RootsTech 2012: Day 1

Day One of RootsTech got off to a great start with breakfast with Denise Levenick, Footnote Maven and Jenna Mills.

The opening session included reps from Google speaking on new search capabilities for genealogy that got everyone excited. I’m sure my fellow bloggers will cover this in more detail.

The first topical session I attended was on Mining Newspaper Archives, presented by Tara Carlisle and Kathleen Murray. You can view their slides at goo.gl/6rt7D

The session started out with a whiplash-inducing overview of metadata and the digitization process.

Interesting takeaway: in the 1990s, standards for microfilm were finally adopted; anything before that probably won’t be very good.

They focused on Chronicling America (newspaper directory, chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), which has lots of information about a publication. Especially helpful among the data is who is holding each publication.

The Portal to Texas History also was covered. This free resource allows you to search or browse by county. Use the calendar view to choose a specific date. I can’t wait to use this to search for my Bexar County ancestors.

In the session on Using Advanced Photographic Techniques to Recover Content from Damaged Documents, presenter Jack Reese gave a fascinating look at how to salvage information from burned or water-damaged documents. It was great to see that there is hope.

The talk started with a brief overview of NARA 1571, guidelines for paper documents i.e. maximum temperature of 65 degrees F and 35-45% humidity. Keep documents at least 3 inches off ground and not below grade. Storing documents in a room with vinyl tiles or carpet subjects them to off-gassing and fumes, which is a no-no. Likewise, unpainted concrete walls create dust.

By working with the non-visible spectrum of light, researchers can view documents in a way not possible with the naked eye, or even most cameras and scanners. You can use a filter on a camera to show reactions that are not in the normal spectrum in order to see missing text. For instance, shooting fluorescent light onto a document can cause faded ink to emit photons that can be seen using a special camera and lens. Astronomy-related cams will have the right type of filter for doing this kind of work.

The speaker also discussed forensic document analysis, like that on CSI, but this has its drawbacks. The devices are small and really don’t accommodate large documents, resolution is limited and it is expensive.

So, he and his colleagues set out to build their own gadget, a document-restoration camera that is a combo of a specialty camera, lens, filters, and lighting.

He showed us examples of inspecting documents using infrared and UV examination. It was very cool to see how the writing is revealed!

This type of work requires an investment in equipment and some learning, but this can be done at home.

The final session I attended today was on The Power of Evernote. I have used Evernote before to keep track of citations, but that’s about it. Tevya Washburn and Kurt Francom taught us how to create Notebooks, tags, and use the browser extension to clip from web.

One of the great advantages of using Evernote is that if you clip from a page, it will be available to you even if the page goes away online. Text is searchable within Evernote, even if it’s in a clip.

The interface is slightly different for tablet users, but Jenna Mills of SeekingSurnames said you can still email clips from your iPad to your Evernote account.

The speakers suggested journaling in Evernote and tagging your daily posts for a summarized history by individual, for instance.

One of the best tie-in apps they discussed was If This Then That, which can even pull in Gmail emails and blog posts.

Go to fiddlerstudios.com/evernote for the presentation, links and more.

That’s it for now! Time for dinner and a comedy show!

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