Learning to like my contactless scanner

At the end of 2013, I purchased the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 contactless scanner. I blogged here about how intrigued I was by a scanner that scans from above and doesn’t need to touch the (potentially delicate) items being scanned.

It arrived, I set it up without much difficulty and almost immediately I hit a trouble spot. The first things I tried to scan had curled edges. First, there was the letter that my grandfather had written my grandmother. It had been stored for 87 years in the envelope in which it was mailed At 36 pages, the letter didn’t lie flat in the envelope, so the folds were rounded. I had hoped I could flatten the image with the included software, but gave up pretty quickly.

Here’s tdaveslettertobeapg1withoutglasshe first page of that letter. While it’s legible, the folds and curves troubled me. And it took several tries to get it to look that good.

I found myself really disappointed and even looked into returning it. But I’d waited too long and it was after the 30-day deadline imposed by the seller.

That was actually a blessing in disguise, because when I was at RootsTech in February, I had the opportunity to talk with a Fujitsu representative who gave me a great idea: Buy a piece of non-glare glass to put over the objects I want to scan that have curled edges.

It took me awhile to get that done, but in the meantime I started appreciating how great the scanner is for non-curled documents and photographs. I just lay them down on the mat and push a button. (I can even do more than one item at a pass and they’ll be saved into separate documents) The process is quite simple and I don’t have to worry about damaging the photo by putting it through my sheet-fed ScanSnap S1500M (a precursor to the current iX500). I don’t have a flat-bed scanner.

page 1 dave's letter to bea testI finally got around to buying the non-glare glass and that idea turned out to be a stroke of genius. Here’s the first page of the letter scanned through the piece of glass. It’s not perfect–the folds are still visible and a would take a little bit of effort to lift the glass for multi-page documents. But the pesky curvature is gone and the light is uniform.  It’s a simple, low-cost (under $20) solution.

I love my sheet-fed scanner, which is very fast and will scan both sides of the page simultaneously. But for delicate items and for books or magazines that can be scanned without pushing down on their spine, the SV600 is pretty swell. I haven’t experimented with scanning books yet, but for magazines, I’ve seen that it does a nice job of flattening the image so that the pages don’t slant toward the middle of a double-page spread.

I don’t know that I will use it as much as I anticipated when I purchased it–it’s unclear that my needs merit the $600 price tag. But now that I have it, I’m looking forward to getting to know it better (and appreciate it more). I know it will come in handy.

Now that I think about it, a Flip-Pal mobile scanner might have served much the same function, at much lower price point–and had the advantage of being portable. I’m tempted to purchase a Flip-Pal one of these days. (I’m turning into a scanner collector!) If so, I’ll be interested to see when I choose to use which scanner. And I’ll report here, if you’re interested too.


Explore WWII records on Fold3.com free through May 31

Exploring World War II recordsHave you explored your family members’ World War II service? If not, you can take the opportunity to explore Fold3.com’s extensive World War II collection free of charge  through the end of May. That seems like a fitting activity for Memorial Day weekend, doesn’t it?

World War II is recent enough that you may have some family lore you could explore by checking out Fold3′s collection, which includes, among other things:

  • draft registration cards
  • enlistment records
  • photographs
  • navy muster rolls

You won’t be able to find service records, which, according to the Genealogy Insider blog, are available only to veterans and next of kin for privacy reasons.

I personally don’t have a lot of direct-line WWII research to do–neither my grandparents nor my parents served. But I have found interesting information in the form of draft registration. For example, the Old Man’s Draft–the fourth draft registration for that war–included men born between 1877 and 1897, so I was able to find information on my father’s maternal grandfather, William Reese Rasco. That’s the front page of his draft registration card pictured above. As you can see, it provides some great information: date and place of birth, residence in 1942, next of kin info, name and address of employer. The back of the card has a physical description–height, weight, eye and hair color, race, complexion and a box for other obvious physical characteristics.

In 1942, William Reese Rasco was 6′ tall and 195 pounds. He had a ruddy complexion and grey hair. I don’t think I’ve seen a picture of him, so I love that this gives me a bit of a mental image.

If you have some time and inclination, I encourage you to check out this collection (as well as the World War II records on Family Search and Ancestry) in honor of your veteran ancestors.


Focusing my efforts in 2014

My strategy for focusing my genealogy efforts in 2014In December every year, I take some time to set some goals. I set them for my organizing business and for my personal life. This will be the second year I’ve set goals for my genealogy research. (If you want, you can read the goals I set last year.)

In thinking about my genealogy goals for 2014, I realized that I really want to be more focused and organized in going about my research. I still struggle with not knowing what to work on in any given session. And that lack of focus makes it hard for me to actually get started.

I just hit upon an idea that I think I’ll try. I’m going to assign a family line to each quarter of the year. In this structure (which I just thought of, so it’s still evolving in my head), I won’t be limited to working on that line necessarily, but if I don’t have something else specific I want to do, I will work on the family line assigned to that quarter.

I’ve decided that the schedule will be as follows:

  • 1st quarter: Adams (my father’s father’s line)
  • 2nd quarter: Brown (my mother’s father’s line)
  • 3rd quarter: Rasco (my father’s mother’s line)
  • 4th quarter: Jeffries (my mother’s mother’s line)

At the start of each quarter, I’ll take stock of where my research lies. I’ll use my progress tracker to see what census, vital and military records I’ve already located.

During each quarter, I’ll try to do the following for each of the lines:

  • Fill in the gaps on my progress tracker
  • Make sure my surname files for that line are organized on my hard drive
  • Ensure that everything in my paper files for that line is also organized on my hard drive
  • Fill in collateral relatives on my family tree in Reunion
  • Search for sources for unsourced data provided to me by cousins
  • Go up at least one generation in verified information
  • Attach photos to my family tree in Reunion

What I like about this idea is that it should keep me more focused. And help me feel less overwhelmed. It should get me past the “what should I work on today?” question that can be such a barrier. And, perhaps best of all, it gives me some specific goals and a deadline–the end of the quarter. (I love a deadline!)

The irresistible ScanSnap SV600

SV600_mat1I’m not a big early adopter of technology. Well, I did have an original iPad, but I didn’t get my iPhone until the 4S.

But since the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 contactless scanner was introduced just last month, I’ve found myself really wanting one. This scanner allows you to scan books, photographs, and documents without risk to the original. Documents rest on a surface and the scanner scans from above. Sounds like magic to me.

Today, it’s front of mind for two reasons: I have a family history book that my aunt lent me (“The Family of Edward Hampton Rasco and Connexions,” published in 1967) and she wants it back. I was thinking of potentially photocopying it, but what I’d really like is to be able to scan it.

Also today, a client showed me her marvelous collection of letters her father wrote during World War II.  She wants to have them scanned and make a book of them for her family members. This seems like a great application for the SV600.

One of the features that makes the scanner so appealing is that it will automatically straighten pages. In other words, the curvature of the page that naturally occurs when it’s bound into a book disappears, thanks to the included software. It also allows you to easily erase your fingers (used to hold a book open) from the image, and detects page turning, so you can turn the page and scan without having to press the button. (Check out this video from DocumentSnap.com’s review to see what I mean.)

I have a ScanSnap S1500M sheet-fed scanner and I love it. (It’s a precursor to the iX500.) But it’s only good for those items I feel safe sending through the sheet feeder. I imagine being able to easily and safely scan scrapbook pages, old photos, fragile letters, and pages of books using the SV600 and my heart goes pitter-patter. It’s surprisingly inexpensive for what it is. Right now it’s selling for just over $600 on Amazon. Stay tuned!