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Month: August 2016

Storing And Preserving Old Photos And Documents

Storing And Preserving Old Photos And Documents

One of the most important things in family history is preserving old photos and documents for future generations. Especially old black and white photos taken over a hundred years ago. The best approach in my opinion is to put them anywhere you can online and buy some decent archival storage for the originals. The steps I have taken to preserve my family photos are listed below.

Archive scanner

Step 1 –  Digitize them to a high standard.

The very first thing you’ll want to do is scan EVERYTHING at a high resolution. I’ve written another post outlining exactly how to do this which can be found here, but the general jist is that you should scan at 600DPI using the TIFF File format as it does not compress photos which other formats do (This causes minor details to be lost).

If you don’t have a scanner there will be somewhere locally that will be able to scan them for you to  professional standard.

Online

Step 2 – Save Them Online

External Hard Drive

Scanning at this size will take up quite a bit of memory on your PC so ideally you want to buy an External Hardrive. These have become very affordable in the last decade for the amount of storage you get. A cheap 500MB Hardrive can easily hold tens of thousands of high resolution photos.

HDD1
Seagate Expansion 2TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
HDD2
Toshiba 500GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive -Black
HDD3
Toshiba 1 TB Portable External Hard Drive – Black

 

 

 

 

Clouds

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is where you keep all of your files on servers through either a website or other host. This is an extremely reliable way of storing data, providing you put it in more than one place. Personally I use a combination of Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive.

Dropbox offer free accounts with 2GB of storage with the options to increase by inviting friends and doing other things. As well as a flat 1000GB plan for £7.99 which is what I have as I use my Dropbox for all of my files too.

OneDrive is Microsoft’s free cloud service. Currently they offer 5GB Free, 50GB for £5.99 and 1TB for £7.99 it’s also linked to your Microsoft account. A combination of these two will be enough to keep all of your data safe and secure.

Photo Storage

Online Photo Storage

There are other sites which are dedicated to photo storage and sharing. Adding photos to these as well as sharing them with family members will increase the likelihood of saving them for future generations on different branches of the tree.

Flickr offers 1TB of photo storage for free. Its also really easy to add different albums and invite friends and family to comment on individual photos. I use this by making one large album with everything in then sub-albums for each Surname I have photos of.

Photobucket is another site that offers a free 2GB plan as well as quite a few tiered plans ranging from 22GB to 502GB. I don’t personally use this option but it’s definitely worth looking at.

Step 3 – Archival Storage For Originals

Most people end up putting old photos in a shoe box or standard photo album and then putting it somewhere in an attic/loft or basement and leaving it for years undisturbed. Or so you would think, these places are often damp and the temperature fluctuates a lot which encourages spores to grow and glues and plastics to erode which can be detrimental to old photos. The best place to store archival boxes is in a cool dry place like a cupboard in a damp free room of the house.

Everything that you have that comes in to contact with your photos should be acid free and of archival quality. You can get binders and archival boxes for all sizes. For photos I have one binder which has acid free plastic sleeves of varying types, different sleeves can hold different sized photos. These should also be backed using archival acid free backing paper.

Binders & Sleeves

A4 Deluxe Portrait Binder in Cedar Green
A4 Deluxe Portrait Binder in Cedar Green
A4 Clear Acid Free Archival Postcard Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums - 4 pocket per page (10 pack)
A4 Clear Acid Free Archival Postcard Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums – 4 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E12 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums - 12 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E12 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums – 12 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E9 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums - 9 pocket per page (10 pack)
Enigma Xtra Acid Free HD A4 Portrait E9 Photo Sleeves for Ring Binder Albums – 9 pocket per page (10 pack)
Family History Deluxe Long Foolscap Certificate Binder Starter Package - Green
Family History Deluxe Long Foolscap Certificate Binder Starter Package – Green
Guide to Scanning Old Family Photos

Guide to Scanning Old Family Photos

Family photos are arguably the most important source you can have of an ancestor. So preserving them digitally should be one of your highest priorities, and scanning them to the best possible standard is something that is often overlooked until it’s too late.

