[Editor’s note: Flip-Pal mobile scanner ambassador Thomas MacEntee gets ready for a Christmas visit with family members and shares his preparations to collect family history information.]
With Christmas fast approaching, I’m looking forward to spending time with family and talking about our relatives who have passed on. We’ll share stories, trade cherished recipes, and the best part: show off photos in albums and scrapbooks.
Do you have plans to take advantage of this exchange of information? Are you ready to be a collector – an active participant – rather than a witness?
Holidays and Family History: A Perfect Match
I’m not sure about you, but when my family gets together for any holiday, it serves as not only an instant “family reunion,” but it is my cue as the family historian to get busy. This means asking the questions about “who, what, and where” in reference to my ancestors.
And the process never feels forced nor have I ever had anyone say, “Oh here we go with the genealogy questions again!” I let the conversations flow naturally and go where they need to go. But my role is to try and guide it towards certain areas that others will find interesting.
The key word here is “seamlessly” and that is how it all works. Sort of like scanning a large photo in sections with the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and “stitching” it together in a snap!
Bring Collecting Tools With You
I am never without my “kit” as family members call it:
- Blank family group sheets to be filled out either in paper format or a link to an online version I keep stored in Google Docs.
- My business card with my contact information. Someone will often remember facets of a story or details about a person when they return home so they need a way to contact me. Create a “family history” card listing your blog and website if you have one and on the reverse list the surnames you are researching.
- A copy of the family history that I’ve self-published. It can be a photo book, or even just a print out of a PDF document for my family to look at. You never know what’s going to serve as the spark of inspiration for the new genealogist in the family!
- Access to my research database at Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, WikiTree or any of the other services at my disposal. I use a Smartphone app if it is available or I have software such as Legacy Family Tree installed on my laptop which also travels with me.
- A scanner – the Flip-Pal mobile scanner – of course! The biggest benefit is the ability to scan photos at a family member’s house without having to remove them from the house or even the photo album!
One other tip: If you are currently a Flip-Pal affiliate, make sure you have either a flyer or a card with your affiliate link available. In many encounters with friends and family, someone will see me using the Flip-Pal and want to purchase their own or purchase one for someone else. Make it easy for them to order through your affiliate link!
Family Reunions Can Be Virtual Too!
What if you aren’t able to be with all your family members this holiday season? Don’t forget that reunions can now take place virtually and “on-line” with tools such as Facebook and Skype. See last week’s post A Virtual Family Photo Reunion Using Social Media here at the Flip-Pal genealogy blog to learn how you can connect with cousins and share information.
The photo of my great-grandmother, Frances Pressner at the top of this article is an example of what my cousins recently shared with me through one such reunion. I’m so fortunate that my family can take advantage of technology and bridge the miles between us as we all focus on our family history.
And If You Don’t Get a Flip-Pal for Christmas . . .
Hopefully you already have a Flip-Pal mobile scanner that you use for collecting family history-related photos and documents. Or perhaps you’ve asked for a Flip-Pal as a gift for Christmas?
If you don’t find a Flip-Pal mobile scanner under the tree this year, remember there’s a great After Christmas Sale coming up at the Flip-Pal website starting December 26th!
[Editor’s note: Flip-Pal mobile scanner ambassador Thomas MacEntee shares his recent experience posting family photos on Facebook and the reaction from cousins he’s never even met.]
Recently, I was searching for additional photos of my great-grandparents, Richard Henneberg (1888-1941) and Frances Pressner (1889-1960). After a thorough search of my own images, I knew what I had to do: reach out to my cousins and ask if they had anything they could scan and send to me via email or post on Facebook.
Now it might seem odd that I didn’t just wait until the next time I saw these cousins, but I have a confession: I have many cousins that I’ve never met in person. We have built a great relationship via social media, namely Facebook, and all because of a few family photos that were scanned and shared online.
What a Photo Can Do
The photo above was taken about 1931 and shows all seven sons of Elmer A. MacEntee, another great-grandfather, in birth order. John W. MacEntee (1901-1984), Harold MacEntee (1906-1979), Myron MacEntee (1907-1981), George MacEntee (1909-1965), William E. MacEntee (1925-1987), Elmer J. MacEntee (1911-1971) and Abraham MacEntee (1913-1977), who was my grandfather. I’ve never seen the original nor have I held it in my hand, but it was sent to me by a MacEntee cousin who I was able to find on Facebook several years ago. Again, we’ve never met face to face…yet.
While I could have simply printed out the photo or saved it with my other genealogy research, I took the extra step of posting it in a virtual family photo album. Why? Not only did I think that there would be other cousins who had never seen the picture, but I also believed that the image could serve as “cousin bait,” as well as start a conversation about those ancestors.
So I created a simple album entitled “Ancestors” and periodically I would upload an image or two. Lucky for me, I have cousins who are social media savvy and “connected,” which meant within minutes I was receiving feedback and questions in abundance. These included “Who’s in the photo?” and “Where was this taken?” and “How are these people related to me?” as well as others.
Being the keeper of the family history means I not only try to answer these questions, but I also benefit from the comments made by other family members. The information provided not only helps to clarify the “who, what, where and when” aspects of the photo, but eventually the family stories also come out—and they just don’t trickle out…we’re talking a downright flood.
