2017 by Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2017-08-15.  Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .
ABSTRACT:  Old proverb:  "When someone dies, an entire library is lost." 
If a person doesn't leave accessible data about him or herself, their descendants will know almost nothing about them in two generations.  Technology can be a major help in keeping track of what happens in your own and your relatives lives.  This class will show how to capture life events with documents, articles, etc. , how to find, compile, scan, and label them.  The file labeling method will make them automatically appear in chronological order for each person without you having to sort them out.  This will be a help to keep them organized whenever you find a document or article about you or your ancestors.  The notes for the class and related articles, all with active Internet links, are on my website .


  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( ) of Provo and St. George, Utah.
  2. These notes, with active Internet links and other related articles, are posted on my website .
  3. Tips:  (1)  To put an icon on your desktop for the URL for these notes, or any webpage, just drag the icon in front of the address in your browser to your desktop.  (2)  To open a link from here in another tab, but keep your place in these notes, hold down the Control key while clicking the link.
  4. This class will discuss documents with suggestions of how to find, scan, label, store, and show them. 

  6. Elder Boyd K. Packer of the LDS Church suggested putting a box on the table where you see it every day and put everything into it that you can find about your own life.  You can do the same thing about any of your relatives.
  7. Types of documents
    1. Vital records -- birth certificate, marriage certificate, marriage license
    2. Church certificates and documents -- blessing, baptism, ordination, mission, Individual Ordinance Summaries, Membership Records, directories, temple recommends
    3. Journals, diaries, appointment books
    4. School and education -- report cards, letters, transcripts, yearbooks, news
    5. Programs participated in -- sports, plays, music, speaking, hobbies, vocations, avocations
    6. Articles -- newspapers, newsletters, magazines, books
    7. Portraits (not ordinary snapshots, since a different system works better for those)
    8. Letters -- personal, family, missionary, Christmas
    9. Genealogy -- family group sheets, pedigree charts, screenshots from FamilySearch Family Tree
    10. Miscellaneous -- anything else you can think of -- If in doubt, include it.
  8. Collecting and organizing documents is a major start in a life history, your own or a relative's, and is a major help in writing a biorgraphy or autobiography
  9. A digital collection may be better for your family now than a book, since it is easier and cheaper to reproduce and distribute and keep up to date; also it is easier for youth to read
  10. Even if you write a book, keep a digital (pdf, usually) copy of it, so it can be distributed or printed again later.
  11. See more details on some of the items in this class in other notes and articles on my webpage.

  13. Scanning -- scanners are not expensive now and FHCs have good Lexmark scanners that scan documents directly to flash drives; they are fast and name the files sequentially and you can rename them later at home
  14. File formats and resolutions for scans 
    1. Documents -- pdf = portable document format; scan to pdf at 150 dpi (dots per inch) for most text documents; use B/W unless there are colors; if there are high quality pictures or drawings, use higher resolution, 300-400 dpi
    2. Portraits and photos -- helpful article about dpi (dots per inch for printers or ppi = pixels per inch for monitors) -- -- Rule of Thumb for pictures: 250 dpi for each inch in final copy -- Hence, to scan and print to same size use 250 dpi; to scan and print  to twice the size, use 500 dpi; so if you are scanning a 2x3, but intend to print or view it later as 4x6, scan at 2 x 250 = 500 dpi; the U.S. National Archives Recommendations report (very complete, but complicated) is at -- for most portraits I scan at 600 dpi tif
    3. tif vs jpg:  tif is a "lossless" format; jpg is a "lossy" format, i.e. it degrades each time you save it after editing, cropping, rotating, etc., like a xerox of a xerox; OK to archive jpg's, if you never edit the original; just make a copy and edit the copy
    4. For Christmas card letters with portrait photos I usually scan to pdf or tif at 400 or 600 dpi
    5. Bleed-through of ink through the paper is sometimes a problem on handwritten documents; some Lexmark scanners have background removal settings, under Advanced Options, to help eliminate this bleed-through


