The Tragedy of Xerox®, the digital age and Family History

Not a very exciting title, but,” right on the nose” as the saying goes.

xeroxAs you may or may not know, Xerox® was a company that invented a way to make copies of things like  documents, photographs, hands and other various body parts.
see below

You placed the item to be copied on a glass, closed the lid and pushed a button and a bright light went across and then somehow out printed a copy of the item you had. This, in my opinion, revolutionized the business world and our personal lives too. Finally, a way to get copies of things that could never be shared before without the original in your hands, and one could make several copies at once.


For personal use, you could now go to a library and copy recipes out of books, information to take home for book reports or school projects or research, as long as you had the correct change, but the librarian usually had change.

It saved hourshandcopy of handwriting the information or making one presentation to a whole group of people, who had to take copious amounts of notes to go over later. No longer did you have to check out all those books, be careful not to damage them, get them returned on time, nor did you have to spend hours upon hours at the library because of books or other items you could not check out.

fotohut.jpgand, It was too expensive to take a photo of it; digital use was not invented yet. If you did take a film.jpgphoto, you had to wait until the whole roll of film was used, take it in to be developed, go back and get your pictures and if it was out of focus, you had to retake the photos. Then you would have to go back to the store to have the photo enlarged, and all of this was weeks of getting done and it could add up in cost very fast.


Relating back to our Family History,

we now have all these copies of great information, photos, and copies of items that we would not have, thank you to Xerox® and photocopy machines.

One problem.

In 2010 and 2011, I photocopied letters, diaries, other documents when we had our family reunion and after. They were great! We all got to share what we had with each other and no one had to give away anything original they had. This worked out really well for everyone.

beoriginalIt is now 2019 and upon reviewing these photocopies, some are really fading away, barely readable. It is not like the ink on a handwritten paper that you can sometimes lay another paper over and lightly shade and get some images of the handwriting off the paper. Nor is it like a typed document that you can see the indentations of the impression left by the keys of the typewriter.

The paper and the ink were not archival ready, so some of the copies that were not “good” copies because the originals were fading away themselves, are getting harder to read. They were not stored in an airtight container, or out of light, because they were being used quite often. Used to answer family questions, used to get information from for the family history book, used to complete the pedigree charts, used to help with school projects.

pdf-1.jpgOne way to help this issue is to go ahead and make copies, but perhaps to also take digital photos and/or digital copies of the items.

drivesYes, floppies, have changed so much over the last 20 years, and you may no longer have the  A: drive or Zip drive or Jazz drive capability to read these anymore.  Don’t be discouraged.

If you search, you will find a neighbor or library or business that may still have the capability to use these digital archives. I myself just purchased a USB – A: drive, because I had many photos and copies of documents on the floppy’s, but no longer had a way to read the 3.5 floppy discs. Even the last computer I purchased, my husband and I did not pay attention that there was no CD Rom drive installed on it! How did we miss that?! We were looking at so many computers -laptops, tablets, towers- that by the time we found the one that had a ‘boatload’ of storage on it, including several USB ports, which is really what we were concentrating on, we failed to see there was no place to read or write a DVD or CD Rom. However, I still had one on my tower at home and I can exchange information between the two computers, so that “saved the day”.

multiplicity.jpgMy conclusion is that multiplicity is the key and sometimes you just can’t save everything, no matter how hard you try, something gets lost in the shuffle somewhere. It is a loss indeed, but when you do the best you can with what you have at the time, that is all you can do. This is why it is important to keep informed on the latest ways to preserve items and why we should utilize 2 – 3 different ways of making copies of an original; either by photocopy, film photograph, digital copy, digital photograph, handwriting or drawing by hand ourselves, or other means, multiplicity is the key.

Don’t give up or get discouraged, we are all doing the best we can with what we have and that is all anyone can do or expect to be done. Think of how much more knowledge and access we have now even compared to 20 years ago!

A quote from one of the television shows we find entertaining:


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'Your HMO doesn't cover X-rays. I'm glad you could break a dollar.'photocopy-hand-7074498.jpg

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Published by humblegenealogist @ we do the digging so you can enjoy the tree

Starting in 1970, the experience and journey has created well-seasoned researching techniques. Current and active participation in continuing education, staying up to date with technology, and including weekly contact with other professional genealogists: including family historians, genealogy clubs and historical societies, keeps the knowledge and ongoing learning in an ever changing world up to date.

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