General Questions – Digitising Media Services
For all correspondence and deliveries please address to:
Unlock My Past Limited
Horns Lodge Lane
KENT TN11 9NH
If you wish to deliver and/or collect by hand we are happy to accommodate this. We are based in Tonbridge, Kent and will be happy to arrange this by means of an appointment. We are flexible and can arrange for evening and weekend drop off and collections to mutually suit diaries etc.
To arrange delivery and collection please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0333 011 8514 (local rate call) to discuss and make an appointment.
On delivery we will acknowledge receipt of your photos and/or videos and will review these against the order and provide an estimated return date.
We return your photos and videos together with the DVDs (or other media) by Courier or Royal Mail Special Delivery. Where possible, for environmental reasons, we will reuse your packaging to return your photos, videos etc.
What’s the best way to send my photos to you?
Please pack them safely, use bubble wrap inside a padded envelope or a box. If sending slides please ensure that the boxes containing them are securely fastened using sellotape or elastic bands so that the slides do not spill out in transit. These can be individually wrapped in paper too and a small amount of padding inside the slide case to stop movement may also be advisable. IMPORTANT: Do not send your photos, videos etc in a plastic container as these are susceptible to cracking and breaking during transit and can also damage the photographs and tapes if they splinter.
We recommend putting a label with your name and address on the inside of the package. If for any reason they go astray in the postal system then there is an address to which they can be returned. In some cases it may be advisable to place stiffening card in to prevent the envelope being folded. Write ‘Please Do Not Bend’ on the outside of the envelope.
It is important to avoid any dust getting at the photos. It is surprising the difference even tiny amounts of dust can make to the scanning process. Do not use anything to pack your photos that might produce dust. If possible give them a clean before you send them. We air blow prior to scanning but two cleans are always better than one. If you do clean them then be very careful and only do it if you know what you are doing.
On any account DO NOT use water to clean your photos, especially slides and negatives. Water can cause major problems with photos. This also means it is prudent to make sure that water cannot contaminate your photos in transit. We recommend putting them inside a plastic bag before you put them in the package.
We recommend a secure, tracked delivery service such as Royal Mail Recorded Delivery or Special Delivery (guaranteed next day). You can also use tracked courier services such as www.collectplus.co.uk or www.myhermes.co.uk (Other courier services are available)
Please ensure that we have your postal address and postcode together with a contact email and telephone number for you.
How long does it take?
We provide an estimate prior to placing an order. We book your project in to our production schedule and we will let you know how long it will take us to complete your order and we will provide a date when work should be complete.
We prefer payment by bank transfer as this provides a safe and reliable means of transferring funds. We can accept cheques and we accept Credit and Debit Cards through PayPal. At present we do not take Credit or Debit Cards over the phone.
If you choose to pay by bank transfer we are able, through savings in transaction charges, to offer a small discount as shown on the invoice.
We ask for a deposit of around 75% of the estimated work at time of order. On completion we total the number of scans completed and raise a balancing invoice for the difference. We dispatch your photos, videos and completed DVDs on confirmation that funds have been transferred to our account.
Can you take US, Australian or New Zealand dollars or Euros?
We can take any currency through our PayPal payments system. We send you an invoice in Sterling and you can make a payment following the link. Your credit or debit card bill will show you the conversion rate for your transaction. You do not need to be a member of PayPal to use your credit or debit card to pay for our services.
The Standard Service scans photographs at 600 dpi and saves them as JPEG files (with a jpg file extension). This allows you to open and edit these on most photo editing packages. You can print from these at around 4 times the original size of the photo sent to us.
We will use a standard file name such as img001.jpg. You can change this on your own computer to be more descriptive if wished.
We run basic filters for the Standard Service to tackle dust and scratches and correct colour hue and sharpen photos.
We review these manually and make any final adjustments prior to saving these to DVD which can be viewed on your computer. Please note that these DVDs cannot be inserted into a standard DVD film player – unless it is able to read data DVDs. We can make slideshows from Pictures that do play on DVD if required. Please contact us for details.
What is the bit depth?
We scan at 24 bits (providing three channels of 8 bits). This provides the best file size / quality combination for normal usage.
Do you scan in black & white or colour?
We can scan photos as either black & white (monochrome) or colour.
We achieve better result with black and white prints by scanning them as monochrome. Where we scan mixed batches of photos, both colour and black and white, they will be scanned in colour.
What size photos can you scan?
We can scan Photographs from min. 63.5 x 50mm (2.5 x 2″) max. 215 x 356mm (8.5 x 34″)
Slides in 50 x 50mm (2 x 2″) card or plastic mounts.