Family Is The Story
Here’s an example, with a photo of Georgiana Simpson (1862-1938) and Jacob DeGroodt (1860-1933), my 2nd great grandparents. I received the photo, again from another cousin, and I did a quick upload to a Facebook album.
Just look at some of the comments in the sidebar. I still get choked up when I see “So these are my great grandparents…” or “First time I have ever seen my great grandparents.” Imagine if I had just left the image file on my computer and didn’t make the effort to share it with others.
For other photos, some comments tell long stories about these ancestors and their lives. To think that this information would never have been shared had it not been for the simple act of posting a photo.
Scan, Share, Inspire and Repeat
If you are sitting on a collection of family photos—whether they are in a box, the original envelope from the drug store or Fotomat (remember those?) or in an old scrapbook—you are sitting on a gold mine of family connectivity and storytelling.
Each image bound by its gummed black corners on that stiff scrapbook page is just waiting to spark a conversation or a connection if you’re willing to help it escape and let it “speak.” Scan a photo with the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner, save the image to your computer and then select the sharing option that best suits you and your family. It could be a Facebook posting or a photo album. It could be on Twitter or even Pinterest.
Whatever you do, don’t just let those digital images sit there on your computer! You’ll never know the full potential of a family photo until you share it with others. And you might be surprised by what you find out about the picture, the people, your family and even better, yourself.
Recently Flip-Pal Cares sprang into action in Union Beach, NJ to help recover family photos that had washed up on the beaches after Hurricane Sandy. Here is a report of last weekend’s efforts from Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, Inc., makers of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner:
Two different events were held in the Union Beach area this past weekend where people could either volunteer to scan and organize photos that had been recovered from local beaches or they could come in and claim their found photos. Once the photos had been cleaned and prepped, we had several groups of volunteers each day that scanned images with Flip-Pal mobile scanners.
Here is a video of me sorting through photos and getting them ready for the scanning process:
Why Photos Matter In the Midst of Disaster
It might seem odd that while surrounded by disaster relief services, which were helping to restore and rebuild residences and provide vital life services, that there would be a focus on recovering lost family photos. Mary Danielsen, one of the organizers of Restoring Union Beach Memories, summed it up this way:
“The residents of Union Beach, New Jersey are still in shock one month after Hurricane Sandy devastated their little bay-shore town. They want their normal life back, but they’ve been forced to accept the reality that their entire life is about to change. The Union Beach photo recovery project may not seem like a priority when the health, safety and infrastructure of an entire community have been decimated. However, when residents take a breath and look around at what remains of their homes and cars, the first thing they say is 'I wish I had my photos.'
As I have said before, our photos are our memory keepers. They act as placeholders in time and enrich our family histories with stories to be passed down to the next generation. Without them, details are easy to forget.”
Once scanned, the photos were bagged and organized in bins so that people could claim them. In addition, we wanted to make sure that people knew about the free photo restoration services being provided by various volunteers—both locally and on social media sites such as Facebook.
We discovered that organization is very important during the entire process—from discovering the photos, to cleaning and scanning them and then making sure that both the digital images and the actual photos could be easily found. You can’t imagine the joy people express when they get their photos back.
On Saturday the group scanned nearly 1,150 photos and processed many more which were too deteriorated to scan. On Sunday we scanned 1,240 photos and cleaned another 500 that are now waiting to be scanned.
Scout’s Honor: Be Prepared
We had many different volunteers assisting us with the recovery of these photos and reuniting them with families. We were very grateful for their hard work, especially the Boy Scouts who helped clean and scan photos. With the motto “Be Prepared” in mind, I could not help but think of a few ways that all of us can be prepared for any type of disaster that could cause family photos and other important items to disappear in an instant.
- Scan Your Photos NOW. Many of the residents who thought their possessions—including photos and documents—would be safe, were surprised at what was washed away. Put together a plan to scan and digitize all your precious photos and other documents (family history as well as legal documents) and get started on securing these items right away.
- Get Organized. Whether you are preparing to secure your photos now, or working to recover them after a disaster, make sure you have a method of storing your digital files. This could be using folders or creating a special file naming convention. Your goal should be to quickly find the item you need.
- Perform Multiple Backups. It makes no sense to store your files on a USB flash drive if you then store it next to your computer or with other items that could be lost or damaged in a disaster. Secure your backup files in another location, such as a fire-proof safe, a safety deposit box or with another family member.
- Take Advantage of the Cloud. An even easier method of storing your digitized files is to use cloud storage programs such as Dropbox or SugarSync. You’ll always have access to them as long as you have a computer or a mobile device and an Internet connection.
Mary Danielsen and Jeanette Van Houten plan to continue their photo recovery and restoration efforts over the next few months. They have access to Flip-Pal mobile scanners and other supplies to make sure that these photos are digitized as soon as possible and then organized so that they can be reunited with their owners.
Don’t forget that if you are in the area, you can volunteer your services. Visit the Union Beach Photos and Misplaced Items group on Facebook and ask about the next recovery event. Even if you do not live in the Union Beach are, you can still show your support by donating funds to help purchase supplies for Restoring Union Beach Memories via gofundme at http://www.gofundme.com/1k3w9c.