Find My Ancestor Blog

Mobile Monday – NARA Goes Mobile

Last week I saw an interesting blog post that I wanted to share today for this weeks Mobile Monday post.
Attention smartphone users:  The National Archives has released our first mobile application called “Today’s Document,” based on the popular feature on
This app pulls documents and information from the website. It appears that each day there will be a featured document, person, place etc. that you can learn more about by using your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Below are some more screenshots of the app.



  • Pinch to zoom and inspect individual documents and photos - each rendered as stunning high resolution images.
  • Swipe a document left or right to view the previous or next day's document.
  • Use the calendar icon to select a specific date or just browse documents at random.
  • Tap the info icon to read fascinating background information.
  • Add a document to your favorites list by tappin the star icon.
You can simply navigate your way through the app learning more about the featured item by clicking on the little "info" button on the top of the screen.



On the iPhone, the app brings up a completely new screen giving a brief description of the item, while on the iPad it brings up a little window showing the same info. After the descriptions there are two links. The first link will take you to a page in Safari (mobile web browser) to give you more information and pictures. The second link will take you to a page to view the document on, giving more information as well. displayed in Safari on the iPad

You can also select the featured item and make if a favorite. This will give you the option of quickly referring back to the item at a later time with easy access. You can search for various items according to:
  • Yesterday's Document
  • Today's Document
  • Tomorrow's Document
  • Select a Date
  • Surprise Me!
This fun app is a great way to learn more about the various records and documents stored at the National Archives and Records Administration. When I started playing around with this app it reminded me of the other historical app I reviewed last year, On This Day... Of course another great feature of this app is that it is free! Be sure to check it out. Download it now in the iTunes App Store.
Today’s Document - National Archives and Records Administration

Download it on your iPhone

Today’s Document - National Archives and Records Administration

Download it on your iPad


Scan Your Genealogy Documents Anywhere

Some of you may have heard lately about the new mobile scanner produced by Flip-Pal. This last weekend Flip-Pal was at the Sandy Family History Expo showing off their cool new product. Though the scanners are not yet available, I was able to sit down and play with one at the expo.
Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner

I am so impressed with these little scanners! I must admit, when I first saw and heard about them I was a little skeptical. I thought to myself there is now way a little scanner like that could produce such a great quality image. I have changed my mind!

This scanner is very light-weight and the perfect size for taking it around wherever you go.
You can see how small and mobile the scanner is.
Below are Flip-Pal specifications:

Maximum scan area
4 x 6 in. single scan.
Virtually unlimited stitched scans.
Scan Resolutions
300 x 300 dpi
600 x 600 dpi
Dimensions10.25 x 6.5 x 1.25 in.
Weight1 lb. 4.5 oz. (580 gm) without batteries
Scan speed
300 dpi: 6 sec.
600 dpi: 11 sec.
1.7 in. color LCD. 
Displays a thumbnail of the scan in progress and thumbnails of scanned images stored on the SD card.
Two brightness levels.
Number of scans150 scans are expected from one charge of alkaline batteries. 500 scans are expected from one charge of photo lithium batteries.
Supported SD cards
Standard SD cards (up to 2GB) and SDHC cards (4GB and higher) are supported.
DCF (Digital Camera File System) compatible.
Compatible with wireless Eye-Fi™ SD cards.
File sizeA 300 dpi scan results in approximately a 1.5MB JPEG file. A 600 dpi scan results in approximately a 3.0MB JPEG file.
Included softwareFlip-Pal™ Toolbox for Windows with stitching and color restoration
Added features
Removable lid
Transparent bottom
Stitching overlap guide marks
Business card pocket
Non-slip rubber feet
AccessoriesThe Flip-Pal™ mobile scanner comes with one 2GB SD card, software included on the SD card (no CD required), four AA alkaline batteries and a USB to SD card adaptor. Additional packs of window protector sheets can be purchased from Additional SD cards and batteries can be purchased separately.
Power4 AA alkaline batteries (included). Compatible with: Alkaline, Photo Lithium and Recharageable.
Maximum color depth30-bit (3 channels of 10-bit)
Interface connectionThe SD card may be transferred to any compatible SD card device. An SD to USB adapter is provided for devices without an SD card socket.
Environmental Compliance
Operating temperature range: 5°C to 40°C (41°F to 104°F)
Operating humidity range: 15% to 85% RH
RegulationscUL, FCC Part 15-Class B, ICEF-003

Above are some pictures showing different buttons and components of the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner:
The Flip-Pal comes with a 2GB Secure Digital (SD) card for saving your scans to. On the card also comes the software for color correction and photo stitching. Since the software comes on the card all you have to do is insert the card into your computer and the software automatically loads and asks you whether you want to stitch a photo together or make a color correction. If you ever lose your SD card, you can download the software from their website and put it onto another SD card.

