Home: Where the Paper Roams

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Two shelves of a metal bookcase are lined with stacks of printouts, variously arranged, some in actual order. In another bookcase, notebooks are piled on top of each other on two shelves, spilling onto the floor. Sound like a typical office? It's actually our den/computer room at home, the vault for my decades-long recordkeeping for family and local history research.

This, well, mess, is why I've been gradually going paperless.

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A few years ago, I realized that most of my family history word processing files had never been printed. It was easier to work with them this way since most involved bursts of words interspersed heavily with names and dates and they were easier to handle than were print outs. I was going paperless.

Genealogy was once paper-intensive and form-intensive and, in some ways, still is. But the data in all those charts, which were purchased preprinted forms that were then carefully placed in three-ring binders, now sit in a database file and are printed only when necessary. Those precious three-ring binders are rarely opened.

Similarly, the last two years, involving research for writing a county history, has pushed me more heavily into paperless. A substantial amount of research can now be conducted by Googling and by locating online digital collections of scanned books, magazines, and journals.

I quickly realized that printing these pages I found was becoming a problem. Often, it was easier to work with a scanned image of a page than with the printout. And I was drowning in paper.

The state of my document management is not (yet) up to professional standards. It's easy to use the great word-search capabilities in digital collections. But once a page image is saved to my hard dive, I can't perform a word search.

The stacks of notebooks have yet to be dealt with. Most have dates on the cover describing where they were taken and contents. But often, when I head for the field, I grab a partially filled notebook and end up with mixed years. Of course, I waste a lot of time looking for the contents.

The next plan is to buy a multi-function printer and start scanning the notebooks, which will enable me (I hope) to have a better index of research results. What I really need is a portable, hand-held scanner so I don't have to take so many notes in county courthouses.

And I think I'm almost ready for a dual monitor system, but not quite yet.

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