Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I Learned Wednesday 20 July 2011

This week I did not visit any repositories or do any research on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Genealogy Bank, or We visited my in-laws in New York.

I learned a lot.

I brought my Flip-Pal scanner and wand scanner with me and scanned some long-coveted family photographs and two files’ worth of documents.

I learned how to use the Flip-Pal scanner - perhaps not with a great deal of ingenuity or skill, but I did finally take it out of its box and do several dozen scans with it. The greater part of these scans were duds, not the fault of the scanner, but I was testing its limits. I learned that you can make a scan through glass, but the scanner has to be sitting flat on the glass. It cannot be above the glass or angled down onto the glass. However, my father-in-law kindly removed the glass from the set of photographs that I coveted most of all, and I learned that no glass is best of all. I will be pulling up some of the tutorial videos for the Flip-Pal on YouTube to learn more.

The wand scanner once again proved its worth. I learned that it’s a good idea to backup scans with transcriptions when working from an original with bumps/discontinuities in the paper or with poor contrast.

I learned that you may have to settle for not knowing who is in those coveted photographs. One of the photographs may be of one my my husband’s great-great-grandfathers - either Julius Koehl or John Fichtelmann - but we don’t know, because anyone who might have known is no longer alive. Not that I won’t be trying in the coming weeks to get some ideas on this.

I learned that photographs are a great way to inspire relatives to share their memories. I put together a binder with copies of documents (probate records, ship manifests, descendant reports, etc.) for my relatives, but I knew this would be kind of dry, so I added a couple of maps of home cities back in Germany and Italy and the photograph I posted of my mother-in-law’s grandparents’ home in Newark (“Always Go Back and Reread Your Notes”). The reaction inspired by the photograph was amazing. My mother-in-law showed me where her room was, where she played with her childhood friend (and what games they played), and also recalled a couple of priceless stories about her grandfather.

I learned that in addition to providing new items of information, an important function of documents is to confirm or refute old information; I was particularly delighted with seeing the names of baptismal sponsors, whom I recognized as siblings and grandparents. The “smaller” details are as important as the names and dates: home addresses and church names will help tell me where to look.

Not bad for a couple of days.


  1. Wow, Greta, you learned a lot in one day. I have found the FlipPal to be a great travel tool, but I use my digital camera a lot for documents and framed photos. I like the full image photo because it's easy to enlarge on screen for transcribing.

    Thanks for sharing your work. I'm looking forward to your next discovery.

  2. Greta, I loved how you began your post, you had me from the first three sentences. I'm glad you came away with photos and information. I bet it was double the fun for that trip.

  3. I bought a flip pal scanner, took it on my research trip, scanned something, and haven't touched it since. Thank you for the reminder to get it out and learn how to use it!

  4. Denise - I wanted to use my camera on some of the framed photographs (though not the composite one with lots of little ones - that has been the "biggie" for me), but due to the heat all of the lights were turned down low and I didn't think it would work out well.

    Barbara - I love the prospect that many of the trips we take and the places we go present opportunities for research - makes life interesting, doesn't it?

    Debi - Now that I've gotten over the "how do I figure this thing out?" stage, I am excited about really putting the Flip-Pal through its paces. Next project - scanning photos in my Mom's old photo albums.

  5. I love my FlipPal. If I'm traveling to see family and I suspect they might be willing to let me look through their pictures and/or documents, I take it with me. My grandmother was fascinated with it when I took it to her house.

    I'm looking forward to taking it with me when I visit my great grandmother. She has tons of pictures and, despite being nearly 100, can identify every person in the picture as well as their relationship to the family.

  6. I love my FLip-Pal also, but have not been lucky with framed photos. There's a framed news clipping I want, but it's a good 1/4" - 1/2" beneath the glass, so I just can't get a good scan of it.

    Maybe I'll try a digital photo instead.

    Great post!

  7. I'm inspired by your blog to make a trip like this, myself. he truth is, I don't have many relatives left, definitely not many that I've met. There's no reason not to re-connect since I now live about four hours away. Most of my life it was a few thousand miles. Will check out a flip scanner, too. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

  8. Dee - Yes, the great thing about the Flip-Pal is that it is so small that it is easy to carry along in case we get a chance to scan family pictures. And you are so lucky to have a relative who recognizes the people in the pictures - what a treasure she is!

    Susan - The results were definitely better when the glass was off of the picture, but you are right - when the Flip-Pal is above the image, it really does not work. I will probably use my camera next time we visit to copy a few of the other framed photos.

    Victoria - Good luck with your trip - I hope you write about it. I think a lot of people really enjoy going through photos and showing them. The next thing I'm going to use it for are my mother's old photo albums. It isn't really an option for me to remove photos that are pasted in, so the Flip-Pal is the way to go.

  9. Sounds like you accomplished a lot!