Sharing Files With My Family

VikingsThe documentation of my family history would be perfect if it wasn’t for the problem of sharing files with my family.

The stress goes on and on and doesn’t show any visible signs of lessening from year to year. I dread computer-talk with my family. I would almost rather eat nails. Obviously, they don’t read my blog because I’m like Chinese Water Torture. Drip, drip and they’d get it eventually.

I worked with computers back in the early 1970’s when it was totally different and if you weren’t there and don’t remember you wouldn’t even recognize it as ‘computering’. When personal computers came along I swore I’d never get one because I had an inkling they would eat up all my time and money. And I was right about that.

I was the last person in my semi-immediate family circle to have a personal computer. I mean really the last one. It felt like decades after everyone else.

So, my computer-experienced family surprises me regularly.

For instance, I asked the infamous cousin Sam to go to Google Maps last night and paste in a set of co-ordinates that I emailed over to her. I was looking for the location of where another cousin lived in the early 1960’s and I think I got it but I wanted her opinion.

For the next hour or two there was nothing but silence. I went to bed.

This morning there was an email from Sam that said, “I don’t know how to do that. I know how to copy and paste inside email but I don’t know how else to do it.”

If you lived with Sam you’d want to shoot her. How does a person manage to have a computer at their place of employment and home for going on 30 years and not know how to copy & paste? If I dwell on this question I might lose my mind so … moving on.

Today, another cousin accepted my invitation to set up a Dropbox account. I’d asked her before and I was hoping this time she would finally say ‘Yes’ because she has a backup disc of some photos (a small handful) that are corrupted on my computer. I don’t know why they are but I’m hoping she has some that predate the damage.

I told her the easiest way to help with this would be to accept my invitation to a shared Dropbox folder. In the future, the folder can also be used for sending me photos of her children and grandchildren and other relatives of interest. I mean, if she doesn’t mind.

Today I got an email from Dropbox that said she’d accepted my invitation to the shared folder. And I thought this was going unusually well.

Then I got two emails from my cousin saying that there’s no such thing as ‘the folder’ inside her My Documents folder. She wrote the same thing to me twice within ten minutes so I imagine she was over there huffing and puffing in frustration waiting for me to hurry up and answer.

So I wrote back and asked her, “Did you install Dropbox?” And then I got another email from her saying, “I couldn’t find it in my All Programs list. I guess I missed that step.”

Another cousin for the firing squad. It’s now 3 hours later, I haven’t heard another word and I don’t see any photos coming over to my computer. My guess is she’s wondering where to get the installer thingie.

This is stone-dead typical. If I ever say, “Could you please just … (anything) …” there’s no relief at all and it will, invariably, go on for days and I’ll still be feeling the pain months later.

Another cousin, granted, is aged at this point. Massively wrinkled and perhaps only hanging on by a thread. So, there may be some excuse there. Although she’s another one who’s had a computer forever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked her to (pleeeeease) not send me shrunken photos of her family. There’s a button in plain view that says, “Leave at Original Size”. But, no, I have folder after folder of photos 640 x 480.

Her own mother destroyed the huge hanging-above-the-mantle WWI portrait of her father in uniform in the heat of a moment so there’s a genetic pattern there of photo-bashing.

And then there’s the cousin who took 115 priceless photos, dated as far back as 1860, out of albums and littered them around on a rock wall in her backyard because she needed the daylight for her camera and took digital photos of them because she thought learning how to use a scanner would be too difficult. She’s another close cousin so she has photos, not in existence anywhere else I know about, of my father, my grandfather, my great-grandmother at various ages, my great-great grandmother, my great-great-great grandmother and so on.

Do some people think computer monitors are really televisions? Are they expecting to be passively entertained? Do they think keyboards are only meant for email?

Is there such a thing as a genealogy-scanning society? And if there isn’t, there should be. People who can be contacted around the world in your desired location to visit your cousins and do scanning on a trade basis. Something like that. Because this other thing is making me nutty.

10 thoughts on “Sharing Files With My Family

  1. Geoff Coupe

    I feel for you, JL, I really do. What seems really simple and straightforward to you and I, for some reason just does not register with others. I find that I have to bite my tongue frequently.

    Still, sometimes it’s down to us for missing the obvious. Today I was called, from the UK, by the sister of my oldest friend. He’s currently in hospital, and he’d asked her to send an email to a third party from his laptop. I must have spent more than thirty minutes trying to diagnose the problem of why she had no connection to the internet from his laptop.

    Finally it dawned on me that someone (probably not even her) had physically switched off the WiFi on his laptop. I told her to look for a little button with an aerial icon on it and push it. “Ooh”, she said, “here’s a sliding switch with that symbol next to it – shall I move it?” “Yes”, said I with utter relief. “just do it”. And there was WiFi…

    I never, ever, touch that switch on my own laptop; it simply never occurred to me that someone would actually want to switch off their WiFi…

  2. lester larrabee

    And then there’s my sister who upgraded to DSL service. It never worked for over a year until we made a visit. she said a neighbor tried to get it working but failed. I said well first lets open the self install box and unwrap the equipment. AAGGHH!

