Tons of pictures to scan? Here is your easy way out!



Lets be upfront for a second.  I am not online to sell you anything. My goal is to enlighten, and hopefully give you some insight and advice on how to become better at genealogy than you are.  Therefore, the following review is NOT a paid placement.  I do not make a penny off of anything sold by any manufacturer.  I do not sell this product.  I have no interest in any merchant that does sell it.  Are we good?  Good, read on, because this is really cool.

But we are going to look at a product in today’s post, and it may or may not be an answer for what you need to accomplish.

If it isn’t, just read it anyway – maybe you know someone who has cartons of pictures that they have said “Oh, I just need to get those scanned when I have a few moments.”  Who are they kidding, right.  Those pictures are going stay in those boxes until the cows come home, so open up the barn door for “Maudine” and lets wait to see if she moo’s at sunset, right?

But if you are the person who has lots of “snapshots” from the 1960s through the 1990s that do need to be digitized, the Epson FF-640 may be your best bet.  Not only does it scan snap shots in batches, it scans the backs and the fronts of at the same time, creating two different files for each.

Now, I had been looking at these types of scanners for some time.  In fact, I already owned a NEAT scanner, but I found that it’s interface was clunky, and it only works on it’s own interface, so didn’t do what I needed it to do.  NOW I understand that NEAT no longer supports the desktop interface and it wants everything to go to the “Cloud”.

THAT was an expensive purchase because it never got used.  And good luck trying to sell that donkey on Nextdoor.

Here’s why I personally like the Epson ff-640: Because it works.

If you already have an Epson scanner – and I have used nothing but Epson scanners since the early 2000’s, you know that their interface is simple, dovetails nicely with other imaging programs.

The interface, EpsonScan allows you set the “dpi” (Dots per Inch), select the file format, allows you to control where the scans are stored and how they are named.  The software will also give you access to a subprogram that will correct color imbalances that are usual and common.

Epson bills this scanner as the “World’s Fastest” scanner, with a speed up to an image a second for 300dpi *.jpg images.  It takes less than half a minute to scan a snapshot at 600dpi and save it as a *.tif file.   And this scanner scans at a 1:1 ration.  So a 3×5″ goes in, and 3×5″ scan is created.  You still need to use a desktop scanner for enlarging, etc.  But even at the 1:1 that this scanner does, a 600 dpi tif scan can be enlarged a bit without loss of sharpness.

Now to give you an idea how fast that is, I have an Epson Perfection 4990 is that is, by computer standards, ancient.  However it still does beautiful work.  You lift the lid, place the image, launch the interface and can make all sorts of corrections, you can scan nine sides at once, 8″x10″ copy negatives, etc. But on a recent project for a civic group, I averaged twenty documents an hour.  Partly because the documents were very fragile, bit was time consuming.  And I still use this scanner for all of the heavy stock photos, cardboard backed photos, portraits, tin types and CDV and cabinet cards. I also use it for Polaroids because despite their speediness, Polaroids are fragile images.   I ALSO use the desktop scanner for old “brownie” era snap shots, because their paper is fragile and often times, curled.

So with the 4990, I average 20 scans an hour, making corrections before the scan.

With the Epson FF-640, I am scanning a whopping 144 snapshot images at 600dpi in under 15 minutes.

Now there are three drawbacks to the FF-640.  The first is that, as the nature of the beast, you need to sort your images by a) size and b) orientation:

a) The scanner only works well if every batch is uniform in size.  You can feed picture through one at a time, its slower, but you can.  But for “batches” of up to ten at a time, the sizes have to be uniform.  This means you have to prepare to get the best efficiency.

b) You have to maintain the scanner.  That means you have to open it up periodically – and the software will tell you when its time – and carefully clean the feed-path, the rollers and above all the glass scanning lenses. You may also have to have the rollers changed out. The online manual has all that detailed, and it isn’t hard to do.


c) The cost.  Take a deep breath because this scanner will, at list price, set you back as of today, Wednesday March 8, 2017, $649 and change. BUT when I bought mine, I shopped around and got it through Micro Center on sale online for $599 in February.  That may seem like a lot, but the scanner also functions as a batch document scanner and can turn paper documents into Adobe PDF files.

Some critics have said that scanner renders images that are not as crisp as the could be.  That’s a legitimate thing to look into, but if its true, it is infinitesimal.   I have been scanning in *.tif mode and I have seen anything wonky.

My take on this?  This scanner is light years ahead of where we were just a couple years ago.  I also think that this is far superior to the NEAT scanner, and Epson engineering and manufacturing standards are very high.

