The digital revolution has definitely taken genealogy by storm. Instead of handwritten pedigree charts and boxes of old documents, genealogists are now finding their research made easier with family history software, digitized documents, digital cameras and scanners. This technology isn't just for computer professionals, however. Check out some of my favorite genealogy gadgets and learn how they can make your research easier. Great for adding to your holiday gift list!
Do you, your parents, or grandparents have boxes of old, dusty 35 mm slides or film negatives lying around? This handy device makes it easy to convert them to high-quality digital images with just the touch of a button. The converter scans images at up to 1829 dpi with a 5-megapixel digital sensor, and also comes with photo editing software to help you crop and edit the photos, and convert negatives into positives. Plus, it's easily portable (good for a trip to Grandma's house), and plugs into the USB port of your PC or laptop for transferring scanned images.
There are a wide variety of handheld pen scanners on the market these days, but the DocuPen RC800 requires special note. Instead of using the tip to scan a few lines of text at a time, the DocuPen RC800 scans down almost its entire length, allowing you to import entire pages in one pass. The biggest downside is that it does have trouble with bound books and magazines - basically, anything that doesn't lie perfectly flat. Scanning from the spine outwards, rather than from top to bottom sometimes eliminates this problem, however. The DocuPen is also one of the pricier handheld scanners on the market, so if you don't plan to use it a lot you might want to check out WizCom's InfoScan 3 Lite.
When you're visiting with the relatives, or transcribing tombstones in the cemetery, you'll appreciate the features of a digital voice recorder. Olympus models pretty much dominate the market, and for good reason. The latest models even double as digital audio players. The Olympus DS-30 offers up to 67 hours of recording time with 256 MB of internal flash memory, a detachable stereo microphone, and a USB cable for transferring files to and from your computer.
I can't say enough good things about this wonderful GPS unit. The only downside is that quality comes with a price. The Garmin Nuvi line does come with many variations, however, so shop around for the right combination of features vs. price. The large color screen is easy to see in the car, and the verbal navigation will easily get you to the courthouse or library. There's even an option in the 660 model to enter GPS coordinates - great for trips to an ancestral cemetery. Plus, this small unit easily moves from the car to your pocket for off-road exploring.
A good digital camera is probably on every genealogist's gift list (unless they already have one, and it isn't several years old). They are great for everything from shooting photos in the cemetery to records at the courthouse, so who wouldn't want one? The trouble is narrowing it down to just one. I've listed my favorite small, but powerful digital camera, here, but you'll find many more options and sizes in Michael Carr's Digital Camera Gift Guide
For the creative genealogist who loves to print out charts and heritage photo layouts for framing and scrapbooks, the Epson Stylus 1400 photo printer is a great gift idea. The 13-inch printer will print 12" x 12" borderless pages, a popular size for digital scrapbookers looking to print out their layouts. The dye-based inks are rated to last for up to 98 years behind glass (and even longer in dark storage). This printer also handles 13" x 19" prints, great for family tree layouts. Paper options from Epson include their PremiereArt Matte Scrapbook Photo Paper (acid free, lignin free and buffereed) in 8.5" x 11" and 12" x 12", and Premium Photo Paper in Glossy and Semi-Gloss in sheets up to 13" x 19".
Most genealogists have software to organize their family tree, but what about software to organize their photos, scanned documents and other digital images. Adobe Photoshop Elements offers an intutive organizer to help you find and view your digital photos via a timeline, tags or search. Tags help you easily organize your photos and let you easily access groups of similar photos in just one click - all photos related to a particular family or cemetery, for example. For the old print photos in the back of your closet, Adobe Photoshop Elements offers intituive scanning and powerful editing tools. If you want to share your digital creations, the program offers tools to help you easily create scrapbook pages, slide shows and photo books.