  3. Jennifer Crockett

    You wrote:
    “Is there such a thing as a genealogy-scanning society? And if there isn’t, there should be. People who can be contacted around the world in your desired location to visit your cousins and do scanning on a trade basis. Something like that.”

    How I wish there was! I have been sent by email the only photo I have seen of my father on a horse and it was as tiny as a postage stamp. I have had dreams of going around Australia in a caravan or something and calling on all those rellies with photos in suitcases or somewhere, and scanning them. It won’t happen.

    1. JL Post author

      I think this has to be a plan. What would the trade be if you were willing to do this work for someone else? Maybe credits toward your own needs? Calculated per photo? Per hour? Or not that rigid. Just on a friendly basis of paying it forward?

      Anyone signing up to do scanning would get basic scanning instructions, of course, i.e. scan large, save as tif. There would have to be some quality control in it somehow.

      Some basic IPTC training. That’s a big word for something not at all complicated. While you’re scanning you might as well be annotating, or recording stories.

      If someone was going to your cousin’s house do we need security checks? Do they need to meet in a public place first? … like online dating.

      Spit it out. Give me your ideas. Let’s do something!

  4. Jennifer Crockett

    I think I would be more comfortable with the friendly paying it forward basis. This rather depends, though, on what volume of photos are involved.

    I agree with your suggestions for basic instructions.

    The security issue is a valid point. I am not sure how that could be handled. I know some house cleaners here get themselves a police check that can be shown.

    One of the issues I can forsee in Australia is that many of my rellies live in regional or remote areas where there are not a lot of people.

    The other thing is, although I know people would be reluctant to part with their photos, I would prefer to do the scanning at my home. This is assuming that they don’t have the necessary equipment at their place or there are a lot of photos to scan. I do not as yet have a laptop and my scanner isn’t exactly portable.

    Perhaps one way of setting it all up would be with a group hosted by Rootsweb.

    1. JL Post author

      I’ve been thinking. As you suggest, likely a one-size-fits-all solution won’t work.

      I don’t see people allowing strangers into their homes, either way. Or people parting with photos into the hands of strangers. So that leaves a public place like a genealogical society or library.

      A lot of the old photos are in the hands of older people, and they don’t necessarily want to leave their homes for an afternoon in a library.

      I was thinking about background checks too. The whole scenario is so personal to begin with. Just imagine a stranger coming into your home and touching your personal photos. It gives me the willies.

      Nevertheless, I arrived at something like this. Person who’s willing to scan connects with person who’s willing to pay for scanning. They arrange a deal by email for x cents per photo. Back and forth yada yada about what’s expected from the scanning.

      Assuming they can come to an agreement, person who wants scanning done then contacts relative with photos and arranges for relative to meet with scanning-person in public place. Scanning-person must have scanner and laptop obviously, as well as white gloves and a professional personality. A teapot and comfortable couch are optional but highly recommended. Person with photos shows up with the photos.

      If all else fails, a page of ‘Recommended Scanning Procedures’ should be emailed to all cousins at the time of requesting photos. Or immediately following the receipt of another postage stamp man-on-horse.

  5. Jennifer Crockett

    People who are willing to pay for scanning can probably get it done a lot easier by getting a professional photo shop to do it, though the price would no doubt be more than our band of scanning people would charge.

    Some elderly people don’t have computers or email.

    If going down your route of meeting in a public place like a library, scanning people would have to specify how far they are willing to travel.

    I like your idea of the page of Recommended Scanning Procedures.

    1. JL Post author

      The point about paying is that it’s not me paying to have my personal photos scanned. I’d be paying someone far away to scan my cousins’ photos for me. At about 50 cents a photo that’s a decent wage for a couple of hours of hanging around with one of my spectacular cousins.

      I’ve yet to meet an elderly relative without a computer or email. I’m sure they exist but I’ve never met them because they don’t have computers or email.

      How far scanning-people have to travel would be part of the bargaining on the price.

      Here’s another thought. Same thing from a different angle. I write to my cousin with the photos I want scanned and tell them there’s a site online (the one I’m going to set up) where you can put in a request to have your photos scanned. Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? Having your old photos scanned for the posterity of the nation? You just have to go over there and put in your name, and they’ll connect you to someone who can do that for you. And the only hook in the deal is that after they’re scanned you have to send them to me.

      Most old people I’ve met care about having people who are interested in their lives. It’s almost over and they want someone to care about the fact that they were here. They’d scan the photos in the old suitcases if they had a clue where to begin. But they don’t, so they just sit there.

      And not everyone with photos is old. Maybe they just inherited them from someone who died and they don’t know what to do with them either.

      For recommended scanning procedures, see ScanFest Follow-up

      First issue: How do I convince my cousin she wants to have her photos scanned? By a stranger … who either comes knocking on her door or wants to meet her in a public place. My cousin already has the photos. This is not her problem. It’s mine.


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