Having hand scanned over 20,000 on the old 4990 – and that includes images for five Arcadia books, numerous genealogy’s and for organizations that I volunteer with, and after working with it myself, this Epson ff-640 is amazing.

Now, have you started breathing, again?

Good.  Now imagine you get the pictures all scanned.  They are organized, and they are in a box.  And you can share them.  The more people who have your pictures, the better you are prepared to get moving on something else.

Again, I get nothing in the world or universe from Epson.  They are not paying for me to share this, but from my experience, this is an amazing piece of technology that going forward will give you years of service as long as you read the manual, use it as directed, clean it as directed and don’t abuse it.

I am posting this video review of the scanner just to give you idea of the speed.  The person making the video likes the scanner as well (but she should have read the manual to find which box she needed to check to scan the back of the images).


As with anything you see recommended online, remember to comparison shop for the best price and availability.  Read reviews from well regarded sources, and if you can, buy locally, because returns are easier.  If you do buy online, buy from a well known site, look for sales, and buy with your head, not with your heart.  Being an informed consumer is the number one weapon in your arsenal to making good choices, and not being taken to the cleaners.

Why multiple DNA tests make the difference with Jewish genealogy

Gladys Kravitz – very funny.

One of the things that I discovered at this year’s RootsTech is that AncestryDNA was having one heck of a deal.  Their autosomal DNA tests were half (HALF!) price, limit five per person.

Normally these tests run $99, plus shipping and handling, but for $49 each, you could afford to stock up, and we did.  We ended bringing seven home (I bought five, my husband bought two) in a great big bag, causing our Delta airline attendant, who was in a very pissy mood to have this exchange:

He: What are all of those?

Me: DNA tests for genealogy.

He: Your family?

Me: No, my neighbors.

He: Well I guess that makes you Gladys Kravitz. (sneer)

Me: Whatever, Derwood. (sneer returned)

I have no idea what crawled up into his baggage compartment.  Afterall, he was one snooping in the bag.

ANYWAY, one of the reason why we bought the tests is because on my own, I have hundreds of fourth – sixth cousins on AncestryDNA. My mother converted to Judiasm when she married, and those lines are easily peasy to link up.  What I don’t have is much of a way to connect the people on my father’s lines.

My father’s people were from (meaning before they got on the boat) in Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, Latvia) which was under the control of the Russian Empire.  My grandfather was born there, my grandmother was born in or around what is now Rokiškis, Lithuania, but raised in Dvinsk.  At the time, this was all Imperial Russia, and the Russians were really on concernedwith Jews for one reason – Jewish males were almost always being drafted into the Russian army, and then sent to the front lines of any confrontation becuase they were expendible. Injury, maiming, anti Semitism and/or death was almost always the result.

What this means is that records for the Jewish people in that part of the world were not standardized, except for what was called a “Revision List”, which were survey Censuses. This helped the Czar’s bureaucrats keep an eye on which men were going to be of age for drafting into the army and for taxation purposes.   Births, deaths and marriages, especially in rural areas were really loosey goosey as far as the government was concerned, but the rabbi’s kept the records.

Well, when you factor in one World War, the establishment of Baltic States, the mess that arose in Germany, Hitler’s insane hatred of anything Jewish, the concentration camps, anti Jewish sentiments and a second World War and the rise of Communist states, and the depopulation of the region’s post war Jewish population, and combine that with Jews who left this region for better lives in Palestine, Israel, the United States, South Africa, et. al. it becomes very hard to trace lines from these areas because towns were wiped out, the records destroyed, graveyards bombed and fought over.  The “stuff” of life simply ceased to exist.

If you are lucky, you find a name on a revision list, you can talk to someone who asked their parents or grandparents. If you are unlucky, it can be daunting.

But because so many of our grandparents and great grandparents wanted to forget about their lives in the old country because the memories are so painful, a lot of people only have an idea of where their families are from, or what the original spellings were of last names, if they are known at all.

So DNA becomes a way to take “a” person’s test results and start looking for the people you share a match with.  By itself, my test tells me that there are roughly 600 people on Ancestry that are 4-6th cousins on my fathers side.  A guesstimate, based on last name matches and places means one third of the matches on my mother’s side, and the rest are on my father’s side.  And on the matches to my father’s lines, many of these people have no names of ancestors beyond their grandparents.

