Genealogy Basics Chapter Five: Digitizing and Storing Photos and Documents

Genealogy Basics Chapter Five: Digitizing and Storing Photos and Documents

Welcome back to our Genealogy Basics series! In Chapter Four, we discussed what you can learn by examining old family photos carefully. In today’s post, we’ll talk about how to digitize and store your photos and documents.

Scanning and digitizing your documents is not just an easy way to preserve them for yourself and for future generations. It also makes it easier to organize, browse, and share files with other family members — and it means you can take advantage of online tools like MyHeritage In Color™ and the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer, which bring your old family photos to life with advanced colorization and photo enhancement technology. The Photo Enhancer brings blurry faces into sharp focus, bringing out details you may not have noticed otherwise, and it might even improve the clarity and readability of scanned documents.

How to digitize your photos

The gold standard of digitization is a high-quality scanner. However, these days, it’s easiest to simply use your smartphone or tablet. Most mobile devices are equipped with high-quality cameras that capture sharp, high-resolution images. MyHeritage’s mobile app has a built-in scanner that produces excellent-quality scans using your device’s camera — and saves the images directly to the relevant profile on your MyHeritage family tree. The app includes filters that enhance the image, sometimes even making documents more legible or photographs more vivid. You can learn more about how to use the MyHeritage mobile app scanner here.

Best practices for digitization

If you digitize your documents and photos but they come out blurry or low-quality, precious information might be lost. Keep these best practices in mind:

  • Make sure you’re using a good scanner that produces sharp, high-resolution images.
  • If you’re using a smartphone or tablet camera scanner, make sure the room has enough light, or use the flash. Good scanner apps like the MyHeritage scanner should have the option of locating the corners of the document and straightening out the image, which makes it possible to take a photo from an angle and still produce a clear, non-distorted scan. This helps you find the best angle and avoid shadows or glare.
  • Scanning the original document, rather than a copy, will produce the highest-quality scan.
  • Use simple, easy-to-understand metadata and labels for files and collections.
  • Label and catalogue the images immediately after scanning so you don’t forget where they belong. You don’t want to spend hours sifting through hundreds of images to find the one you need.
  • Store the documents in more than one place. For example, on an external hard drive and on a cloud-based online service. That way, if something happens to one of the storage options, you will always have backup.
  • Remember that technology is always changing. Don’t keep your files in a format that may become obsolete — make sure to convert or transfer them to more current formats.
  • Consider transcribing documents with text and saving them as text files. That will make them much easier to read, search, and work with.

Colorizing and enhancing your photos

Once your photos and documents have been digitized, you can upload them to MyHeritage and use our groundbreaking colorization and photo enhancement tools.

MyHeritage In Color™ brings old black and white photos to life by automatically colorizing them. It’s super easy to do: you can upload your photos directly to MyHeritage In Color™, or, if you’ve already uploaded them to MyHeritage, you can colorize them directly from the photo page on the website or the app. Click here to learn more about colorizing photos with MyHeritage In Color™.

The MyHeritage Photo Enhancer turns lower-quality, grainy photos into stunning, crystal-clear images, and brings blurry faces into sharp focus. The results will likely be even clearer than the original. Sometimes, the Photo Enhancer might even clarify text on a scanned document, making it easier to read.

Like MyHeritage In Color™, you can upload your photos directly to the Photo Enhancer, or enhance your existing photos on MyHeritage on the website or app. Click here to learn more about enhancing your photos with the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer.

Sharing scanned documents and photos

Scanned files may be large and cumbersome to send via email. Sending images through messenger apps will compress the files and reduce their quality. Furthermore, though you may have the files neatly organized on your hard drive, it may be hard for family members to organize those files themselves.

Therefore, the easiest solution is uploading the files to your family tree website and granting family members access to your tree. That way, all the files will already be tagged and organized and family members can access them from anywhere.

Get to it!

Download the MyHeritage mobile app and start scanning! And be sure to give MyHeritage In Color™ and the Photo Enhancer a try.


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  • Robert_G_Wilson

    September 21, 2020

    I name my photos to find them easily as follows:
    Smith Mary b.1800 d.1880 m.Garcia on horse ~1860 TX