Sunday, March 18, 2012

Luck of the Irish

Yesterday, St. Patrick's Day, I spent at the Mishawaka library attending the Michiana Genealogical Fair.  This will be my third year and every year has been a rewarding experience.  

The featured speaker this year was Mark Middleton, a technology specialist.  His morning presentation was on scanning and the afternoon session was an overview of computer technology for the genealogist.  Of course, I hoped to find out about "a perfect scanner" that would do all things, at all times and in all situations.  Alas . . .to my disappointment there is no such creature.  He compared a genealogist's need for different scanners to a carpenter who needs more than one hammer and one saw. So now I have been encouraged to purchase more.  While much of what he described was familiar to me, I did learn that I could place negatives, slides, and even video directly on the scanner glass to scan as long as I removed the cover of the top light. Using the holder is probably preferable in most cases but not required.  His advice was that the smaller the object you are scanning, the higher the dpi you should use - good advice.

He did have a different opinion from Thomas MacEntee who I heard speak a few weeks ago.  Thomas advocated moving everything to the cloud as one of your back-up methods.  Mark was very hesitant about the cloud and preferred to create DVD back-ups and give a copy to his brother and sister as insurance against a disaster striking his house.  He did admit, however, that DVD technology may only be around for 5-10 more years, and he would need to migrate his information to newer technology in the future.  He expressed distrust of the online companies that could go out of business or have a loss of data.  Then, he said, they will say they are sorry but have no other obligation to us and our data.  He used the recent closure of Picnik as an example.

I understand both views and see valid arguments for both and I love technology.  But like my question to Thomas, what happens to our digital family research if it languishes for years before another family member is bitten by the genealogy bug?  Your carefully saved and organized research on outdated technology may no longer be accessible.  It only works if there is a continual custodian of the information who will always migrate your research to the newest technology.  Even Thomas admitted that was an issue.  How many of you inherited family photos, documents, and information that had been sitting in a box in a closet, on a basement shelf or rescued from the trash bin after after an elderly relative passed away.  I believe we should back up digitally, but what about including the old fashioned way as well? 

 I just can't bring myself to go completely digital.

Before I close, I need to tell you about my Irish luck.  Since it was St. Patrick's Day, I wore my Ogham script necklace that I purchased in Kinsale, Ireland.  It is the tip of a deer antler with "Eire" in Ogham, the ancient celtic script and made by a local artisan. We received a ticket for a drawing when we entered and as they called out the numbers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of my numbers matched.  With probably 150 attendees, I had the "luck of the Irish".  My prize was a certificate for a record course of my choice in the Certificate in Genealogical Studies Program from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.  I have a choice of courses so if you have taken a course, I would love to hear from you.  I don't know if it is at your own pace or a more organized schedule.  The website listed several courses related to Irish research  so please give me your opinion.

And now the sun is shining, the forsythia is blooming, and it is an unseasonable 75 degrees.  


  1. Lots of food for thought here, Margel. Like you, I just can't bring myself to go fully digital. So as time consuming as it is, I keep paper copies of everything (including photographs), and create digital files and back-ups as well. Maybe someday in the future we will have a better solution, but right now I feel the double insurance is worth it. I can still read paper documents and printed photographs created a hundred or more years ago. I'm not sure my descendants a hundred years from now will be able to do anything with my digital files.

  2. Margel,
    I have been registered with the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) since 2009 and really like the curriculum. As I was looking for a school, my objective was to find a school that had a complete and thorough curriculum in the Genealogical field that would culminate with a degree. Depending on your needs, though, you can register for one or two classes at a time. They offer one of the largest selections of online classes available and I have been very happy with the classes and staff. If you register for a class you do have the flexibility of deciding when you begin, but once you start the class it will run about 6 weeks straight with a completion date. I hope this helps.

    1. Marilyn-
      That definitely helps. Since I am a teacher, I will wait to start a course when my summer break begins. I am hoping to find something about Irish research - seems appropriate.