff that we don’t need, we add more stress and unnecessary cleaning to our lives. Who wants that? Photograph your sentimental memorabilia stored in your homes or storage units. Scan homework, essays, or poems that you wrote when you were a teenager. Do you really need to keep those dusty, molding notebooks anymore once you have them in digital formats? (The correct answer is no, just in case you’re in doubt). When your emotion based treasures are digitized, you can dispose of the physical item.

Building the habit of digitizing your discoveries helps you become a better researcher. Data becomes lost when it is in piles and boxes, even if they are organized. With digitize records, you can arrange, resize, and manipulate your documents and photos to find hidden treasures.

Many readers still have to see and touch documents as they look for clues. Keep only what you need for your projects or that is an original, irreplaceable, highly-valuable item. Get rid of your collateral lines that you’re never going to research anymore. Digitize the information, put the images and records online, and then be like Elsa sang, “Let it go !”

The best reason to create a digital archive of your physical items is that you can use those digital images in additional projects. You can create videos with pictures, scanned documents, and photographs of objects around your house in conjunction with audio files from the past or modern voice over. With a digital archive, your video making becomes very, very easy. That’s just one project among a multitude of other possibilities. Don’t stifle creativity by not converting your physical items to digital bytes.

Quick Digitization Tasks for Genealogists

Now that you are a believer in digitization let me give you a series of 15-minute tasks that you can work into your everyday life.

  • Set-up a cassette to record overnight
  • Break up audio recordings into 5-minute chunks
  • Scan 10 print photographs and properly store
  • Photograph 3 items of memorabilia
  • Quickly touch up of an old photo using Photoshop Element’s “Guided” Enhancements
  • Create a photo book from loose photos (using Shutterfly, Mixbook)
  • Back up digital files of historical value
  • Use FamilySearch Memories app to add a photo, story, record an audio clip
  • Order a LegacyBox or LegacyRepublic Box
  • Mail off your VHS, reel-to-reel, or cassette tapes to TMC

Do you have any other digitization tasks we can do in 15-minutes. Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Spare 15-minutes to Digitize Your Family Treasures

  1. Not a 15-minute task (you've covered that well); just wanted to say that digitizing photos or memorabilia that is 'held' by cousins is a great way for everyone to enjoy the photos & memorabilia! No one person has to have the space to store all the antique furniture, dishes, etc.; but we all get to enjoy the photos!

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