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Making Good Use of Digital Cameras to Preserve Family History

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Most people still think of cameras just in the context of taking pictures of people to label and document the family history. But with the flexibility of digital cameras (and the ability to cram hundreds if not thousands of shots on a digital memory card), it’s a shame that many people overlook digital cameras (and camcorders) as a great means for documenting other interesting things about the family history. One example is this…

We took a trip a few years back to a Civil War battlefield that several of my ancestors were involved in. I took pictures galore of the setting, the place, but also the buildings that were onsite, the markers. (Chickamauga battlefield near Chattanooga, TN.) They have excellent historical markers with information marking the location of various units through the course of the battle and I have good close up images of each. (With the resolution of the digital cameras historical markers like this can be VERY readable.) I also have some video footage giving the overall sense of the location.

Beyond that, of course is the idea of using the digital cameras to document the look and style of cemetery markers (not all markers are the same small concrete slab, some are imaginative and ornate.) Plus, you get the added benefit of maybe taking a “wide shot” with the camera to give an idea of the markers location in the cemetery for others that may want to visit and locate the marker.

Another good use for the digital cameras in genealogy is for close up pictures of older documents and books that may be too fragile for a trip to a copier. I guess this is where you get to play “mission impossible” and grab a few snaps of the precious document.

The last item I’d mention is pictures of the old homeplace! So what if they’ve added on and remodeled 10 times since Great-Grandpas family was there. (Of course, it might be nice to let the current residents know (and ask nicely) if possible.)

Cell phone cameras may cut it if you have a newer phone with a higher resolution photo capture, but the older 640*480 pixel camera phones are probably not going to capture quite enough detail for you to be happy with when it comes to getting text. 1024*728 and up resolution is probably what you’re going to want to be able to get readable text with the camera. (Also, optical zoom is best if you need to get longer distance shots.)

So… keep the digital cameras ready in your arsenal of genealogy “tools”. So they can capture the scene and save you 1000 words each.

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