Most people use the default settings on their scanner which is usually preset to about 100DPI with the output set to JPEG, which is just not enough for photos. Ideally you want to be scanning at 600DPI and to the TIFF File format.

Files

JPEG Vs TIFF

Anyone that has used a computer will be aware of the JPEG File type. It is the most common and widely used picture file type and whilst it offers much smaller file sizes it uses lossy compression which causes data to be lost when the file is compressed.

TIFF files on the other hand are uncompressed and are typically used within the printing business for large scale scanned items. The downside of using the TIFF Format is that the files tend to be much larger than those of other popular formats. A decade or two ago this might not have been within most people’s grasp due to storage restrictions however, hard drive technology has come a long way since the early 2000’s and you can easily get a massive external drive for under £80 that can hold thousands of TIFF Files or you could use a cloud service such as Dropbox or OneDrive to store everything online. I use a combination of the two just in case one fails.

Program

Which Program To Use

It really doesn’t matter which program you use to scan photos be it paid or free, it’s all about preference. Personally I use Windows Fax and Scan as it comes free with every copy of Windows so I know that any windows computer I use is going to have it pre-installed which takes out the fuss of having to download an external program every time. It’s also really easy to use.

Step 1 – Clean Your Scanner! 

The very first thing you’ll want to do is clean your scanners glass surface with some glass or window cleaner and a dry cloth. This is because when you’re scanning at a large size even the dust, fingerprint smudges and tiny hairs on your scanners surface can show up in photos.



Step 2 –  Open Windows Fax and Scan

As pretty much every computer comes with Windows Fax and Scan you can simply search your PC for it (Just searching “fax” in your programs should bring it up).

If you don’t see it listed anywhere it might be turned of in Windows features. To fix this go Start > Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows Features On or Off > Look for the Printing and Document Services then turn on Windows Fax and Scan.

Step 3 – Settings & Scan

Once you have Windows Fax and Scan open click on the “New Scan” button this will bring up a dialog box asking you how you would like your scan to be set up.

Windows Fax and Scan Settings

Under the profile dropdown menu there will be an option to “Create New Profile”. Select this and another popup window will appear. In this menu you can set the profile name and the quality and output of the scan. Type a name for the profile and choose the source of your particular scanner, mine is a flatbed scanner so I’ve chosen that. Then make sure you are scanning in colour even if it is a black and white photo as scanning in black ad white or greyscale can cause certain features to be lost. Under File Type choose “TIFF (TIFF Image)” then in the resolution choose 600DPI or 300DPI Depending on your storage and time constraints. If you have thousands of photos to scan 300DPI will do just fine but if you only have a few very special photos scan those at 600DPI (I scan all really old photos as 600DPI). Don’t touch the brightness or contrast, keep them at 0 and save the profile!

Scanning

Once you’ve changed the settings and created a profile for future scanning hit scan and wait for the resulting photo. If you compare it to a regular 100DPI JPEG Scan you might not see big differences straight away but if you zoom in and try to look at it in more detail i.e a face in a crowd, it will be much more pixelated and often completely blurry compared with a high resolution scan. In the Photo’s below they might look almost identical side by side but when you take a closer look at the faces they are completely different. Hopefully this will help you to choose which resolution is right for you.

Full Size 100 Jpg vs 600 Tiff
Full Size Photo Comparison
Full Size 100 Jpg vs 600 Tiff Zoom 1
Zoomed Comparison 1
Full Size 100 Jpg vs 600 Tiff Zoom 1
Zoomed Comparison 2
300 TIFF vs 600 TIFF
Zoomed Comparison of TIFF Format at 300/600 DPI

Other Considerations

The amount of time you have to scan and the storage you have available can be constraints on what resolution you will want to scan at too. Scanning times depend on the model you are using to scan photos but as a general rule it will tend to double exponentially the time taken to scan for every 100-150 DPI increase. So if your JPG takes 10 seconds at 100 DPI it might take around 40 seconds at 300 DPI and a couple of minutes at 600 DPI.

