Posts Tagged ‘offline genealogy documents’

Picasa for Family History Images

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I’m a fan of Picasa, a photo editing program that’s available for free download from Google, and I mostly use it for organizing, tweaking, and sharing scans of genealogical documents.

A Picasa tutorial is beyond the scope of a short blog post, but I thought it would be useful for me share a list of the features I find particularly helpful with some simple directions on how to use them.


Select Images to Appear: You can decide which images appear in Picasa by selecting folders under “Tools” then “Folder Manager.”

Organize Images:
Move images from folder to folder by dragging and dropping. You can also rearrange images within a folder using the same approach.

Rename an Image: Click on an image to select it, then hit F2. Type the new image name in the pop-up box.

Rename Multiple Images: Select multiple images (holding down Ctrl lets you do that) and then hit F2. Type an image name and the selected images will be renamed in sequential order. For example, decree.jpg, decree1.jpg, decree2.jpg, etc.


If you open Picasa and double-click on an image and you’ll see three tabbed menus appear on the left: Basic Fixes, Tuning, and Effects. These menus are key.

Rotate an Image: Click “Straighten” under the “Basic Fixes” tab; use the sliding bar to rotate the image left or right, then click on “Apply.”

Crop an Image: Click “Crop” under the “Basic Fixes” tab; draw a box around the portion of the image you want to save and click “Apply” when done. If you’re not happy with how the cropped image turned out, click “Recrop” and try again.

Tweak Brightness and Contrast Automatically: Click “Auto Contrast” under the “Basic Fixes” tab; if you’re not happy with the result, just click “Undo Auto Contrast.” If Auto Contrast doesn’t work, click on the “Tuning” tab. Move the sliding bars to tweak the image.


Print an Image: Click on the image(s) you want to print. Click on the “Print” icon at the bottom of the page. Use the resulting menu options to assure that the image will appear on the page the way you want it to.

Upload an Image to a Picasa Web Album: Web albums are a great way to keep, backup and share images. Click on the “Upload” button and follow the instructions. Images will be sent to a folder associated with your gmail address and once they’re there you can rearrange them, add captions, and share links to individual images or a folder. It’s a convenient way to back up the files and it’s a nice way to make sure they’re accessible from any place you have Internet access. (The image below says “paid storage” but free storage is also available.)

Emailing Images:
The one thing that hasn’t worked well for me is the email option. I find that the documents shrink somewhere along in the process and the resulting images may not be large enough to be read easily. (If anyone has a solution to that problem, please let me know.)

These are just a few ideas but I’d encourage you to explore the program to discover other useful features and if you discover one, please add a comment to this post.


Picasa and Genlighten go great together! Here’s how:

For lookup providers: use Picasa to enhance the quality of the document scans you upload to your clients. Here’s a tip. Upload both your original scan and a second one that you tweak with Picasa. That way, clients can see the difference and appreciate the extra effort you went to. Also, there may be certain details in the image (handwriting, for example) that are discernible in one version but not the other.

For clients: once you’ve downloaded the images your provider posted to your account, use Picasa to bring out details you might otherwise have missed. Experiment with the techniques mentioned in this post and save different versions of your images with descriptive names. Have fun!

Five Steps to a Successful Lookup Offering

Monday, March 15th, 2010


We’ve gotten a bunch of new lookup offerings submitted for our approval by potential providers over the past few weeks. Some of them we look at and immediately say to ourselves “Wow…this [guy/gal] gets it!” Others give us a little more pause. In this post, I hope to share the things we think make for a highly-appealing lookup listing — one that will get potential clients clicking “Add to Cart”. Here goes:

1) Offer to Lookup Records That Aren’t Available Elsewhere Online

Genlighten is about helping people find offline records from local repositories. Try to avoid offering lookups for documents that your clients could easily find online at Ancestry or FamilySearch. Of course, if a record is offered online for $40 and you can profitably offer to look it up offline for $10, go right ahead!

