2017 by Donald R. Snow
This page last updated 2017-01-29.  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."  You are the one that can most easily keep track of what has and is happening in your life.  Writing an autobiography is wonderful, but very hard to do for most of us and is never complete.  This class is the first in a series of discussions about using technology to capture events in your life and will discuss documents; that is, finding, compiling, scanning, labeling, and storing these so they are findable and automatically appear in chronological order.  Later classes in the series will discuss the same thing with photos, stories, audio, emails, etc., related to your life.  It is a fact that, if you don't leave accessible information about yourself, in about two generations your descendants will know almost nothing about you. 
The emphasis in this class will be information about you, but, of course, could be applied to any of 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 and give suggestions to find, scan, label, organize, store, and show them. 

  6. Elder Boyd K. Packer suggested putting a box on the table where you see it every day and put everything into it that you can find about your life.
  7. Types of documents to consider
    1. Vital records -- birth certificate, marriage license, marriage certificate
    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 from things you 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. Might be a good idea to keep track of your spouse's and children's items, too
  9. Collecting and organizing documents is a major start in your life history and would be a real help when and if you or someone else writes your story
  10. Compiling an interactive digital collection may be better for your family than a book now, since it is easier to reproduce and easier for youth to read, and can be kept up to date
  11. If you do write a book, be sure to pdf it so people can read it on screen and print it, if they want.
  12. There are more details on some of the items below in other notes and articles on my webpage.

  14. Scanning -- scanners are not expensive now, but FHCs have good Lexmark scanners that scan directly to flash drives; they are fast and name the files sequentially and you can rename them later at home
  15. File formats and resolutions for scans 
    1. Documents -- 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, I 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: 250 dpi for each inch you want to print -- Hence: to scan and print to same size use 250 dpi; to scan and print to twice the size, e.g. scan a 2x3, but print it as 4x6, scan at 2 x 250 = 500 dpi; National Archives Recommendations report (very complete, but complicated) is at -- will discuss more on resolution when we discuss photos; 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 copies of the original and edit those
    4. For Christmas card letters with portrait photos I usually scan to pdf or tif at 400 or 600 dpi
    5. Bleed-through is sometimes a problem on handwritten docs and I haven't learned how to correct it yet


  16. Do Google and other searches for your name -- use quote marks and various combinations; also use the Google proximity search, e.g. "donald AROUND(2) snow" (without the quotes); finds pages with donald and snow within 2 words of each other, so it picks up Donald R. Snow, Snow, Donald R., Donald Snow, etc.
  17. Eliminate some extraneous hits by adding search terms like genealogy, Utah, pdf, doc, index, ged, and -[term] -- "-[term]" removes hits that contain that term
  18. Search online book collections such as FamilySearch, Google, Internet Archive, library collections, newspaper websites, genealogy collections
  19. For school information try school and school district websites; for yearbooks try websites like 
  20. Use  for bar-graph picture of events during your life -- can include up to 10 personal events for the timelines, as well
  21. Include references when you do screenshots or downloads, so you know where they came from

  23. Many free screenshot programs, but few do scrolling windows -- FastStoneCapture does -- last free version was 5.3 and is available from several websites, e.g. ; can get latest shareware version (works better, but costs about $20) from --
  24. 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

  26. Goal in naming files is so you, or anyone else, can find what you are looking for easily and without having to open the file
  27. Will show you my file naming system -- you have 255 characters, including the path to the file, plus the 3-character file extension 
  28. Example:  ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)-2012-10-13-Death-Obituary-SaltLakeDeseretNews--Ancestry-com--2014-04-10.pdf
  29. Using the woman's maiden name is standard in genealogy and allows all files pertaining to her to sort together
  30. Including married name in parentheses helps in identification at a glance
  31. Including birth and death years makes it so time period is clear and distinguishes people with same name, so no need for Jr. or Sr., unless that really is part of the name
  32. Event dates after the name in International Date Format YYYY-MM-DD make the files automatically sort chronologically for the person and give a timeline of their life -- Event dates put anywhere else in the file name makes them not sort chronologically when alphabetized
  33. Event keywords allow finding and sorting by event, but still chronologically; suggested keywords - Birth, Marriage, Death, News, LDS, Doc, School, Education, Census, Letter, Medical, Directory, Portrait, Military, Talk, Audio, etc. -- can use as many as you want
  34. If file pertains to entire life of the person, I put keywords like History, Bio, Genealogy, and Pedigree after the name, but before the event date, so these still sort with the person, but after the chronological files
  35. My practice of not leaving spaces in file names is since some programs put other characters in empty spaces and make them harder to read
  36. Naming files this way makes them jump to where they belong automatically in an alphabetized list without having to move them there -- See EVERYTHING below
  37. Can keep files in separate individual or surname folders, but even with storing all files in one folder, they still alphabetize together and in order 
  38. 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 them

  40. Best program I have found to find files anywhere on your computer is EVERYTHING -- freeware from
  41. Works fast, finds all resulting files anywhere on your computer for the search terms you enter; shows them in alphabetical order or can sort in other ways
  42. Has various settings of how you want it to work
  43. EVERYTHING also makes file maintenance much easier for renaming, moving, copying, deleting, etc. -- extremely useful program and free
  44. Examples of using my system for searching and showing files with EVERYTHING

  46. Our memories get duller as we get older, so start as soon as possible; only you can tell the full story of your own life.
  47. I hope you got a few helpful ideas from all of this; will discuss related topics in other classes