Also bare in mind storage limitations. The photo I scanned above has the following file sizes at different resolutions and formats:

  • 100DPI JPEG = 156kb
  • 200DPI JPEG = 566kb
  • 300DPI TIFF = 2.6mb
  • 600DPI TIFF = 10.2mb

So if you don’t have much storage 300DPI TIFF’s should be the way you want to scan.

Once you’ve scanned your photos you’ll need to store them. I’ve written another post on Storing and preserving Old Photos and Documents.

Guide To Researching French Records

Guide To Researching French Records

The further you go back in your tree and the more branches you find, chances are you’ll find a French ancestor. Unfortunately with French research you need to know the exact place that person was born (Or get very lucky with a unique surname) to be sure you’re looking at the correct person.

French records are indexed by town (Archives de la ville de ____) and/or Departement (Archives Departementales de ____) Plus modernised versions i.e. Rouen incorporated adjacent towns so some records are in the Archives Municipales (Old Rouen), some are in the Mairie de Sotteville or Grand Quevilly or Petit Quevilly, some are in the Seine Maritime Archives. The key is that there is no National Register like the UK BMD.

Cordier Birthplace

Often finding the starting point is the hardest thing. In my research almost all records that I have linked to a French ancestor have simply listed a birth place as “France” which might as well say “Born on Earth”. If you’re reading this though, chances are you have a rough idea or exact location in France the person is from. Finding that missing record that gives an exact location is what will open the door to your French branches.

GeoPatronyme

One really useful website if you don’t know where exactly in France a person is from is GeoPatronyme. It plots where a certain surname is popular and when used on quite unique names, it can narrow down locations massively. Using the French name I have been researching the picture below shows where the majority of people with the Cordier surname live.

Cordier Distribution
Genealogie.com

Genealogie.com is probably the most popular French Genealogy website currently and although it is a paid site it can be manipulated in such a way that allows you to get the basic information you’ll need to search the relevant archive for the actual records. An example I came across that will help demonstrate this was when researching “Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier”. All I knew about him came from English Records and luckily one census listed his birth place as Vendee, France.

Genealogie

On Genealogie you can do a free search but can’t view records and they are vague about the year i.e they’ll show 1900-1925 for any year between them. In this case, I searched ‘nom’ as Cordier, ‘prénom’ as ‘Pierre Oscar’ and then on the results page, under ‘Initiale du prénom’ chose ‘O’ to pick up the ‘Oscar’. Straight away, at the top of the list is a Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier born sometime between 1850 and 1875 in La Roche-sur-Yon. Narrowing it down by going back and searching again using exact years each time i.e searching 1850, 1851, 1852 etc and putting in ‘Cordier’, shows this man was born 1842.

(Edit: This particular search doesn’t work now but a similar one can be found for his marriage which leads to the same conclusions)Pierre Cordier Search

You can then choose to either pay for the record and get it straight away with no fuss or head over to the Vendée archives and try to pick it up on their free Etat civil database. If you want to learn more about French records and plan to do a lot more French research it’s worth using this method as you’ll get used to using and reading French Records.

Unfortunately most district archive sites don’t make it easy to directly link, but a quick check of the index for 1842 (at the back of the births section, not right at the back) shows me he’s there, number 192 (image 92 of 357).

Battle of Waterloo 1815



French Military Records

If the person you are looking for was in the French Military there are a few different avenues you can persue in order to find the sources you need.

The French military records, held at the Service historique de la Défense in Vincennes, have in the past been difficult to access until recently with a change of leadership, things are getting slightly easier. This however will require a trip to the archives either by you or a local researcher.

Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier

Gallica.bnf & Google Books

Another way is by looking at official documents, gallica.bnf has loads of searchable records that can be viewed for free, so is definitely worth a look. One way I’ve found particularly fruitful is using Google Books to search for French Military results. One good way to find sources relating to a member of the military is by searching for the surname followed by first names. For example searching for an ancestor called “Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier” in Google books should be done “Cordier Jean Baptiste Alexandre” as well as trying abbreviations of each, like bte or bapt in place of baptiste as well as using initials only.