2) Craft a Concise Headline Referencing the Locality

Here your goal is to get clients to click on “Get Details” from our basic search results page. Limit your headline to about 50 characters so it doesn’t get truncated.

Good examples: “Jefferson County Kentucky Probate Records”, “Bloomington-Normal Obits from the Pantagraph”. You don’t need to include the date range covered in your headline. Just put it in the “date range” field and we’ll insert it at the end of your headline automatically.

3) Don’t Forget to Put Details in Your “Detailed Description”

“Key Lookup Details” should include these elements:

  • The archive or repository where you’ll perform the lookup
  • How often you visit (and the resulting turnaround time clients can expect)
  • How you’ll perform your search (including the information you’ll need from the client)
  • An online index the client can search to obtain an index entry or certificate number for you to reference (if available)
  • What a “found” and “not found” result will mean for the client
  • What information the client is likely to obtain from the record
  • Limitations on the scope of the search you’ll perform (a single individual, a certain range of years, etc.)

4) Set Realistic Yet Affordable “Found” and “Not Found” Prices

Pricing your offerings is difficult, we know. Only you can decide what your costs are and what you need to earn for the time and effort you’ll spend. Set a price that seems fair to both you and your clients. If in doubt, ask yourself, “What would I be willing to pay for this lookup?”

5) Use the “Client Instructions” to Spell Out Exactly What You Need

Your job as a lookup provider will be easiest when you can reduce the process to a repeatable algorithm that takes specific known inputs and produces the desired record on a consistent basis. This obviously won’t work in many cases, but it’s a goal worth striving for. As you compose your instructions to the client, reduce the data you ask for to the absolute minimum necessary. Tweak this based on the queries you receive.


The main thing that sets the best lookup offerings on Genlighten apart from others is the level of detail they include. Details show that you’ve thought through the lookup process and that you know what you’re doing. They also inspire confidence in potential clients and yield requests that you can successfully fulfill. We’ve had site visitors tell us that they’ve seen lookups they’re interested in but they haven’t ordered because the descriptions were too vague.

We’re happy to offer suggestions and guidance with this process. Please feel free to contact us for help by e-mailing

Follow Friday: Joe Beine’s Genealogy Roots Blog

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

fair_angelsRecently on Genlighten we’ve had an influx of new users registering for the site and posting lookup offerings. While most of them represent exactly what we have in mind — local researchers visiting nearby repositories to retrieve and digitize records that are only available offline — some have gone in a different direction than we’d like to see.

These “lookups from online sources” have offered to look up records for a fee that are already available on Footnote or the FamilySearch Record Pilot for free. We see nothing inherently wrong with this (presuming the client is made aware of the free alternative should they wish to search it themselves) but it doesn’t really fit the vision we have for Genlighten.

Genlighten is all about Offline genealogy records

Just as Footnote calls themselves “The place for original historical documents online” we’d like to be, in part at least, “the place to get help retrieving original offline historical documents”. That’s how we’d like to position/differentiate ourselves relative to our competitors. It’s become obvious that we need to spell that out more clearly on our site and in our promotional materials, and you’ll see us doing that in the weeks and months ahead.

In the meantime, one of the things we’re now doing is reviewing each new lookup offering we get before letting it go “live” and making sure that the records the provider offers to search aren’t already available online for free. A great place for us to go and check this out is Joe Beine‘s marvelous sites listing birth/marriage records and death records available online. [He has several other sites worth checking out for other record types as well.]

Joe’s performed a tremendous service for genealogy researchers everywhere. He’s constantly updating his sites; when he does, he lists those updates on his Genealogy Roots Blog. You won’t find a lot of posts here about Joe’s own research or on the usual geneablogging memes — just high-quality links and actionable advice on places you can find the records you want (usually for free!)

If you’re not already following Joe’s blog, I encourage you to do so… you’ll come back again and again and find stuff you never would have guessed was online.