Organising your research

Preserving your memories: Digitizing your photos

I recently came across the post “Plan Ahead: Protect Your Genealogy from Disaster” on the Ancestry blog.

In September 2011, I moved from suburban Melbourne to Numurkah, a country town in Northern Victoria.  While in Melbourne, I never considered the dangers of original documents being destroyed, but here in Numurkah, it’s been a different story.

In March 2012, the town was affected by flooding.  Fortunately, the flood water didn’t reach my part of town.   Then last year there was a serious grass fire.  Although it ended up bypassing the town, my asthma flared up from the smoke, and so I decided to evacuate, just in case.  Fortunately, all my family history research was already on the laptop, and backed up on a portable hard drive, but my photo were still only in photo albums, so, as well as grabbing the laptop and portable hard drive, I ended up bundling these together as well to take with us.

After this, I decided it would be prudent to scan all of the photos, then I would only need to take my laptop and portable hard drive if I ever need to evacuate in the future, without having to bundle up all the photo albums as well.  Fortunately, I had been taught as a teenager to keep photos in photo albums, and also to label the back of the photos with when and where the photo was taken, and who was in the photos.

Over the years, my photo albums had become disorganized (mostly due to my daughter pulling photos out and then putting them back in the wrong places), so I needed to get them organized again first.  My steps in organizing and then scanning the photos were

  • Organize the photos into date order
  • Scan a year at a time
  • Decide which photo album the photos would be placed in, and create a folder with the same name on the computer (these go in a main folder “Photo albums”, within the Pictures folder, so I can distinguish between the photos in my photo albums and photos taken with my mobile phone). It is a good idea to also add the date range covered in the photo album in the folder name.
  • Rename the scanned files with a description of the photo. Include the date the photo was taken, in reverse order (year, month, date), so the photos will remain in date order, and move to the appropriate folder.

It is necessary to rename and move the photos, as when scanning from my printer, the files are saved with generic file names: Scan, Scan01, Scan02 etc. When renaming, most images were given a name that described the photo, but in some cases, I only gave the image a number as the file name.  For example, I had an album from my daughter’s kindergarten, so rather than describing each photo, I just numbered them, as the photo album name described who the photos were of, and when and where they were taken.

You can refer to my post “My computer filing system” for details on where I save my files on my computer.

It only took me about a month to scan and organize all of the photos in my photo albums, and they are also now backed up on my portable hard drive, and on the cloud.  I use One Drive; since I already have a subscription to Office 365 it is free, and provides 1 tb of storage.  One Drive is not only able to store files created with Office programs (Word, Excel etc.) but images and PDF files as well.