Ste Helene Medal

The Ste Helene Medal was given to soldiers that fought for Napoleon and we’re still alive in 1857. If the person you are researching falls in to this date range then this can be a very valuable resource. The Ste Helene website not only has documents and translations but also portraits of many of the higher ranking officers.

Ste Helene Medal

What To Do Once You Have Your DNA Test Results.

What To Do Once You Have Your DNA Test Results.

So you’ve just received your chosen DNA Tests results. Now what? A lot of people don’t realise that you can do a lot more with the raw test results than what is shown on any of the sites that test DNA.

Your raw results come in the form of a file that can be easily uploaded to a number of other sites. To top it off almost all of these sites and tools are free!

promethease

1 – Promethease ($5)

“Promethease is a literature retrieval system that builds a personal DNA report based on connecting a file of DNA genotypes to the scientific findings cited in SNPedia.”

Promethease costs $5 and basically uses freely available data on SNPedia to generate a report outlining all of the health related information your DNA holds. This is particularly useful for anyone that has tested using AncestryDNA or FamilyTreeDNA and does not have any health results to go with their ancestral results. Something worth noting is that FamilyTreeDNA specifically removes some health related SNP’s so this won’t be of much use to people that have used this service. But for $5 it hardly breaks the bank if you’ve just forked out 20x that on the test in the first place.

Either way this is definitely worth it if you are interested in learning what your DNA means for your health. Don’t do this if you are a hypochondriac!

gedmatch

2 – Gedmatch (Free or $10 for Extras) 

Gedmatch allows you to upload your raw DNA results from: 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, WeGene and GENETIConcept, then once they have been processed you can match with anyone else from any site that has uploaded their results to Gedmatch too. This is a good way to get around having to buy kits on each site.

The site also contains tools you can use to analyse your DNA such as: Various admixture tools that can break down where parts of your DNA are likely to have originated, Eye colour predictions which look at various SNP’s thought to affect eye colour, Kit-Kit comparisons which allow you to compare two kits and see exactly what parts of your DNA you share with someone and a few more other cool tools. It’s free to use and runs off of donations as well as a newly implemented tier system which gives you access to more tools for a $10 Donation. 



3 –  23++ Chrome Extension and Ancestry Helper Chrome Extension. (Free) 

“23++ is an extension for the Google Chrome Browser that adds additional functionality to 23andMe and makes the site a little nicer to use.”

“The extension helps with analyzing and comparing your AncestryDNA test results. The automated scanner, accessible using the Full Scan and Resume Scan buttons added to your DNA Home Page, will go through your list of DNA matches and open each one to scan their pedigree charts.”

These tools help make their related sites easier to use and add features such as enhancing the way DNA matches look and the ability to download matches for future reference.

davepike

4 – Dave Pike’s DNA Analysis Tools (Free) 

Dave Pike is a professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland and has developed a load of useful tools that can be used to gain further insight in to your DNA.

They are particularly useful if you have very close relatives that have also tested as you can do things like phase children’s DNA with parents to see exactly which alleles (One half of an SNP, one is inherited from each parent) were inherited from which parent or searching for Discordant SNP’s, these are SNP’s that differ from the parents, possibly meaning the SNP has mutated.

jameslick

5 –  James Lick’s mtDNA Haplogroup Analysis Tool (Free) 

This tool is useful if you’re interested in your direct maternal line. It can more accurately plot where on the mtDNA Human tree your maternal Haplogroup is found. For example my 23andMe mtDNA result came back as “k1a10” wheras James Lick’s tool narrowed it down to “k1a10a” not a massive difference in my case but it could have narrowed it much further by looking at genetic markers 23andMe’s algorithm doesn’t look at. The tool also tells you similar Haplogroups and which markers you are missing. This is still not a replacement for getting a dedicated mtDNA Test from FamilyTreeDNA as it only looks at around 19.7% of the entire mtDNA so a dedicated test would be much more accurate.

