FINDING YOUR NIKKEI ROOTS: A few of my favorite things


Epson V600 flatbed scanner next to the Epson FF-680W. photo by Linda Harms Okazaki

It’s getting to be that time of year again. Have you begun to ponder holiday gifts for your friends and family? How about genealogy gifts and gadgets from or for your favorite family historian?

Consider the following gifts FOR the genealogy geek in the family:

A scanner for digitally preserving photos and documents.

Epson V600 flatbed scanner next to the Epson FF-680W. photo by Linda Harms Okazaki

There are flatbed scanners for delicate items, such as old photos on cardstock. Sometimes it’s possible to bring this type of scanner directly into the archives (check first!). My personal favorite flatbed scanner is the Epson V600, which runs just under $250. It can save files in different formats, including JPEG, TIFF or PDF. You can adjust the DPI, depending on your needs. It can scan slides and negatives, too, though there may be other devices which can scan these more easily.

There are high speed scanners for digitizing large numbers of less-fragile photos. Imagine scanning the hundreds or thousands of snapshots you have from the 60s and 70s in just a few minutes. My personal favorite is the Epson FastFoto 680W, which runs just under $600.

Wand-style scanners are NEVER recommended for genealogists, historians or archivists as they can potentially damage irreplaceable items.

The Benro GA169TB1 tripod with a horizontal arm is great for photographing large documents. photo by Linda Harms Okazaki

A tripod with a horizontal arm is great for photographing large documents such as maps, legal documents, folded pages, and much more. My favorite is the Benro GA169TB1. It’s a bit heavier than others, but it’s sturdy. I also have the ball head for the greatest flexibility in photographing documents. It runs about $215, plus the adjustable ball head. Look for it on AliExpress ( or B&H Photo (

A gift certificate for digitizing those old home movies can come in handy. Lots of companies provide this service.

Large capacity thumb drives are essential. Spend a bit more, get lots of space. Be sure to toss those old ones; they don’t last forever and you don’t want to end up with corrupted files.

Software programs, such as Family Tree Maker (, Legacy Family Tree (, or Roots Magic ( are indispensable. TechRadar ( has a nice post comparing the most popular software programs.

Software for photo editing, such as Adobe Photoshop ( is useful, especially for old or damaged photos.

Who wouldn’t love a subscription to a genealogy program, such as Ancestry (, MyHeritage (, GenealogyBank (; lots of newspapers) or Legacy Family Tree Webinars (; an educational treasure trove)?

Consider giving a membership to a local or national genealogical society, such as the California Genealogical Society ( or the National Genealogical Society (

Archival storage boxes, pens and paper will always be appreciated. Try Gaylord Archival ( and Hollinger Archival Storage Materials (; both have lots to choose from. They even have storage boxes for your old textiles, such as kimono or wedding dresses.

External hard drives are essential for backing up all of those precious records.

Consider a subscription to a cloud-based back-up service.

Gifts FROM the Genealogy Geek:
If you are the family historian, why not consider sharing your discoveries?

Share some of those photos you’ve been scanning. You can share them digitally, or you can create hard copy photo albums.

Write a family story (it doesn’t need to include every single ancestor). Start with just a chapter, or perhaps one ancestral couple.

If you are interested in DNA, purchase some kits to give to family members. Most are on sale during the holidays, but remember, not everyone will want to participate.

Make a family chart. This can be a large chart printed through your genealogy software program, through formats such as Lucid Chart or PowerPoint, or can be sent to a company that specializes in charts, such as Family ChartMasters (

Some families like to give silly gifts or draw names. There are always little items such as coffee mugs and T-shirts with phrases like, “My Family Tree is Full of Nuts.” Amazon has an entire section devoted to genealogy gifts where you can order books, tee shirts, gadgets, and blank charts. Easy Genie ( is one company that has a variety of charts available for purchase. One of my favorite sites is Family Tree Notebooks, owned by Carly Morgan. She sells digital pages to help you organize your family history.

As long as we are talking about gifts, how about the gift of gab? Don’t forget to record your relatives as you ask them questions over your turkey dinner or your midnight snack of toshikoshi soba. You can use your iPhone, video camera, or a digital voice recorder. If you aren’t getting together in person for the holidays, why not record your group video call? Whichever format you choose, be sure to save your recording, then share it with everyone.

Happy holidays, everyone, however you celebrate the season!

Linda Harms Okazaki is a professional genealogist who is past president of the California Genealogical Society. She specializes in Japanese American records. If you have a genealogical question which might be answered in this column, send an e-mail to The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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