We have an A3 Flatbed scanner used for albums and cardboard mounted as well as fragile photographs. This has max. dimensions of 297 x 420mm 11.7 x 16.5″
Which way round are my photos?
Once your photos have been scanned we turn the images the right way round. You don’t need to sort them in any particular orientation before sending them in.
Occasionally it may not be possible to identify the correct orientation of a photograph but these can be easily rotated on a computer file system or photo editing software.
How long do you store photographs for?
We store your photographs on our secure server for approximately 8 weeks. This provides us the opportunity to send you extra copies of DVDs and if there are any photographs requiring our repair service these can be ordered. In addition it provides peace of mind that should a DVD get lost in the post or perhaps be damaged we will be able to replace it. We will write to you giving notice that we will be removing your photographs from our servers.
Can I have a spare copy of the DVD with my scanned photos?
Yes, for a small charge we can supply duplicates of your scans, just ask for an extra copy when you send in your photos.
As there is no control on your scanned photo files you can easily copy the DVD on your own PC, or email files to others.
Can you scan into folders?
Yes we can do this. Please bundle up your photos with instructions and notes and we will scan to folders. You will be able to copy and organise them on your computer.
An example of folders you may wish us to make might include “Our Wedding 1967”, “Christmas 2000”, “Florida Holiday 2012” etc. Just let us know at the time of order and we will produce these to suit.
Our scanning system software restores colours and we review each scan to ensure that the suggested enhancements are suitable prior to applying the filters. This is part of our Standard Service.
For Slides and Negatives we run a different suite of software which attempts to remove small dust particles and scratches and which includes colour correction which we monitor prior to applying.
If we find that there are serious issues with photographs, slides and negatives we will contact you. Damage can sometimes occur where these have got damp or colour hue has shifted too much for the Standard Service filters to tackle.
We do have an advanced service that uses a technique called Digital ICE (Digital Image Correction & Enhancement). It removes scratches and dust and light spots, corrects colour hues etc. This is part of our Enhanced Service offering.
Can you scan Glass Slides?
Yes we can but we prefer to scan the slides themselves excluding the glass. There are a number of reasons. The first and probably the most important is that the glass can interfere with the scanning process and results in poor images. The second is to do with weight and transportation as the cost for postage is increased with the weight and the extra precautions required to safely transport glass between us without the glass getting broken could be prohibitive.
How much dpi is enough?
We use 600 dpi as standard for photographs. The final image fits a computer screen without loss of quality. Prints can be produced of around 3 or 4 times the original size. There is sufficient resolution for you to be able to edit, enhance and crop in your photo editing software whilst preserving a quality image.
For slides and negatives we have opted for a minimum of 3200 dpi as standard. The Enhanced Service uses 4800 dpi. As detailed above we have found that 3200 dpi allows us to preserve a good level of quality for everyday use. We use 4800 dpi in the Enhanced Service as we are running additional filters to improve the final results.
Can you scan card mounted photos?
Yes up to A3 size 297 x 420 mm 11.7 x 16.5 in.; in colour and black and white. We scan these by hand on our flatbed scanner. As this is a manually intensive process the cost of these scans is higher than our Standard batch scanning.
Can you scan photographs in albums?
Yes we can and we can handle albums up to A3 size 297 x 420 mm 11.7 x 16.5 in. We scan the entire page and then using that scan we isolate each photograph and save each photograph individually. You end up with one large scan per page and individual files for each photograph on that page. As this is a manually intensive process the cost of these scans is higher than our Standard batch scanning.Borders, creases, crinkles and other faults
Our scanners operate optimally on flat, square and oblong prints where the image covers the entire surface.
Some older prints have white or crinkly borders; these prints are easily scanned and will appear together with their white border. We do not crop these photographs. In many cases there may be a small black area outside the irregular edges as the scanner makes a square crop.Older prints are often very slightly off square; additionally photos have been trimmed so if one or two edges are not square the scanned image can have a slight black border.
Curled prints, particularly small prints, go through the scanner but these too can result in a small area of black around the scan.
If a picture is too fragile to go through our batch scanner we will use our flatbed scanner to capture the image. If we find an excessive number of photographs in poor condition we will contact the customer to discuss these.
I want scanning done to my own criteria, can you do this?
We’ll do everything we can to meet special requirements, just ring us on 0333 011 8514 or send an email to email@example.com and tell us what you need. Our equipment and software are ‘professional versions’ and can accommodate most requirements. We can accommodate all film types and we have dry mounting scanner jigs for unusual and difficult projects.
