The Clayton Library Town Crier

Scan Your Photos at Clayton Library!

Clayton Library helps library visitors preserve their records, documents, and photos.  A new technology addition is the Kodak EZ Photo Scanner.  This blogpost provides an overview of this exciting new resource and includes some tips on how to use it effectively.

Kodak EZ Photo Scanner

These days, photos are taken with digital cameras, cell phones, and other devices that allow users to quickly and easily transfer and store the photos onto home computers, flash drives, or into cloud-based storage. But what about all those 3x5 and 4x6 prints that were taken “back in the day”? You might have some delicate black & white family photos of distant ancestors that are carefully stored away in photo albums. Maybe you have heaps of “everyday” photos that are all jumbled together in boxes somewhere in your bedroom closet or attic? What is the best way to scan and preserve these photos for future generations? Perhaps the very thought of having to spend a lot of time scanning each photo one by one might be enough to discourage you from starting such a scanning project in the first place. But what if it were possible to get high-quality scans of hundreds of photos in, say, less than an hour? This is where the Kodak EZ Photo Scanner comes in. Thanks to the generous financial support of the Clayton Library Friends (CLF) we are able to offer this fantastic resource to our patrons – and best of all, it’s free to use!

The Kodak EZ Photo Scanner excels in bulk photo scanning. It has the capacity to scan up to 50 photos per minute at 300dpi (or a lesser number of photos at a higher dpi), with a feeder capacity of 25 photos. This allows you to take a stack of 3x5 or 4x6 photos (and some other sizes as well), place them into the bulk feeder, select some scanning options, and then just press a button to start the scanning process. Several scanning options are available:

  • Scan photos as .jpg or .pdf files (basic image files) or as .tiff files (higher-quality image files);
  • Scan in color or in black & white;
  • Scan single-sided or double-sided photos (double-sided scanning captures the handwritten notes on the back of photos);
  • Save to a flash drive (default method) or save to cloud-based storage (options currently include DropBox and Google Drive – other options may become available in the future).

If you have photos or historical documents that are either very old or fragile and don’t want to run them through the bulk feeder, you can use the accompanying flatbed scanner to scan your photos one at a time. The flatbed scanner can also scan at higher resolutions, up to 1200dpi.

The touch-screen interface of the main console is easy to use with large, friendly buttons, and the user is prompted at each step in the process, so there is no need to memorize long instructions on how to use the device. Staff members are also close by in case you need some additional help getting started. Built-in image processing saves you additional time by automatically enhancing color/brightness/contrast, removing red eye, and automatically rotating and straightening images.

Interested in learning more? Call the Clayton Library at 832-393-2600, or visit the library.

When you are ready to begin scanning your photos and would like to reserve a 2 hour time block to use the photo scanner, you can call the library to make a reservation.  Be sure to bring a flash drive with you to be able to save your photos after scanning them. There is no charge to use the photo scanner - we hope you will use it to digitally preserve the memories contained in those photos so that you can easily share them and pass them along to future generations!




Overcoming brick walls by researching holistically

Brick walls are frustrating. They can lead to years of setbacks for the diligent genealogist determined to unravel the toughest family mysteries. Brick walls typically occur when you don’t have enough information to trace your family to an earlier generation. Missing facts like birthdates, places of birth and proof of residence in a certain place at a certain time can create obstacles that can discourage the best researchers. In other cases, you simply may not discover significant information on all your direct ancestors. For every individual who leaves a voluminous paper trail to follow, others seem to vanish with hardly a trace.

Sometimes genealogists focus so much on the pursuit of that elusive ancestor, they become victim to tunnel vision. You miss the forest because of the trees. Our ancestors were not isolated individuals living on islands. They were part of a family, community, town, or city, and nation. They were fathers, mothers, siblings, cousins, aunts, and grandparents. They made a living, worshiped, and participated in a vast social web like we do today. When the paper trail for your direct ancestors turn cold, it becomes crucial for you to step out of the tunnel and reconstruct their social web. Some call it cluster genealogy. I call it researching holistically.

Researching holistically involves reconstructing the life of your ancestors, their families, friends and other associates who knew them. Take note of godparents, informants on death certificates, and witnesses to the weddings, deeds, wills, and court cases of your family. Pay attention to neighbors in the census, members of ancestral churches, and comrades in the same military regiment your ancestors served in. You may discover previously unknown family connections between several individuals and families your ancestors had intimate ties to. Siblings may leave more records than your direct ancestor. Clues to family links appear in the records created by in-laws, uncles, friends, and cousins. Peruse books on local history to learn about the settlement of ancestral communities and the founding of local institutions like churches. You may have had ancestors who were members of churches, masonic lodges, or labor unions. Study history. Place your ancestors’ lives within the social, economic, cultural, and historical milieu of their times. 

For example, the papers of my ancestor Jean Baptiste Meullion contained the last will and testament of an unknown aunt of his wife and a letter written by his great niece informing him of the death of a sister in New Orleans I knew nothing about. Recently, I found the obituary of my great-great grandfather’s GRANDMOTHER while looking through the annual journals of old Methodist Episcopal Conferences that an uncle was a secretary and editor for. You will be surprised where information about your ancestors is hiding. Breaking through brick walls involves dedication, persistence, being thorough, and expanding your research beyond your direct ancestors into their social world. 

Clayton Library Manager's Message: Volunteering!

In this busy world, not many of us are looking for something else to do. However, volunteering isn’t something you should put off until you have the time or the money.  According to an article in Psychology Today, there are numerous reasons why the return on volunteering outweighs the time you invest. These reasons include living a longer and healthier life; establishing strong relationships; volunteering can be good for your career if you are still working; society benefits from your volunteering and volunteering can give you a sense of purpose. 

Being active and getting out allows one to be more physically active, and have a more robust psychological well-being. As you volunteer you establish lasting relationships. Volunteers in the same place establish a common bond to a particular cause. New relationships are built, and if you make volunteering a family affair, values can be passed down to children. Being with people of like mind helps to prevent loneliness. 

The benefits to society come about by sharing your time. As an example, volunteering at the Clayton Library helps staff fulfill job duties that are connected with our mission. Volunteer assistance helps us run the library smoothly. Projects may include shelving, collection maintenance, keeping the Clayton House open to researchers and much more.

The sense of purpose in volunteering is one of the big benefits of giving of your time. When you choose work that you are not getting paid for, it means you believe deeply in that issue or that place that you are giving your time to. This is evident in the Clayton Library volunteers. As I walk through the stacks in the library, or go over to the Clayon House thanking our volunteers for giving of themselves, the most often response is “I LOVE coming here and helping”.

Let me take this moment to thank all our library volunteers for everything they do, day in and day out. I appreciate your selfless giving, the hours you offer us, and the commitment you have made to the Houston Public Library and the Clayton Library.

If there are any other interested people who would like to live longer, be healthier, create strong relationships, give back to society, and spend some time at one of the top genealogy libraries in the United States, please contact the Clayton Library volunteer coordinator, Steven Bychowski.

Thanks again to our volunteers and library patrons!

Sue Kaufman
Clayton Library Manager


I have very little knowledge of the workings of the library but I am willing to help in any way I can. I have flexible hours but prefer mornings

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Steven Bychowski.

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