When I first started doing genealogical research in earnest, office supplies, especially paper and ink for my printer were among my greatest expenses. I had several four-inch binders, one for each grandparent’s line, full of pedigree charts, family group sheets and printed records. If I found a new census record for one of my families, I would immediately print it and file it in a binder. If I found a new baptism, marriage or burial record in the parish register microfilm, I would print it out at the family history centre and bring it home and file it in my binder. If I received an email from a cemetery regarding the grave of one of my ancestors, I would print it out and file it in my binder. Paper, paper, paper.

It was almost as though a discovery wasn’t real until I had the paper in my hands.

But somewhere along the way, without consciously realising it, I began the shift to digital genealogy. These days, my four huge binders are stored in a closet, never seeing the light of day and all of my research is just recorded in my RootsMagic database. If I want to see a pedigree chart, I switch to the pedigree view. If I want to see a family group chart, I switch to the family view. If I receive a digital document, I immediately save it on my hard drive and attach it to the appropriate event in my database (complete with source citation of course!) And on the odd occasion when I receive a paper document like the English birth, marriage or death certificates, the first thing I do after receiving it is scan it so that it can be saved on my hard drive and attached in my database. I can’t quite bring myself to destroy the original, having paid almost £10 for it, but it gets stored in one of the certificate binders I store on the top shelf of my bookcase.

Now, a discovery isn’t real until it exists digitally on my hard drive.

With a flatbed scanner, the process of scanning a document was very labourious and time consuming. Lay the document on the scanner bed, open the scanning software, choose the correct scan type and location to save the scan. Press the scan button. Wait and wait and wait for the scanner to capture the image. Save the scan. Open the scanner, remove the document and insert the next. Rinse and repeat.

Now the ScanSnap S1300i scanner is my new best friend! 

I did not buy the ScanSnap with genealogy in mind. I bought it to help me tame the paper monster that was my personal filing cabinet and spent a satisfying weekend scanning all of my receipts, manuals and warranties to Evernote and then tossing or shredding the paper copies. Just like in the picture, the ScanSnap makes that a snap with one touch scanning of any size documents!

But a few weeks after buying my ScanSnap, I received almost a dozen birth, marriage and death certificates from the GRO I had ordered for my Brown family brick wall project. I emailed my cousin to let her know that I had received them and told her that I would send her copies as soon as I scanned them, probably the following weekend, knowing from experience that it would take me the better part of an hour to scan them on the flatbed scanner. Then just after clicking send on the email, my eyes fell on the ScanSnap and I realised that I no longer had to use the flatbed scanner! No word of a lie, within five minutes, I had scanned all of the certificates to jpg and copied them to the Dropbox folder I share with my cousin. The flatbed still has it’s uses. It is the only way I have of scanning something in a book or magazine and would still be my tool of choice to scan anything that is the least bit fragile or precious. But for regular paper documents, the ScanSnap wins every time.


Fujitsu makes three different sizes of the ScanSnap scanner. Mine is the middle-sized model, the S1300i, advertised as a compact office solution or a mobile solution. They also make the S1100i, which is a tiny portable version and the larger iX500 desktop version. I won’t go into the specifications of each of the models – you can read those on the Fujitsu website here and you can see all the software that comes with it here.

I probably will not use my ScanSnap as a mobile scanner. I have my MagicWand scanner that I take with me on research trips to scan books and paper records and I find I increasingly use the camera on my tablet to capture images at the archives from the microfilm reader.

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