Can you scan rolled and folded negatives?
We can scan negatives that were rolled or folded / wrapped around cardboard. We would need to cut the negatives and we would need to undertake manual scanning to overcome the bend in the film. We need to minimise the natural desire of the film to roll back to its original position and this requires us in many cases to tape the negatives to our scanner jig.
Whilst it is possible to straighten out the negatives – it is a specialist task and we do not have the facilities to be able to do this at present. Negatives will be returned in their film canisters or wrapped back around their cardboard wrappers.
We have a batch scanning system for photographs that means we can scan accurately at high speeds. Slides and negatives are a more labour intensive operation as we have to mount these into jigs that sit in our scanner. We have to make sure these are rotated correctly and facing the right way around. The scans are at a much higher resolution and therefore take longer.Another issue with slides and negatives is that they tend to be in poorer condition and often have small scratches and dust on them. Whilst we use blowers to take off surface dust we also need to run filters to take away any superfluous spots or scratches. Badly damaged slides and negatives really require our Enhanced Service to produce good results.
The main reason for the difference in price is to do with the amount of labour required to set up and enhance the scans and the additional time required.
Video Transfer Services
How much can I record onto a single DVD?
We suggest two hours (120 minutes). This provides the best quality. We can force 180 minutes onto a DVD but there is a loss of quality doing this.
If I have all my old tapes transferred in one large order can I obtain a discount?
We do offer discounts for larger quantities as this helps our production schedule. Please let us know the quantities and we will provide an estimate and an appropriate discount.
What kind of material can you transfer?
We do not accept copyrighted material unless accompanied by a signed waiver giving permission from the copyright owner. Similarly we do not transfer any material of an illegal nature (see our Business Terms and Conditions). We cannot transfer anything which has DRM (Digital Rights Management) included in the media.
How will I receive my DVDs?
Your DVDs will be returned as printed DVDs with the name of your Video (if provided) and your name, customer number and serial number (often Disc # of #). Each DVD is contained in a paper case allowing you to choose your own style of Jewel Case if wanted. Sending the DVDs through this way saves on postage.
How long do you store my Videos for?
We do not store Videos due to their high overhead in terms of file space required.
Can you put chapters of my choosing on my DVD?
Yes we can. Our Custom Service is designed to allow you to provide us with your Chapters timed from the beginning of the video. We can accurately add these but ask that there is a timing cue in HH:MM;SS format and perhaps a brief description of the scene change so we can ensure we are inserting a chapter in the correct location. We default to having 5 minute chapters on all DVDs unless instructed otherwise.
My Video was shot in 4:3 Aspect Ratio can this be scaled to 16:9?
Yes we can scale from 4:3 to 16:9 on our Custom Service. We can run a filter to do this. In some very rare cases we have encountered problems with this (interpolation and shudder). If this is the case with your video we will contact you to discuss possible ways forward. Generally this is a trouble free operation.
Can you enhance my video?
We run a number of filters in the Enhanced and Custom Services which sharpen the picture, reduce camera shake, tweak the audio and video, brightness and colour. These are automatic operations. We cannot adjust video like we can with photographs (using Photoshop) and generally the quality of the final DVD is only as good as the source tape.
The Standard Service just does a direct transfer from tape to DVD and the only options are to insert chapters (we default to 5 minutes) and to put a title on the opening menu.
Do you transfer Cine Film to DVD?
At the moment we do not have the facilities to undertake this sort of work. We are monitoring demand to see whether we can add this service later.
Do you provide Jewel Cases?
We do not currently provide Jewel Cases, our DVDs and Blu-rays are returned printed with customer name, customer reference, title, type of disc (DVD Data, DVD Video, Blu-ray Data and Blu-ray Video). These are then inserted into paper envelopes with see through window. This leave the customer free to choose Jewel Cases that suit their collection; or to put the discs in a wallet etc. We can provide Jewel Cases and inserts if required please discuss with us.
The accuracy of the information provided in our reports is important to us. Where possible we will always extract information for the root or target person (the person that the history starts from), and those ancestors within the scope of the commission. Typically this information will be sourced from documents, or copies of documents, of that period. On occasion typographical errors may occur, and these will be corrected if identified in good time. However we can take no responsibility for errors or omissions which result from information supplied by the customer. Please also see our terms below on the inclusion of ancestors’ siblings, and ancestors outside the scope of a commission.
We will endeavour to complete each research project within an agreed time-scale. We cannot take responsibility for unforeseeable events which prevent the target deadline being met.
