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Genealogy

An overview of resources at UCLA and in Southern California relevant to genealogy research.

Your Resource Materials

As you learn about your family history, you will identify and locate many types of materials that provide information about your family. You can start by going through your personal collections. Do you have family photographs? Letters? Birth, death, and marriage certificates? You will want to keep some print materials permanently. You may decide to keep only digital versions of other materials. You may also decide to keep digital copies of your photograhs and documents in addition to the original print materials. Whether you keep print or digital materials, you will need to plan how to preserve and store them and how to provide access to them.

Preserving Your Primary Source Materials

If you have unique photos and documents, you should consider how to store and preserve them. For example, you might use acid free file folders, photograph/negative envelopes, and even special boxes. The companies below sell archival materials to individuals as well as to libraries.

Scanning Documents and Photos

Your scanner should have come with software that allows you to scan a document or photograph.

For best results, scan text documents at a minimum of 200 dpi. Photographs should be scanned at 600 dpi. You can scan negatives and slides at 2,000 dpi, but for the best quality try 3,000 to 4,000 dpi.

If you do not have a scanner, consider buying an inexpensive one. There are many inexpensive models available that combine scanning, photocopying, and printing.

Metadata for Your Resource Materials

How will you categorize your personal collections of letters, photographs, documents, and the like? Most commonly, your materials will fall into these three categories:

People

Consider using the person's birth name as well as birth and death years. Genealogy software will provide for married or changed names, but to keep all of your resource materials about the person in one place, most people use the person's birth name. Note, too, that many names are used multiple times in families so birth and death dates are really helpful.

Places

Place names change frequently in the course of history. You can file place material either by the current geographical name or by the name in use when your ancestors lived there. A good gazeteer is very useful for genealogy whether it is in print or online. You might be surprised how good Google is for identifying places.

Events

Your family's story may be tied to specific events in history. You might have volumes in your book collection or articles in your files.

Depending on your family's history, you may also have primary source materials in other areas such as "history" or "culture". If you don't know what metadata to use, you might try using subject headings from the UCLA Library Catalog.

Reference Manager Software

You may decide to use reference management software for your resource materials. If so, look for software that not only manages the data about your resources but also has the capability to store PDF files. Here are some software packages to consider: