Review: Unofficial Guide to

unofficial guide to

Recently, I had the opportunity to read and review the Unofficial Guide to – How to Find Your Family History on the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Website, by Dana McCullough. Even as a long-time genealogist, if you thought you knew FamilySearch, this guidebook brings you the latest, up-to-date information on a treasured resource for family history.

FamilySearch: A Hidden Gem for Genealogy

As the author notes at the outset, many beginning genealogists are completely unaware of FamilySearch and it remains a hidden gem for them. McCullough’s format for the book is to cover the major aspects of FamilySearch, including Trees, Historical Records, User-submitted Genealogies, Family History Books, Wiki, Catalog, Memories, Indexing and more. The author also devotes special side bar sections to tracing the roots of specific FamilySearch resources. This includes the background and origins of the Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File and the IGI (International Genealogical Index).

In reading the Unofficial Guide to, I felt guided by a genealogist who honestly confesses to the same mistakes that many of us have made in the past, such as not citing sources. I appreciated the special attention MCullough devoted to sources, their importance, and even how to save sources from other websites to FamilySearch.

Other nice features of the book are the Keys to Success and Getting Started checklist sections at the end of each chapter. Too many genealogy “how to” books don’t offer this type of “call to action” to the reader. Anyone purchasing this book has no excuse not to get started with FamilySearch since all the tools are laid out for them!

The Unofficial Guide to is filled with little gems and bits of advice covering many different areas. In the Family Trees chapter, the author reviews how to upload photos and documents and covers in detail how copyright is handled. In addition, she covers the collaboration aspect of Family Trees and how to protect your privacy and the privacy of your family.

Get to Know FamilySearch In-Depth and Up Close

At 242 pages, the Unofficial Guide to is not just substantial, but also comprehensive. It is suitable for those just starting to explore their family history as well as seasoned genealogists who want to extract every bit of knowledge possible from the FamilySearch site and its affiliated sites.

The Unofficial Guide to can be purchased online at – click here for more information.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: How to Archive Family Photos

A special discount of 34% percent off the new book How to Archive Family Photos by Denise Levenick - here's how to get the special coupon code!

[Editor’s note: I was provided an advance PDF copy of How to Archive Family Photos for review purposes by the author, Denise Levenick. In addition, right now Shop Family Tree has an offer to save 27% off this amazing book – normally $25.99, now $18.99 on pre-order. And a FURTHER DISCOUNT! Use promo code SFT2015 at checkout, and save another $1.90 which means a total savings of 34%. Click here for more information.]

I just finished reading How to Archive Family Photos – A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally by Denise May Levenick and here is the first thing I’m going to do: get rid of all the bookmarks and articles about digitizing and organizing photos that I have saved to Evernote, Pinterest and other places. Why? Because How to Archive Family Photos covers ALL the bases with updated and current information about photo organization and digitization. You do not need any other book and since Levenick’s approach is sensible and easy-to-read, you likely will not need much else if you want to tackle that pile of photos!

A Photo Project Road Map

With over 25 years’ experience in technology focusing on desktop applications and programs, I often find “holes” or “gaps” in books that purport to completely cover a specific topic involving technology, apps and gadgets. There is no “gap” to mind or “hole” to overlook with How to Archive Family Photos; the author has laid out a systematic approach known as Organize, Digitize and Create.

Levenick takes time to explain technical terms in plain English. She also offers a variety of approaches to tasks such as determining how much digital storage space a user might need, or the best scanner to use for a specific project. In addition, the author goes beyond the typical do-it-yourself approach and indicates when it might be time to call in reinforcements and use outside vendors. The information in How to Archive Family Photos is varied and allows the reader to find the right approach for dealing with his or her own collection of photos.

Once you have organized and digitized all those photos, negatives, slides and more, you get a reward! You get to “play” and be creative with 25 different projects ranging from simple thank you cards using an old family photo to more complex items such as wall calendars, photo books and more. Too often I find that similar books will list many ideas and even resources for creative projects, but they won’t take the time to outline the project in a step-by-step approach the way the author has done in How to Archive Family Photos.

How to Archive Family Photos: A New Classic

In my family history book collection, I have very few titles that I am willing to designate as “bibles” or “canonical works” meaning that the book is the go-to guide on the subject. We are talking classics such as Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills or The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. Now I can add How to Archive Family Photos to that special place on my bookshelf.


If you are serious about managing and preserving your family photo collection then you owe it to yourself and your family history to purchase How to Archive Family Photos and get started TODAY.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: Larsen Digital

Recently I had Larsen Digital scan several family photos for me and I was not only blown away by the excellent results, but especially by the customer service!

