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Using Digital Photography for Genealogy

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    Last Updated: June 8th, 2011

    Digital Phot of American IndiansThe preservation of historical items has always been a problem for those interested in genealogy. Photographs and documents fade and disintegrate over time, and very valuable items are often stored in museums, making them less accessible for personal genealogy projects. However, digital photography has become a great way to get around these problems by making artifacts available in a digital format that will not degrade over time.

    Preservation Issues

    One of the most difficult aspects of Genealogy is the simple fact that paper disintegrates over time, no matter how carefully it is stored or handled. This is especially true of photographs and documents not treated with archival care; our ancestors didn’t know when they were writing their wills or photographing their children that we would still want those things hundreds of years later! Digital photography can help with this problem by storing images of documents and photographs in a less-vulnerable format.

    Accessibility

    Another challenge for the amateur genealogist is the task of tracking down famous or valuable pieces of family history. In many cases these artifacts are prized for more than their sentimental value, and may not be available to family members. In these cases, digital photography allows these more valuable objects to be added to family histories and kept for records even when the originals cannot be acquired. This is especially useful for pieces of history which are relevant to more than one family, as with immigration records, because each genealogist can focus on the parts of the document that apply to his or her research.

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    Digital Restoration

    In some cases very faded photographs and documents may be considerably improved with digital photography. Techniques normally applied to modern photography such as contrast boosting and color temperature adjustment may be used to repair the damage time and wear has inflicted. This can result in clearer images and sharper contrasts; illegible documents may be read again, and the smiling faces of family members rescued before they disappear beneath the ravages of damaged photo paper.

    Unique Documents and Photographs

    As mentioned earlier, some pieces of history apply to more than one family line. Parish and immigration records may hold information relevant to hundreds or thousands of family histories, and often these documents are far too fragile to put into a copier or scanner. Buildings, too, may have been occupied by many people over time, and obviously cannot be physically added to a collection. Digital photography can be a valuable ally in these situations, as it allows many different people to record the parts of shared history most relevant to their own interests.

    Choosing an Appropriate Camera
    Obviously the equipment used to photograph documents and artifacts is important when preservation is a key concern. However, an amateur genealogist does not need to spend large amounts of money to achieve good results. Professional photographers will of course require professional equipment, but a reasonably priced camera from a respectable company such as Canon or Nikon, along with a sturdy portable tripod, will produce satisfactory images for most people.

    Digital photography has become an innovative way to preserve and restore pieces of history that would otherwise be lost to the casual genealogist. Whether you are tracking down personal family history or conducting research on historical events, digital photography can provide access to vital information; for this reason, it is a powerful new addition to the genealogist’s toolbox.

    If you want to learn more about digital photography then we highly recommend you check out Learn Digital Photography Now. You can receive a FREE Digital Photography guide (PDF) at no cost!

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1 Comment

  1. #1
    Find my past
    December 14th, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Preserving digital records is very important.

    Post ReplyPost Reply

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