Saturday, October 14, 2017

Day Fourteen: Turning Analog Into Digital

One of my hopes, during The Cleanup, was to take my old paper copies of genealogical significance and convert them into digital files. Gone, with the magic of a scanner, would be pages upon pages of old notes and records. I had visions of empty drawers in no-longer-necessary file cabinets.

This, however, was not to be—if I kept discovering papers I still can't bear to part with.

By the time I got to the file folder for "B," I discovered one detour around that problem: many of my notes in the "Berks" file were for old, mostly out-of-print reference books I had meant to consult long ago—if I could ever find a copy.

The solution, I figured, would be to check those old titles now and see what could be found online. After all, places like Internet Archive, HathiTrust, the Digital Public Library of America, among others, make it possible to find research resources that otherwise might only be apprehended on a grand safari to the legendary Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

The problem is: that option only works for books now in the public domain. One of the books referenced in my notes in this file folder was entitled Epitaphs: Handbook of Historic Family Graveyards, Berks County, Pennsylvania. The book was published by the Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation in 1999. Not exactly an antique.

As it turned out, antique or no antique, the book is now out of print. At least, that's according to Amazon—and I figure they would know a thing or two about books. Still, a title like that made me think it might be a book that would come in handy for my mother-in-law's Flowers family heritage in Berks County, so I tried taking a different approach.

If I can't buy the thing, perhaps I can borrow it, I thought, but no—the nearest library for me, according to WorldCat, other than the one at the end of a six hour drive down to Los Angeles, would guessed it...that library in Salt Lake City.

Still, there were other books listed which were classified as publications in the public domain, thankfully, and I was able to locate, online, a digital copy of one referenced in my many emails with other Berks County researchers: Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania. This is the type of resource that the Internet Archive is appreciated for. Not only can I peruse the volume at my convenience in comfy clothes, sipping a hot chocolate at three in the morning (if I please), but I can make an electronic note of the whereabouts of the tome, and chuck the offending bit of paper upon which I had scribbled the reminder to myself twenty years ago.

This, page by page, is how I make progress in emptying my old file cabinet and re-purposing it for more current uses.

Above: "Autumn Landscape," 1870 oil on board by New Hampshire native Alfred Thompson Bricher; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

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