Some of you may be saying to yourselves right now "I don't have an SD slot in my computer or a reader that I can use with my computer". For those of you who do not have an external reader or a built in reader in your computer, Flip-Pal also includes a USB reader that you simply put your SD card into and then insert the USB reader in to your computer. 

The Flip-Pal has a little display screen for changing the scan resolution, either 300 dpi or 600 dpi. You can also change other settings here on the screen. Of course, the screen will show you a preview of the image you just scanned. This makes it so you can decide whether you want to keep that scan or do another one.

One of the coolest features that I find is that you can take off the lid or the top of the scanning bed so you can then turn the scanner upside down and scan a book! There have been a couple of times where this would have been really handy for me! I have gone through a couple of old scrapbooks my grandma and mom have made, and with each of them I have had to carefully take apart the scrapbook in order for it to fit onto my flat-bed scanner at home. With the Flip-Pal you don't have to do that anymore! 

For photos and documents that are larger than the scanning screen all you have to do is "stitch" them together. Now in the past, it required quite a bit of time, talent, and proper software in order to do this. With the Flip-Pal its as easy as scanning the images and telling the software which images you want to stitch together. Flip-Pal does the rest! I have to admit, this photo stitching software is the best I have seen with how simple it is. I don't have an actual example of an image that was stitched together, but trust me, it was good! You couldn't even tell that it was scanned in multiple sections and then put together into one!

Now, this software I have been talking about is only for Windows Operating Systems. However, the makers of Flip-Pal told me that they are working on a Mac OS version of the software and that it will be available for download from their website once it is released. So, for those Mac users out there (like me) we won't be able to use the software that comes on the SD card, but you can still use the images that were scanned. All you have to do is access the SD card drive from your hard drive when you plug it in.

All the images saved from the scanner are in JPG format which work on both the Windows and Mac operating systems.

Also another really cool feature I find with the Flip-Pal is that you aren't limited to 2D scans anymore! With the Flip-Pal you can scan 3D objects such as coins, military medals, and even water bottles! Now you may be asking yourself why you would ever want to scan a water bottle?? Well, you might have an old soda pop bottle or an old tin can of an ancestors that you would like to get an image of what is on it. You can always take a picture, but the photo would be distorted according to the contour of the bottle. With the Flip-Pal you can get a flat image from a circular object! Below is a video that they demonstrated for me there how this is done and an example of the result.

You can also view the video on my YouTube Channel.


Opening Session of NGS – Jay Verkler

The following are my tweets from the opening session of the National Genealogical Society conference held last week in Salt Lake City. I am re-posting my tweets from the conference just in case you missed them and would like to know about some of the classes I attended.

  • Opening Session - Jay Verkler, CEO of FamilySearch, is talking about technology and how it is advancing so fast.
  • Genealogy community is using more and more technology like social networks, digitization, organization and sharing
  • FamilySearch's goal since the beginning in late 1800's - collect and copy, preserve, and distribute.
  • Verkler is showing a video of the Granite Mountain Vault outside of Salt Lake City
  • The microfilm in the vault holds about 3.5 billion images!! And there is more room to grow!
  • Some records in the vault are the only copies that exist! Now they are working on digitizing these records.
  • Digitization was going to take over a century, but with new technology it will take about 10 years!!
  • Over 300,000 registered indexers that help with the digitization process!! Learn more at
  • 300 million new records on FamilySearch!!
  • In 1984 the GEDCOM standard was set
  • FS(FamilySearch) has been working on a collaboration effort called Family Tree
  • He is talking about using the iPhone to "pinpoint" his location in a cemetery for reference. <3 the iPhone!
  • Even "deep experts" need to collaborate with other "deep experts"
  • Now talking about the FS Wiki. "Fundamentally designed for sharing"
  • Encourages to contribute to the wiki. Learn more at
  • Register at
After Verkler's presentation the exhibit hall opened with a LOT of different vendors, products, technology, and more. In my next post I will be talking about a few of the exhibitors and following that I will be posting more of my tweets from the first class of the conference. If you would like to keep up-to-date with future tweets from conferences, be sure to follow me on Twitter.


Can Your Camera Scan An Entire Book In Seconds?

The past few years we have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of books, photos, and other documents scanned and put online. I am continually amazed at the amount of technology there is and how rapidly it is increasing.

I am always taking old documents and records and transcribing them and digitizing them to put them into my genealogy files. Sometimes I scan old typed documents that can be OCR'd while other times I just scan it to have the original and then transcribe the information into a word processor.

Either way, they are both time consuming to do, but in the end I know that I am creating digitized records that can be saved for generations. I only wish I could do it faster! I guess all I need to do is create my own high-speed camera like a group of university students did in Tokyo. "By using a high-speed camera that shoots at 500 frames per second, lab workers Takashi Nakashima and Yoshihiro Watanabe can scan a 200-page book in under a minute. You just hold the book under the camera and flip through the pages as if shuffling a deck of cards. The camera records the images and uses processing power to turn the odd-shaped pictures into flat, rectangular pages on which regular OCR (optical character recognition) can be performed."