©2019 by Donald R. Snow
This page was last updated 2019-08-07.  Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .
ABSTRACT: An old proverb says, "When a person dies, an entire library is lost."  If a person doesn't leave accessible information 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 has happened in your own or a relative's life.  This class will show how to find, capture, scan, and label items such as documents, articles, news clippings, etc., so they are findable and appear in chronological order automatically for each person.  With the naming system items jump to where they belong without you having to move them there.  The class notes for this presentation and related information in other articles, all with active links, are posted at .


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

  6. Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 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 documents and articles
    1. Vital records -- birth certificate, marriage certificate, marriage license
    2. Church certificates and documents -- membership records, blessings, baptism, ordination, Individual Ordinance Summaries, directories, recommends, and church service such as callings and missions
    3. Journals, diaries, appointment books
    4. School and education -- report cards, transcripts, yearbooks, news, athletic events, 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 keeping track of a life, your own or a relative's 
  9. Digitizing such collections will be helpful, especially if you intend to write a book later - if you do write a book, be sure to keep an electronic copy of it for distribution and/or reprinting
  10. A digital collection can be  updated and reproduced easily, unlike a book, and people, youth, in particular, can read it on mobile devices

  12. Scanning -- scanners are not expensive now and Family History Centers 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, 300-600 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; that is, if you scan a 2x3 inch photo to view or print at 4x6 inch, scan at 2x250 = 500 dpi; the report U.S. National Archives Recommendations (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; what this means is that each time you work with a jpg and save it, even just rotating it, degrades it; it's like a xerox of a xerox; jpgs are OK to archive, 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 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 of the names; also use the Google proximity search, e.g. "donald AROUND(3) snow" (without the quotes) to find pages with donald and snow within 3 words of each other; this 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 "~" tells Google to include similar words, eso ~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 ; a commercial website for school yearbooks is ; it shows pages of them for free
  18. For colored bar graphs of world events during a person's life use -- this also allows including up to 10 personal events for the timeline; to save a copy you can save the html file or do a scrolling-window screenshot of the colored bar graph (see Screenshots section below)
  19. Include reference to where you found each item, so you or someone else, can find it again

  21. There are many free screenshot programs; one I particularly like is FASTSTONE CAPTURE since it will save an entire scrolling window -- last free version was 5.3 and is available from several websites, e.g. ; later versions are shareware and work better, but have a one-time cost 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 is in the file without having to open it -- see below

  24. It helps to name files so you can tell what's in them without opening them and so they sort where you want them; using computer technology saves you lots of time and effort
  25. Title of a file 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, both fefore and after marriage

  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 such as HISTORY, JOURNAL, BIO, GENEALOGY, and 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 EVERYTHING finds them all wherever they are and sorts them by person and in order  
  36. Portraits named this way also sort in chronological order -- Snapshots would too, but there might be too many, so I use a different system for naming those

  38. EVERYTHING is a free program that finds files anywhere on your computer for the search terms you enter -- available from -- it's a Windows program; MAC probably has something similar
  39. Works fast, finds all resulting files wherever they are on your computer and shows them in alphabetical, and hence, chronological order, if named as above; can sort them by path and in other ways by clicking in the column headings 
  40. Program is also a major help in file maintenance for finding, renaming, moving, copying, and deleting files.
  41. Use it to find files already on your computer that you have forgotten since they weren't labeled systematically before -- try various search terms you might have used in the past
  42. Has many options to set it to run the way you want

  44. For yourself start now to gather and organize documents and articles, since only you can tell your own story fully and our memories get worse with age.
  45. Use EVERYTHING to find things already on your computer and rename them quickly so you can find them later to finish the systematic relabeling; it's too big a job to do all at once.
  46. For new scans, screenshots, etc., label them systematically
  47. Keep in mind:  "Small deeds done are better than big deeds planned." 

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