So the extra tests given to various paternal family members will help me:

  1. Half brother’s test – Will confirm which matches are from our shared father, and will help him and I determine which matches belong to his mother, and which matches belong to my mother.
  2. Second cousin – This cousin’s grandfather and my paternal grandfather were brothers.  So this will help us separate out which matches are on OUR grandfather’s lines, and the ones that don’t match are most likely my paternal grandmothers matches.
  3. The “rumored cousin” – For years we have had a rumored relationship with the “Greiff” family of Bellingham, Washington.  Evidently a Grieff married a “Bun”, and my grandmother was a “Bun” (pronounced Boon).  So I found a Grieff who is allegedly the cousin of my grandmother and she has agreed to be tested.  This should confirm that the Bun and Grieff families were related.  If does, then it should validate the the matches excluded from the comparison of my dna aganst my second cousin’s test.
  4. My other half brother’s daughter has tested and she is showing up as a match on Ancestry, so she is a good control for all of this.

All of this will hopefully help us prove or exclude relationships.

What of the other tests?  Well, two went to friends who are seeking. One is like me, the product of a mixed marriage and wants to know more.  And the other is the old neighbor and friend who’s wife had tested, and he’s curious about his own make up.

So my message is that if you have tested, and its just not gotten you anywhere, find a cousin, or a distant cousin and test again.  Use the joint matches to help separate out one line from another line.   And remember, if you can use exclusion theory to help you separate out your shared matches from your unshared ones.  Think of it as sorting.

Good luck.

Coming up on Wednesday, we take a look at a nifty high-speed scanner that just might be worth it’s weight in gold.

Picture this: Subtle ways racism creeps in, even to genealogy

Think about it: two people are researching their family lines, one light skinned, the other dark skinned.   When looking at family color photos taken before 1970, the two will see different things.

If they are color (Ektachrome images – everything turns pink with age – excepted) the white researcher’s people in the pictures will look defined.

But family members of the dark skinned people will be less defined.

It not just a matter of lighting.  And it didn’t get fixed because dark skinned people mattered.


Today is Friday, and the Friday I had hoped to run the piece on how to prepare for RootsTech 2018 and the Family Research Library.  However a prolonged power outage on Wednesday night, plus some other issues last night have pushed this back to next Friday.

My apologies, but sometimes we are powerless to get done the stuff we need done when we need to do it.  This is one of those times.

Mathe the force be with thee

Some people follow their maternal and paternal genealogical lines.  Other’s follow one or the other.  Then there are the allied lines.  Some of us even follow the shirt tail lines.

Then there is my husband who follows his father’s lines, his mother’s adoptive lines and most recently, his mother’s birth lines.

On his mother’s adoptive line and his father’s line, the Husband can go back rather far into 17th century Colonial history.

But because we don’t live in New England, a lot of the digging about happens online, using databases, ebooks, etc. and so on.

On his mother’s adoptive line – the Flagg family, Husband found himself looking inside of Ancestry’s copy of (1) Watertown, Massachusetts Records of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, 1630-1693.  There, he found some information and he comes across the entry for a person that he has never come across, and which we see hash marked below:

mathe001Mathe?  There was another child?  What kind of name is “Mathe”?

He showed it to me and know it all me said “Maybe they meant Meave?”  Smug in my certainty, I moved on.

However, my husband is an honest, New England sort.  He reads books, back to front. Watches TV series from the first episode, in sequence.  He is the perfect compliment to my reckless abandon.  So he stayed with Mathe, and tried to make some logical sense of it.

He dug about for more information on Mathe; no such luck.  He looked, he questioned, and he tried to solve it.

Then he calls me back.

“You remember ‘Mathe'”?


“Try sounding it out,” sayeth he.


“We’re looking at it wrong. Where did this happen?”

Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

“Now try sounding it out.”

So I start with “Mathe, long “a”, as in one word.  Then I move onto a short “a”.

“Maythee?” I am all around the town on this, and the husband is like “Nope, Nope, Nope.”

“Well what is the blasted thing?” demands I.

“You are stressing the wrong part of her first name.  Imagine, someone hears the parents, and their accents and records the name based on what they are hearing, which is ‘MA-the’,”  He says it again, and again and then the light clicks on.

I am not always the sharpest pencil in the box, but when it made sense, boy, did I feel like fredallen2an idiot.

The name wasn’t Mathe.  It was Ma-the.  Now, add on the Boston “AH” and you get

MAH-the, MAH-the, MAH-THA.

Her name was MARTHA!

And if I would have paid attention to the last name, spelled “Bigulah” and worked it through as well, it would have come to me as well.  Bigulah -> Bigelow.