  15. Do Google and other searches for the person's name -- use quote marks and various combinations; also use the Google proximity search, e.g. "donald AROUND(3) snow" (without the quotes); finds pages with donald and snow within 3 words of each other, so it picks up Donald R. Snow, Snow, Donald R., Donald Ray Snow, Donald and Richard Snow, etc.
  16. Eliminate some extraneous Google hits by adding search terms like genealogy, Utah, pdf, doc, index, ged; to get hits that always include a term, use a + in front, e.g. +ged; to always exclude a term, use - in front, e.g. -Dr 
  17. Search online book collections such as FamilySearch, Google, Internet Archive, library collections, newspaper websites, genealogy collections; The GenGophers website, , searches FamilySearch Books and even uses nicknames for names you enter
  18. For school information about a person try school and school district websites; for yearbooks try websites like 
  19. For colored bar graphs of world events during a person's life use -- allows including up to 10 personal events for the timeline; can do a scrolling-window screenshot to save a copy of the colored bar graph (see Screenshots section below)
  20. Include references for all items, so you know where they came from

  22. Many free screenshot programs -- FastStoneCapture is one of the few free ones that saves scrolling windows -- last free version was 5.3 and is available from several websites, e.g. ; can get latest shareware version (works better, but has a one time fee of $20) from --
  23. Capture all or part of the screen or the entire scrolling window and save the file with a name so you know what it is -- see below

  25. Goal in naming files is so you and others can find what you are looking easily and without having to open the file
  26. Can use up to 255 characters in file name, including the path to the file and the 3-character file extension 
  27. Example of my file naming system:  ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)-2012-10-13-DEATH-Obituary-SaltLakeDeseretNews--Ancestry-com--2014-04-10.pdf
  28. Using the woman's maiden name is standard in genealogy and allows all files pertaining to her to sort together
  29. Including married name in parentheses helps identification at a glance and helps in searching
  30. Including birth and death years makes time period clear and distinguishes people with same name, so no need for Jr. or Sr., unless that really was part of their name
  31. Event date after the name and in International Date Format YYYY-MM-DD makes all files pertaining to each person file together and chronologically; gives a timeline of their life -- event date put anywhere else or in different format wouldn't sort chronologically when alphabetized
  32. Event keywords allow finding and sorting by event, but still chronologically; some keywords I use are BIRTH, MARRIAGE, DEATH, NEWS, LDS, DOC, SECHOOL, EDUCATION, CENSUS, LETTER, MEDICAL, DIRECTORY, PORTRAIT, MILITARY, TALK, AUDIO, etc. -- can use as many as you want
  33. For files pertaining to entire life, I use keywords HISTORY, JOURNAL, BIO, GENEALOGY, OR PEDIGREE before the event date, so these still sort with the person, but after the chronological files
  34. I don't leave spaces in file names since since some programs put other characters in empty spaces and make them harder to read
  35. Naming files this way makes them jump to where they belong automatically without you having to move them there -- See EVERYTHING below
  36. Can keep files in separate individual or surname folders, but even with all files in same folder, they alphabetize by person and in order 
  37. Portraits named this way sort in chronological order -- snapshots would too, but there would probably be too many, so I use a different system for those

  39. EVERYTHING is an excellent program and free; finds files anywhere on your computer for the search terms you enter -- download from -- is a Windows program; MAC probably has something comparable
  40. Works fast, finds all resulting files anywhere on your computer for the search terms you enter; shows them in alphabetical order and can also sort them in other ways such as by path or date;  is a major help in file finding and maintenance, e.g. finding, renaming, moving, copying, deleting, etc.
  41. Has various setting options for how you want it to work
  42. Examples of using EVERYTHING with my system for searching and showing files

  44. For yourself start as soon as possible to gather and organize your documents; our memories get worse as we age and only you can tell the full story of your life.
  45. For your relatives compile what you have and use the system as you find more.
  46. Hopefully, this gave you a few ideas; more details in other classes and articles on my website