Genealogy: Create your DVD

By Barry J. Ewell

Once your film is “clean,” the file gets compressed into MPEG-4 format before being burned onto a DVD. Your video editing software will be able to walk you through the process. A couple of recommendations are as follows:

  • Limit your video transfer (to DVD) to one hour or less for best quality.
  • Purchase high-quality, write once DVD-R or DVD+R discs; do not use DVD-RW or DVD+RW (rewritable) discs.
  • Burn several versions of the video to DVD (especially if you are going to delete the images off your hard drive), using at least two as backup copies. Note: DVD-R is the most compatible with DVD players (an important detail if you are sharing your DVDs with others).
  • Test your DVD recordings on several DVD players (yours and other family members) to make sure they play.  If not, you will be able to trouble shoot what the issues are and correct accordingly.

Genealogy: How to buy blank cassettes

Genealogy: How to buy blank cassettesBy Barry J. Ewell

As you look to preserve tapes or continue to use cassettes in capturing family history, start by choosing good tapes. Match the tape you choose to both your tape deck and what you’re recording.

Step by step instructions

  1. Check your tape deck’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  2. Buy “normal bias” Type I tapes for use with mini-recorders.
  3. If you’re playing tapes on a boom box, personal stereo or low-end car deck, buy Type I tapes unless the playback unit has a switch for “high bias” Type II tapes. Continue reading

Genealogy: How to fix cassettes

006By Barry J. Ewell

If you have had any experience with cassettes, you know a tape can get caught in the inner workings of the cassette player or get bound up.  When you have one-of-a-kind information stored on the tape, it becomes imperative to try and fix the tape and salvage the information.  A broken tape or case can be repaired, though you’ll need a little fortitude and ingenuity.

Step by step instructions for replacing a broken case

  1. Purchase a new cassette that has a shell held together with small screws. Alternatively, you can buy a cassette shell from an electronics store.
  2. Carefully take out the screws from the new cassette and lift the top off. Continue reading

Genealogy: Step by step instructions—How to maintain a cassette deck

Genealogy: Step by step instructions—How to maintain a cassette deckBy Barry J. Ewell

Cassette deck maintenance prevents and solves problems and improves recording and playback sound quality.

Cleaning cassette deck heads

  1. Dip cotton swab in anhydrous isopropyl alcohol and gently scrub heads (these are the parts that read the tape).
  2. Dry the heads with the other end of swab.
  3. Use fresh swab when one gets visibly dirty. Continue reading

Computer: How to care for magnetic media (Reels, Cartridges and Cassettes)

Computer: How to care for magnetic media (Reels, Cartridges and Cassettes)By Barry J. Ewell

Many of the tapes (magnetic media) I have for my family history are surrounded with irreplaceable moments in time, including personal interviews with family members; I tend to look at these tapes as source documents.  As I make digital replications of the data, I still seek to preserve the original as a backup. The life expediency of magnetic media is largely undocumented according to manufacturers.  Thirty years appears to be the upper limit for magnetic tape products, including video and audiotapes. The following are a few general guidelines for taking care of magnetic media. Continue reading

Genealogy: How to digitize cassette tapes to CD

Genealogy: How to digitize cassette tapes to CDBy Barry J. Ewell

Audio cassettes opened up a world of portability unimaginable in the days when LPs ruled the roost. Now, however, cassette tapes have fallen by the wayside (or, in many cases, have been thrown to the wayside from moving vehicles), and, unlike LPs, they don’t look to make a comeback anytime soon. This poses a problem for those of us who would like to preserve important conversations or good songs that are currently stored on cassettes, not only because audio cassettes eventually deteriorate or get “eaten” by tape players, but also because cassette players are becoming increasingly rare. Continue reading

Genealogy: Converting videotapes to DVD

Genealogy: Converting videotapes to DVDBy Barry J. Ewell

Most of us have old VHS home videos that have been collecting dust in the back of the closet for years. These memories include

  • Your wedding video.
  • Your children growing up.
  • Family vacation footage.
  • Special events (graduations, baptisms, sporting events, holidays, even the birth of your child).
  • Family stories (such as grandpa telling his story on tape). Continue reading