One brick wall down, so many more to knock down.

And there you go.  Work it through people.  Work it through.



(1) Watertown, Massachusetts Records of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, 1630-1693 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002. Original data: Watertown records: comprising the first and second books of town proceedings with the lands grants and possessions, also the proprietors’ book and the first book and supplement of births and deaths and marriages Historical Society of Watertown (Mass.). Watertown, MA, USA: Fred G. Baker, 1894.

Gimme that Olde Tyme Engli∫h

Ah, that old chestnut, Paradife Loft.  Sounds like fun, huh?

Admit it.  You know someone who still sews outfits for their concrete geese to wear, loves “kute ‘n kuddly kountry krafts,” and has a difficult time saying no to LOL cats.  And one of those “krafts” are old “tyme” tavern signs, wooden signs with charming period writing.


I know someone who has a tavern sign hanging up in their rumpus rooms (aka Man Cave for y’all that watch way too much HGTV) that reads “Thee Hou∫e of Ye Smythe“.   And “Smythe” (who is really a “Smith”) insisted that the “Hou∫e” was to be pronounced as “Houfe.”

Being one who loves needling the pretentious, I asked Smith “Prithy thee Squire, why does thee sayeth it like way on yon sign?”

“Because,” said Smith, “that’s the way people spoke back then.  And quit mocking my heritage.”

While we in the modern world have the “S” and the “s” in all of its glory, languages at one time, there was also a use for the “Long S” or the “∫”.

And if you are doing colonial era research, and trying to decode documents and early published works between 1600 and 1800, you are going to remind yourself that these “∫” are out there and how there were used.

The Long S, henceforth ∫, was used at one time where at the beginning and middle of a lower case word (∫inful, hou∫e, ∫taff and present) but never at the end of a word, in the singular or the plural.

See the problem that you could be getting into?

The ∫ is something that is a by product of the Roman’s, fell out of use by the 1300’s only to be revived by Italian poets in the 15th century.  Under their use rules, the ∫ could never be used at the end of the word, and they preferred it not used at the beginning of the word, but fair to midland, the middle was OK.

By the 1790’s the printing industry was getting tired of all those S, s, ∫, issues so as new font blocks were established, the designers said “to Hell with this ‘∫’ business” and that regulated it to those who wrote by hand.  There was even a battle between the printers guilds and classical writer’s over including the ∫ in their works, for authentic writing,  but the printers won out.

By the mid 1800’s the ∫ was strictly for the romantics, letter writers, disciples of Old Mother Shipton and other luddite’s who refused to give up on it.

The final blow to the ∫ came with the invention of the typewriter.  You can’t type unless there is a key for it and neither the inventor of the QWERTY keyboard or Dvorak weren’t allowing anymore spaces into their layouts.

Where the ∫ did find a home was in the early antiques industry of New England.  When American’s were beginning to get weary of Queen Ann Victorianism, with its riots of shingles, bead boards, wainscoting’s, architects like McKim Mead & White helped to bring the Beaux Arts styles to North America, and in the process they helped to revive “Colonial” style architecture (which was mixing of Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival styles) into – can you guess?  “Colonial American” style.

With that came the dawn of the American Antiques industry, when an antiques was really an antique, and not junk from a resale store.  And this embrace of Windsor chairs, and spinning wheels, and brass bed warmers also led to the resurrection of the ∫ on signs, faux Revolutionary War signs and artwork and such.

Luckily, that is as far as it got, hence, how we ended up with the whole “hou∫e by the ∫ide of the road” kitschiness that confused people like my friend Smith into thinking that the “s” is a relatively new letter, and that a lispy f came before s.

Besides its anachronistic use, the other place that you will find our old friend is in higher levels of math where it can be found haunting calculus equations.

But it still makes me feel a bit puzzled as to how quickly you can slap some “quaintness” onto something and have reasonably educated people fall completely into that hole of bedazzling ignorance when it comes to this faux olde tyme stuff.

True story, in Ohio, the state capital is Columbus. Just north of The Ohio State University, but immediately south of Clintonville, along High Street (the north/south thoroughfare that is the backbone of Columbus) lies what is left of the village of North Columbus.  When North Columbus was founded, the city of Columbus was still several miles south.  By the 1890s, Columbus had grown and now included Ohio State’s land. Eventually, Columbus grew to the point where it swallowed “North Columbus” and “North Columbus” ceased to be its own legal entity, but a neighborhood.

