Family historians are using electonic technology in many interesting ways. Here is how Herbert Rodehaver of Westerville, Ohio, does it.
I started to play with computers and radio equipment some time ago, which has over the years slowly developed into a concept I use in searching for my family roots. In my travels, I have shown people what I am doing and to my surprise, they liked it. At least enough to start looking at equipment similar to what I am using. So after speaking to so many of my relatives and fellow researchers I've decided to put something together in writing on "How-To Research with Modern Electronics".
Most people on the Internet are aware of the power of computers, but I would like to point out a small computer called a 'laptop'. These little wonders have saved me time and time again while at a cemetery, talking with people about the tree, at libraries and/or research centers. I have purchased a used one for around $400 and installed Family Tree software so that I can carry all my research with me and do updates live while I have everything readily available and events are fresh in my mind. It's been great. I have also been able to show my family everything about the people I have. Love those short stories I type (while out meeting people) into my software program so I do not forget about it later.
On my laptop, I have also installed some mapping software, which lets me search for cemeteries while I am out. It has saved more time getting to a cemetery than I could believe possible. I just leave the laptop powered up in the passenger seat and running from the car lighter plug and it walks me right to where I need to go. I have also used this setup to plot how I want to hit a number of cemeteries, greatly reducing the driving around wasting precious time.
My last addition to the laptop was a Global Positioning System (GPS), which I place in the windshield of my car and attach to the laptop with its provided cable. Now as I drive along and make a wrong turn on a back country road, the software shows me how to get back on course very quickly. It even has a talking feature which I have to admit, I turned off as I became tired of it telling me when I made a wrong turn…that's what the better half is for!
Anyway, now that I have used all these neat toys to save time getting to my sites, my father and I use the hand-held radios to talk back and forth as we walk the cemetery grounds. It allows us to walk entire areas gathering information quickly and making the notes needed for research. In one instance attempting to find a small gravesite, we had to climb a small hillside in Athens, Ohio and the radios proved their worth. I had slipped into a large ditch and had to use the radio to get assistance. I have also used the GPS to get the exact Lat/Long for each grave marker just in case it is needed in the future. (You never know when a set of stones will disappear and you need to find the burial site's exact location again).
My last electronic toy has been a digital camera. These little wonders are neat, but they don't have the quality of a 35mm camera. I'll admit that I use one of each. The digital camera is good enough for me to insert pictures into my Family Tree Program and create little slide shows for family members or to print an "ancestor tree". My digital camera does not have or use a flash, so I have in some cases digitally stored documents that could not be readily copied (i.e. Family Bible entries, heirloom photos and papers and very old and sensitive books). It also allows me to get an immediate view of what I have stored. It's very upsetting to find out that my trip was wasted getting Grandfather's grave marker photo when after developing I found my lens cap was still on. I do use the 35mm for stuff I want to keep in the best quality but there is a use for both. I love the ease of my cheap ($150) digital camera to quickly store pictures in my laptop but the quality of a good 35mm should not be overlooked. Yes, I know there are better digital versions but this was the best I could do on a limited budget.
Well, those are some of the new toys and technology I take advantage of while out researching. If you have other things, thoughts and ideas that can help while searching those back roads for lost cemeteries, please drop me a line. I am always open to a new technique that would make it easier to get to the family line.
Written by Bill Rodehaver [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Previously published by Julia M. Case and MyraVanderpool Gormley, CG, Missing Links, Vol. 5, No. 33, 16 August 2000. RootsWeb: http://www.rootsweb.com/