[Recently, I wrote a quick little post about how I use my digital camera as a notepad. I was really surprised at the popularity of that piece, so I've expanded it a bit here.]
Digital cameras are very useful in the world of genealogy. Yes, they will capture images of grave markers in cemeteries, but they also are a handy recording tool. I often use mine as a notepad. It's much quicker to take a photo than to write down the same information.
Here are some ways to use your digital camera:
1. Take pictures of title pages and labels.
While viewing films at my Family History Center, I decided that it's much easier to just take a picture of all this information than to write it down. I later used this photo when I was entering citation information into the database. I've also photographed book spines and title pages for the same reason. These aren't keepsake images, just quick notes.
2. Make note of your location.
Masonic Cemetery, Las Vegas, New Mexico, 2009
If you're taking photos at a cemetery, make sure the first picture you snap is of the cemetery sign. That way, when the photos are uploaded on your computer, the first one out the gate will have the name of the cemetery in it. You think you can remember these things, but after a long day all the cemeteries start to look the same. Taking photos with identifying information is a handy way to take digital notes.
3. Transcribe what is difficult to see
Shiloh-Williamson Cemetery, Russellville, Arkansas
Ok, for this tip you need a dry erase board, but I swear by this technique. If you take a picture and can't read what it says, take another picture with a dry erase board and write what can't be seen. That way you have the original, and one with notes.
I also use this board and camera combo when I need to make notes. For example, let's say I want to take pictures of a field. In order to remind myself which field, I will write a note on the board and take that picture first. My board picture might say "Ruppert field where N. H. Thibodeaux was killed." Then I take pictures of the field. When I upload all the photos, the picture of the board with the notes will remind me what the heck all these field pictures are about.
4. Don't just take pictures of the house
If you photograph your ancestors' homesteads, be sure to get the little details as well. Take pictures of the house numbers, the mailbox and the street sign. These will help you remember which house goes with which ancestor.
Once I went on a whirlwind driving tour of a rough part of Los Angeles in an attempt to photograph my ancestors' former homes. This was not the place to get out and set up panoramic shots so I just took quick photos from the car. I'd snap the house, the house numbers and get on down the road. Having these detail shots helped me later sort out which house belonged to whom.
5. Use photos in place of copies
Microfiche machine with no printer or online connection.
In certain cases, photographs come out better than copies of records. In other cases, there are no copy options so photographs are your only choice. Use discretion when photographing items, however.
Though digital cameras are wonderful tools for taking notes, please use discretion when photographing subjects in your genealogy research. Ask permission of property owners, learn and observe repository rules and respect copyrights. Most importantly, keep a little camera with you at all times, you never know when you need to document a little family history.