Uploading your results to all of the tools above will not only give you more information on your genome but you’ll also end up understanding the way DNA Tests work much more clearly.

An Easy Guide to Commercial Genealogical DNA Tests

An Easy Guide to Commercial Genealogical DNA Tests

DNA Tests have become a staple of Genealogy in recent years and as they are getting cheaper and cheaper a lot more amateur genealogists are becoming much more interested in unlocking the secrets kept within their DNA. The main question is which one to get.

DNA Tests can help in a number of ways including:

  • Verifying research – For example if you think someone is your great grandfather but aren’t 100% sure and you match with people who have him in their tree too you use this to confirm that he is related to you.
  • Surname Variants – Surnames are not always passed down exactly as they were originally so using Y-DNA to match with other people with the same and similar surnames can prove that surnames are related. For example in my tree I have the Pynn surname written as: Pynn, Pymm, Pin and Pinn.
  • Locations – You might end up matching with lots of people that all live in the same area. This could open up new avenues of research.
  • Ancestral Homeland – Some people like the fact that samples can be compared to “Ancient” samples. This can often show where some portion of your DNA likely originated. Most tests also give you a breakdown of this.
  • Discover Living Relatives – One of the most important features for people that take a DNA test is the fact that you are matched with people within the same database.
  • Confirm or Disprove Family Secrets – Take for example someone who does not know their grandfather but has been told he was in the army during the war and had a fling with the grandmother. This might be broken down by having living descendants of the real grandfather who might turn out to live right around the corner.





There are three main types of DNA Tests used within Family history.

  • Y-DNA, which is used to find out more about direct paternal lines.
  • mitochondrial DNA, is used for direct maternal lines.
  • Autosomal DNA is all the nuclear DNA in your cells that is not on a sex chromosome (X or Y chromosome). This is used in matching all lines.

The most popular of these test are the autosomal tests. These are usually the cheapest and offer the most information.


Autosome

Autosomal Tests

Autosomal DNA tests look at the numbered chromosomes. We have 22 (numbered 1-22) Pairs of Chromosomes and two sex chromosomes (X and Y). An autosomal test can be used to estimate relationships between two people, this is the reason that it is the most common type of genealogical test.


23andme banner

1 – 23andMe

Price: £125.

Method: Saliva Sample (About 1 cc).

Contacting others: Contact may be made after seeing your list of matches in DNA Relatives or Ancestry Finder; the matches must be willing to share genomes with you if you are to see what segments you share with your matches.

Number of People in the Database: 1,200,000.

Medical Data: Yes.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: Ancestry Composition, Ancestry Finder, Neanderthal Ancestry, Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry tool, Y and mtDNA haplogroups provided for people you are sharing with.


ancestrydna logo

2. Ancestry DNA

Price: £79.

Method: Saliva Sample (About 1/2 cc).

Contacting others: Contact can be made through Ancestry.com’s messaging system.

Number of People in the Database: 2,000,000.

Medical Data: Yes.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: Comparison of overlap of ancestral origins between matches and automatic identification of common ancestors, surnames and birth places between matches’ family trees.


ftdna family finder

3 – Family Tree DNA (Family Finder Test)

Price: £65.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting others: Email Addresses of all matches are available.

Number of People in the Database: 250,000.

Medical Data: Yes, not as many as 23andme.

Online Community: Yes.


natgeo

4 – National Geographic Project Geno 2.0

Price: £127.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting others: No, but stories about one’s Y patrilineal and matrilineal ancestry can be posted on the web site for others to view, so add your contact information to them.

Number of People in the Database: 230,000.

Medical Data: Yes, not as many as 23andme.

Online Community: Yes.