A few months ago, I was contacted by Larsen Digital ( to review their photo scanning services. For year now, I have referred genealogists to use Larsen Digital based on their solid reputation and the fact that they were located in the Salt Lake City area. So, when Kristin from Larsen Digital offered to scan some of my family photos and produce a DVD slide show, I knew it was time to see for myself how Larsen’s services performed.

Why I Didn’t Scan These Photos Myself

I am a big proponent of all aspects of “Do-It-Yourself” genealogy including scanning documents and photos. However, there are times when I would rather go to the experts for these services. Here is why:

  • If I have a limited number of an item, such as 100 slides, I cannot justify purchasing a $100 or $200 scanner that I will never use again!
  • Using a service like Larsen Digital is a big timesaver and economical. If I tracked the time I spent scanning photos, correcting color (and hoping I got it right), etc. . . . and compared it to the price per slide or photo for a scanning vendor, I bet I would save money.
  • I am not an expert in scanning. Period. I know the basics and the equipment I use, such as my 10-year old flatbed scanner, could do an acceptable job. However, do I want just “acceptable” for my family history items? If I am dedicated to leaving a family legacy through my genealogy research and family history materials, then I owe it to my family to get it right.

More About Larsen Digital

In speaking with Kristin at Larsen Digital, I discovered that, “Larsen Digital is a family owned business founded when the owner, Brent Larsen, tried to do genealogy work for his grandmother. Without the ability to easily create copies of the photos and videos to enhance the genealogy, Brent had to find an alternative way to preserve his family’s legacy.”

“Since 1995, we have been offering our digital conversion services making it easy for families to preserve their cherished family history forever. We do all our work ourselves and we would never outsource or work to India. We are focused on staying up-to-date with current technology trends, offering our customers the latest in technology.”

As I reviewed the Larsen Digital site, here are a few key issues I noted that not every scanning vendor offers:

  • Use of professional equipment and the highest standards to ensure the best possible scan.
  • All scanning is done right here in the USA! They never outsource their work!
  • Free return shipping on orders over $100.
  • Free color correction on most scan orders.

Some other nice features of Larsen Digital’s service: They will upload your files to various cloud services including Dropbox and Google Drive. In addition, you can get a free sample scan of five slides, one negative strip or five photos!

I Was Amazed at the Finished Product!

I sent a small group of photos in a padded envelope using the prepaid label that Larsen Digital had sent me. After about a week, I received an email from Kristin with links to download the digital images as well as the slideshow. My originals followed via UPS a few days later and arrived safe and sound!

About four or five of the photos showed significant aging, mostly just bends and cracks; I had selected them on purpose. A wedding photo had some bends and a tear on the right side of the photo.  Another photo of my brother Michael and me (see above) had “something going across one of the boy’s eyes.” Larsen decided to restore these two photos so that I could see the difference between color correction and full digital restoration.

Recently I had Larsen Digital scan several family photos for me and I was not only blown away by the excellent results, but especially by the customer service!

The slideshow is a great way to share these photos with my family members! I downloaded the mp4 format file and the show comes complete with music:


I was more than pleased with the work performed by Larsen Digital. At every step during the process from placing my order to receiving my originals back, the team at Larsen made sure I received email updates about my project. If I had questions about the ordering process or if I needed to check on the timeline for completion, I could always call or send an email. The customer support was phenomenal.

I am seriously considering sending a large group of negatives and my 8mm home moves to Larsen. I keep delaying this monumental project, telling myself that I will order a scanner and get to it someday. Well, as I wait for that “someday,” guess what? The material used to produce the negatives and movies degrades and at some point, no amount of color correction or restoration can save those memories.

The services at Larsen Digital exceeded all of my expectations and I would definitely recommend them to any genealogist and family historian.

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A Special Offer from Larsen Digital

I have secured a special offer on several services from Larsen Digital. Take advantage of these deals soon – they expire on March 31, 2015. Visit and get started today on your new project!

  • 20% off Movie Film & Video Tapes – use promo code Genea20
  • 15% off Slides, Negatives, Photos & Scrapbook Pages – use promo code Genea15

Visit Larsen Digital at RootsTech

I will be at RootsTech in Salt Lake City later this week and I will be stopping by the Larsen Digital booth (#1408) to say hello and thank Kristin and her group for all their work. If you are at FGS 2015/RootsTech, please visit Larsen Digital!

Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.