|DCam Camera setup in the Maryland State Archives|
Back in 2010 when we lived in Mesa, Arizona, one of my lovely granddaughters was killed in a tragic car-bicycle accident. In preparation for her burial, I went with her parents to the Mesa City Cemetery office to purchase a cemetery plot. While we were there, I noticed a display cabinet with some old cemetery record books. Of course, I was interested and asked the lady in the cemetery office if the records had been digitized. She immediately said that this was her concern; those records and many others had not been digitized or preserved in any way and she was afraid they would be lost. Further conversation with her revealed that there were thousands of cemetery records that went back to the 1800s stored in the small office on the cemetery grounds. I told her that I would contact FamilySearch to see if they would be interested in the records.
I contacted my friends at FamilySearch and was told to talk to a programmer because the programmer was working on a special project that might help. Time passed and we were on our way to the first RootsTech Conference in 2011. I was hoping that I would have time while in Salt Lake to try and contact the programmer. As one of the early Official Bloggers at RootsTech, I was invited to a tour of the Exhibit floor before the opening of the conference. We started the tour of the floor and the first person we met was the programmer I was told to find. There are no coincidences in genealogy. I left the tour and the programmer and I talked about his project; the development of the DCam program for digitizing records. He said they were trying to see if they could digitize smaller collections using a less expensive digital camera or a flatbed scanner. I volunteered to try to digitize the Mesa City Cemetery records and help them with the project using a scanner and a laptop te be supplied by FamilySearch.
I went back to Mesa and spent considerable time working between FamilySearch and the City of Mesa to obtain permission to digitize the records. I kept getting the run around from the City. At the time, I was an attorney and partner in a larger law firm in Mesa and finally, after months of trying, I complained to one of my partners about the situation. He immediately got on the phone and called the mayor who was his friend and asked why the city was not allowing me to digitize the old cemetery records where my partner's own family was buried. We immediately got permission to proceed.
I worked back and forth for months with the programmers at FamilySearch debugging the DCam program and sending them test scans. Finally, we worked out most of the bugs and started scanning the documents. We ended up with this file: https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1929533 on the FamilySearch.org website.
The file has 13,110 images and contains records from 1885-1960. It also has probably the only color records on the FamilySearch website. The collection includes permits for graves, tax roll, block book, sexton ledgers, burial and funeral records. The entire project took more than two and a half years but started with a meeting at RootsTech 2011. The DCam program is now used by missionaries around the world to digitize records. In 2018, my wife and I served a one-year Church Service Mission for FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints digitizing records in the Maryland State Archives where I was able to provide further feedback on the DCam scanning program.
In review, I have attended or will attend in 2020, 9 of 10 RootsTech conferences in person. While on our mission, I attended the 2018 conference remotely. The RootsTech conferences have turned out to be life-changing for me. Many of the people I have met and become involved with have turned out to be good friends and I am still reaping the benefits of attending all those years of conferences.