In the mid 2000’s, the city decided to place two arches, spanning North High Street, where the original North Columbus started (North of Lane Avenue) and one south of Arcadia Avenue. The graphic at the top was to read “Olde North Columbus” to recognize the quaint village that had once been there, not the city that was currently there.  When the signs were erected, the spans read “Old North Columbus”, without the anachronistic “e”.  Someone made a mistake.  After some scratched heads, some official of the commission overseeing the project remarked to the effect that yes, the fix will need to be made because “that e used to on the word olde…That’s how they spelled it back then.”

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Don’t be that guy.

The hole in Ohio’s online historical newspaper access.


I am a native to Ohio, which makes me an “Ohioan”.  With the exception of a brief window in the 1980s when I moved to Washington, D.C., to go to school and to work, , I have lived in Shaker Heights, or Marion or Columbus, Ohio.

But in 2012, we were transferred when my husband’s employer said you have two choices: be bought-out, or move to Baltimore, Maryland.  Why move to Baltimore, “They name be Cahrm City, I am sure”?  Because his employer said that they wanted him here, and because we have grown accustomed things like food, shelter and medical insurance.  So we loaded up the truck and moved to Baltimore.

The problem for my genealogy research meant that I was no longer ten minutes to the Ohio Historical Society, now The Ohio History Connection, and no longer fifty minutes to Marion, or two-hours from Cleveland, but EIGHT hours, by car from Baltimore.

This meant my access was going to rely almost exclusively on online sites and databases.

And don’t get me wrong – Ohio’s well covered in these online databases and with digital imaging.  Thankfully, Ohio was the center of it all in the United States for more than a century.

Now, I am luckier than most when it comes to online databases for newspapers.

Newspaper Archive, and now, have most of the Marion Star newspapers online.  Moreover, Chronicling America has the (loopy) Marion Mirror – a newspaper that usually took liberties with facts.

BUT, what I can’t get to from here are the newspapers for smaller communities like Bucyrus, Galion and Kenton, Ohio. Findlay, too, I believe.  Bucyrus is the county seat for Crawford County.  Galion is the second largest city in Crawford County, and for a county with a relatively small population, to have two cities of their size is unusual.  Kenton is the county seat for Hardin County.  Online access to Pickaway, Ross, Madison and Fairfield county is also slim to none online.

The access isn’t there because the 1) commercial companies that put newspapers online want the local newspapers to ship their microfilms to them to digitize them and or the papers may only have one or two sets of microfilm in existence.  The second reason is because the Ohio History Connection has failed to look at Ohio and see where the holes are when submitting content to “Chronicling America.”  They have also chosen to go with special “projects” like newspapers from the Civil War in during the 2014-2015 grant year, and some of this content is already online.

And with the current President, cough cough, who doesn’t believe in funding the humanities, I don’t think we are going to see a significant increase in the funding for Chronicling America.  The only way for that to happen is to elect someone else in 2020 – or in the 2018 Congressional Mid-Term elections.  Otherwise the program will wither on the vine.

At RootsTech I had a chance to speak with vendors from, GenealogyBank and Find My Past.  And when I described this problem, the answers were all pretty much the same: “We’d love to have the content, just have them send us the microfilm.”  No contact information, no description of process, nada. Nothing.

But when a community only has one copy of the microfilm for their daily newspaper of record, they are not going to send it off willy nilly to some “black box”* and then wait la-ti-dah for it to get sent back.  They need funding for the  transport and some type of guarantee that the films will be returned, etc.  In other words they need information on how it works, costs and the features and benefits of getting all online.

And in the case of the Bucyrus Telegraph, Forum and the merged Telegraph-Forum, there is only one copy – and its at the library in Bucyrus.  Fat chance that’s going anywhere.  OHC in Columbus has the papers, but not the films.

So for those of us researching these counties in North Central Ohio from afar, the only online hope is to scour neighboring, larger communities online, cross our fingers and hope for the best.


*The Black Box theory is philosophical idea that ideas (input) go into an organization, or an institution, or some other type of “body” of peoples that is not open, that guards its inner workers and what emerges on the other side are products of that “input”.  And while inside of that shrouded process cannot be seen, it’s impossible to address (because the processes happen behind the scenes) or effect any answers to questions that might arise while the “body” is processing that information.  Within the black box, a disconnect can occur, with the results of input being unlinkable to the input.   So if I say “We need Apple’s” -> [BLACK BOX] -> We could get “fruit” “computers” or “sauce”.

Clear as mud?  I thought so…