Thursday, June 7, 2012

Technology and Genealogy Blessings

Today I stayed home as we were having a new furnace and air conditioner installed. With a thirty-year-old furnace and a twenty-year-old ac unit we have gotten our moneys worth out of them. Now that the new equipment is installed, it will be interesting to see just what type of savings we might enjoy. It's like buying a new car, with a nice mpg rating, and hoping to see a savings in gasoline expenses. When we recently made a trip to Medford, Oregon on a genealogy trip, we only had to fill the gas tank when we arrived and when we were home again. In the past there would have been at least another fill up in between our destinations. With the price of gas these days, it can truly impact how much we can afford to travel.

Liken this to our technology equipment we use in the process of doing our genealogy research. We all hope that our computer will not suddenly shut down during a major project. When presenting before a group there is always the possibility of unexpected problems with the equipment. In my lectures I have had the computer shut down due to the power cord never being plugged in more than once. I have also had the computer suddenly decide to start installing upgrades as I go to start it after turning on the projector. In the process of these experiences I have learned to turn on my laptop the night before to ensure that things are running properly. I also arrive early so I have plenty of time to get the equipment set up. Sometimes this works, and other times the projector may not show up until after the class has begun. Then I need to be prepared to carry on with or without the power point part of the presentation. Whenever presenting a lecture it is important to be flexible and have plenty of backups, like printed copies of the power point slides, and a flash drive with the presentation and class handouts.

Our computers are usually the basis of our work. Backups cannot be too strongly emphasized. For my computer we use an external hard drive and flash drives. I carry with me at all times all of the genealogy databases I created, over fifty for my clients and myself. These can also be backed up on others computers or by commercial companies online. When I am developing an article or lecture I back up frequently, so the material of my hard work is not lost. All of my blog posts are saved both electronically and physically. Others may not want paper copies, but for me they help me in reviewing and staying organized.

Another important function of my computer and printer/scanner is the ability to scan material that I want to preserve for future use. My computer and scanner at times have difficulty communicating, but I press forward in the projects that I am working on. Today I had a serendipity moment when the program allowed me to scan sixty pages without any of the glitches. When this happens it seems like a miracle has occurred. In the past I scanned over 1,000 old pictures and documents of our ancestors and they are saved on my computer, on CDs and backed up in other formats. It is so nice to have the ability to preserve and share these one of a kind items.

The simple things like being able to print copies with the click of a computer key are impressive for some of us older genealogists who used to have to use mimeograph machines and typewriters. It is great to be able to edit, copy, paste, and do a myriad of other computer functions in the course of our work. I rely on my cell phone though I am still using a basic phone, but someday I will have to move on to newer technology. Then I use my digital camera far more than I ever expected. When my family first bought it I was reluctant to give up my old camera, as I really like the processed pictures. Now I need to come up with an organized way to really use the digital pictures.

All of this equipment, the computer, printer/scanner, camera, phone, etc. can greatly enhance our work. When one encounters technology problems it is usually worthwhile to call in the experts. Fortunately there are four men who are computer geeks living in our home and they often come to my rescue. When I went to create this blog I enlisted the help of my youngest daughter. She learned by creating her own blog, but her young mind seemed to go through the process faster than I could even begin to comprehend. Social media is so important in our genealogy work, and to enjoy the benefits it provides we must use technology. You may want to enlist the skills of a young person who has lots of patience to assist you with your technology problems. Beware, they might even get bitten by the genealogy bug. These are the technology and genealogy blessings we can experience as we go about doing our genealogical work and sharing with others.

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