Extra Tools: There are approximately 75,000 Ancestry Informative Markers from about 450 populations around the world that are included on the test. About 10,000 of the Y chromosome SNPs included on the test have not previously been tested in large populations. Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestral percentages are provided.


ftdna-ytest

Y-DNA Tests

These tests are primarily used in Surname Studies. i.e Do two or more males with the “Pynn” surname share a common patriarchal ancestor? They also provide you with your Y-Haplogroup which is the branch on the human DNA tree your Y chromosome sits on.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA offers three types of Y-DNA test. Each of these tests for a different number of genetic markers on the Y Chromosome. The 37 Marker test will allow you to confirm close relationships and the 67/111 tests will let you narrow down matches even further. With Y-DNA it’s all about what you can afford. If you can afford the 111 STR test then do that one!

Price: 37 STRs $169, 67 STRs $268, 111 STRs $359.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting Others: Public FTDNA Forums.

Number of People in the Database: 568,000+


ftdnammtDNA Tests

mtDNA Tests look at the mitochondrial DNA that is present in everyone. It is passed from mother to child so Males and Females can be tested for this however males will not pass this on to their children. Much like how the Y-DNA test looks at the fathers direct line, the mtDNA test looks at the mothers direct female line. This also gives the mtDNA Haplogroup which again shows where the mtDNA fits in to the human DNA Tree.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA offers an Entire mtDNA genome (HVR1, HVR2 + coding region = 16569 bases) test. This is the only one worth getting if you want to get in depth information about your mtDNA. It is by far the cheapest of it’s kind. 23andme and some other autosomal tests will tell you about your mtDNA but it will not be anywhere near as informative as an Family Tree DNA test.

Price: $199.

Method: Cheek Swab.

Contacting Others: Public FTDNA Forums.

Number of People in the Database: 200,000.

Tips for Researching Dutch Ancestors.

Tips for Researching Dutch Ancestors.

It’s often daunting when looking at records from another country, in a different language to what you are accustom to. Dutch records are definitely no exception. We often take for granted in the UK how easy it is to obtain Birth/Marriage/Death certificates and how little effort it takes to find them.

WieWasWie Logo

WieWasWie

When it comes to Dutch records, looking around in forums or using a search engine will usually bring you to the site “WieWasWie”. Since WieWasWie is a paid website it is often overlooked by people only looking for one or two distant ancestors a couple of hundred years ago. It does contain a lot of information which is almost exclusively Baptism, Marriage and Burial records (Doop, Trouw, Begraven).

Open Archives Logo




Openarch

There is however usually the same information and sources available elsewhere on the internet. One such site is Open Archives which uses the Open Source data supplied by the Dutch Archives, it is free to use and has more records.

National Archief

GaHetNa

If you are looking for Military or VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, Otherwise known as the Dutch East India Company) records. Then GaHetNa is the website you need. It is the Dutch National Archives website and is the number one stop if you’re ancestor was in the Dutch Military.

Militieregisters Logo

Militieregisters

Another useful Military site is militieregisters.nl. This site contains thousands of military service records and has an incredible simple easy to use search menu. Although viewing scans is not free you can earn free scans by indexing various projects on velehanden.nl which also helps bring new searchable projects and source collections on to the internet.

Ministerie Van Defence

Archieven (Dutch Ministry of Defense)

The Dutch Ministry of Defense has repositories that contain the names of dutch citizens within Napoleons armies. These records contain not only basic information and their military unit but also nearly always contain the Mother and Father of the person in question which can massively help with the research in to a family.

Geneaknowhow

Geneaknowhow

Indexes for different areas in The Netherlands can be found at Geneaknowhow.net. The site does have an English mirror but it is not updated along with the dutch version. It’s not particularly user friendly but does the job and can be very useful if you know what you want.

Zoekakten Logo

Zoekakten

Zoekakten is another not so easy to use site. It does tend to have a massive repository of data though if you can work out how to use it. It usually has Christening/Marriage/Burial records that are missing from other sites online.

Local Sources

If you know exactly where your ancestors are from then your best bet is to look for the local archive for that region as they will have the most in depth records available. They can be found easily by searching for “[placename] archief genealogie”.