2018 by Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2018-08-09.  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. , and 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 find and keep them organized whenever you find a new document or article about you or a relative.  The class notes for this presentation and related information in other articles, all with active URLs, are posted at .


  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 articles 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 for any family member or relative.
  7. Types of documentsand articles
    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, transcripts, yearbooks, news, programs 
    5. Programs participated in -- sports, plays, music, speaking, hobbies, vocations, avocations
    6. Articles -- newspapers, newsletters, magazines, books
    7. Portraits (but not ordinary snapshots since different systems work 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 and articles is a major start in writing a life history, yours or a relative's
  9. With current technology a digital collection may be better for your family than a book, since it can be updated and reproduced easily, and youth can read it on their devices 
  10. If you do write a book, be sure to keep a digital copy of the finished product, so it can be viewed, distributed, and printed again later.

  12. Scanning -- scanners are not expensive now and FHCs have good scanners that scan directly to flash drives; they name the files sequentially and you can rename them later at home
  13. File formats and resolutions for scans 
    1. Documents and articles -- 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 as 4x6, scan it at 2x250 = 500 dpi; the U.S. National Archives Recommendations report (very complete, but complicated) is at -- for most portraits I scan to tif at 600 dpi
    3. tif vs jpg:  tif is a "lossless" format; jpg is a "lossy" format, i.e. jpgs degrade each time you save them after editing, cropping, rotating, etc., like a xerox of a xerox; OK to archive as jpg 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 old paper is sometimes a problem on handwritten documents; some Lexmark scanners have background removal settings -- see the Advanced Options on the scanner


  14. Do Google and other searches for your own name or a name you are working on -- 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.
  15. Eliminate some extraneous Google hits by adding search terms such as ~genealogy, Utah, pdf, doc, index, ged; the tilde "~" makes it include similar words, e.g. ~genealogy also finds family history; to get hits that always include a term use + in front, e.g. +pdf; to exclude terms, use - in front, e.g. -Dr.
  16. Search online book collections such as FamilySearch, Google, Internet Archive, library collections, newspaper websites, genealogy collections; The GenGophers website, , searches some of the FamilySearch Books, but not all yet, and even uses nicknames for names you enter
  17. For school information and yearbooks try FamilySearch Books and ; is a commercial site, but shows pages of high school yearbooks
  18. For colored bar graphs of world events during a person's life use -- can also include up to 10 personal events for the timeline; to save a copy do a scrolling-window screenshot of the colored bar graph (see Screenshots section below)
  19. Include references of where you got all items, so you or someone else, can find them again

  21. There are many free screenshot programs, but FASTSTONE CAPTURE has the feature that it saves scrolling windows -- last free version was 5.3 and is available from several websites, e.g. ; later shareware versions work better, but cost a one time fee of $20 --
  22. Capture all or part of the screen or the entire scrolling window and save the file with a name so you know what's in the file -- see below

  24. Goals in naming files are so you can tell what's in them without opening them and they sort where you want them; can use the benefits of computer technology so you don't have to do as much
  25. Title can have up to 255 characters, but that includes the path to the file and the 3-character file extension
  26. Example of my file naming system:  ManwaringDiane(Snow)(1934-2012)-2012-10-13-DEATH-NEWS-Obituary-SaltLakeDeseretNews--Ancestry-com--2014-04-10.pdf
  27. Using the woman's maiden name is standard in genealogy and allows all files pertaining to her to sort together
  28. Including married name in parentheses helps with identification at a glance and in searching
  29. 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
  30. Event date after the name and in International Date Format, YYYY-MM-DD, makes all files for that person sort together chronologically; gives a timeline of their life -- event date put anywhere else or in different format would not sort chronologically
  31. Event keywords allow finding and sorting by event, but still chronologically; can use as many keywords as you want; some I use are BIRTH, MARRIAGE, DEATH, NEWS, LDS, DOC, SCHOOL, EDUCATION, CENSUS, LETTER, MEDICAL, DIRECTORY, YEARBOOK, PORTRAIT, MILITARY, TALK, and AUDIO
  32. 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
  33. I don't leave spaces in file names since some programs put characters such as percent signs, in empty spaces and make them harder to read
  34. Files named this way jump right to where they belong automatically without having to move them there -- See the program EVERYTHING below
  35. Can store files in individual or surname folders, but even with files stored together or anywhere, EVERYTHING sorts them by person and in order 
  36. Portraits named this way sort in chronological order -- Snapshots would too, but there would be too many and a different system works better for those

  38. EVERYTHING is a free program that finds files anywhere on your computer for the search terms you enter -- download it from -- is a Windows program; MAC probably has something comparable
  39. Works fast, finds all resulting files anywhere on your computer for the search terms you enter; shows the files in alphabetical, and chronological order, if named this way; can also sort them by path or date, etc., by clicking in headings
  40. Program is also a major help in file maintenance for finding, renaming, moving, copying, and deleting files.
  41. Has various options to set for how you want it to work
  42. Examples of using EVERYTHING with my system

  44. For yourself start as soon as possible to gather and organize your documents and articles, since only you can tell your own story fully and our memories get worse as we age
  45. But DON'T try to do everything all at once; remember, "Small deeds done are better than big deeds planned." 
  46. Use EVERYTHING to find things you already have on your computer and rename them in systematic form so they show up where you want them  
  47. As you find more items for you or your relatives, use the system so they go where they belong and you can find them again
  48. Hopefully, this gave you some ideas to help; there are more details in other class notes and articles on my website.

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