Missing ancestors -within scope
It may not be possible to include every ancestor within the scope of a commission. However this will generally only occur when there is a lack of conclusive evidence, following extensive research. Customers will receive a detailed summary of the research and a description of how conclusions have been reached.
Siblings (including half-siblings, step siblings and adoptive siblings)
Obtaining, researching and interpreting information that relates to siblings is difficult and inexact. We will therefore use the following process. Please be aware of the possible limitations or inaccuracies that can occur:
We will use census returns as our primary source to identify your ancestors’ siblings for inclusion on reports, family trees and wall charts. However, it will not always be possible to obtain all census returns. Siblings will not always be recorded in the same household as one of your ancestors, and the accuracy of the census information is wholly dependant on the honesty, integrity and understanding of the person who initially provided it. As a consequence we will identify the most likely interpretation of the census information, so that we can provide you with a full and illuminating report, family tree or wall chart. In the final report, we will make a clear distinction between the evidence-based conclusions that we provide for your ancestors, and the ‘best guess’ conclusions for their siblings.
The following is a list of some of the inaccuracies that may occur in relation to siblings-based research: omission of one or more siblings; one or more siblings’ details are incorrect; one or more siblings’ relationships to others on a tree are incorrect; individuals are included on the tree as siblings rather than being identified as adoptive. While we are well versed in looking out for these pitfalls, and our ‘best guess’ conclusions will have taken them into consideration, for obvious reasons it is impossible to guarantee absolute accuracy.
Similarly, if further documents emerge at a later date, and these documents suggest that the information gleaned from the censuses is incorrect, or that there may be additional siblings, this cannot be regarded as an error on our part.
Ancestors outside the scope of a commission
Inevitably, details of ancestors outside the scope of a commission will emerge from census returns, birth certificates and marriage certificates pertaining to those within the scope of a commission. These details will be recorded on reports and wall charts as part of the commission at no extra charge.
However, please note that the accuracy of these details is dependent on the reliability and understanding of the person who provided the information at the time. Problems which may occur include: an incorrect father’s name provided on a marriage certificate; incorrect details provided on census returns.
If, in the light of documents subsequently obtained, information already extracted by us proves to be incorrect, this cannot be regarded as an error on our part.
Genealogy is by its very nature only as successful as the available records that can be found and the interpretation of those records. We will provide all the evidence and sources as part of our report. We also include negative outcomes saving revisiting records already consulted.
Can you provide me with an electronic version of the family tree data?
Yes we provide a Gedcom file with each package as standard. GEDCOM is a proprietary and open de facto specification for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogy software. GEDCOM was developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an aid to genealogical research.
Can you provide me with different types of tree print outs?
We provide as standard a descendant tree from the earliest known ancestor or an ancestor tree from the target person going back in time. We can also provide charts such as relationship, pedigree, hourglass, bow tie and fan chart alongside the typical descendant type.
We can provide hand drawn and illustrated family trees and can produce trees with photographs of your ancestors.
What sort of reports can you generate?
We generate a family report (see web site for an example) which details each individual and carries notes and relationship information. We also produce an Ahnentafel report. It is a genealogical numbering system for listing a person’s direct ancestors in a fixed sequence of ascent. The subject is listed as No. 1, the subject’s father as No. 2 and the mother as No. 3, the paternal grandparents as No. 4 and No. 5 and the maternal grandparents as No. 6 and No. 7, and so on, back through the generations. Apart from No. 1, who can be male or female, all even-numbered persons are male, and all odd-numbered persons are female. In this schema, the number of any person’s father is double the person’s number, and a person’s mother is double the person’s number plus one. Using this knowledge of numeration, one can derive some basic information about individuals who are listed without additional research.
We can generate people, notes, surname, list of persons and timeline reports, family group sheets and many others.
We tend to provide the family report and Ahnentafel together with a family tree, our research notes and copies of certificates, census returns and any other documentation that we have consulted.
Will you post abroad?
Yes, our prices do not cover this but we can of course post abroad – we need to work out a price and send it for approval of the customer.
What experience do you have in genealogy?
I have been researching for over 35 years and have published works in Cockney Ancestor (the journal of the East of London Family History Society) as well as in Shemot, the Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.
I have a one name study of my Surname, Ferdinando, and a website of the work I undertook up until 2003 is published at www.ferdinando.org.uk. I was able to trace various members of the family back through to the early 1630s and recently made a breakthrough past there (my earliest until then known ancestor) back to the 1580s. I have visited a number of archives and repositories in my research and given various talks on family history. In 2001 I organised a family researcher weekend, for all the family who were interested, in Oxford, over 100 attended the weekend. If you want help or advice about event management, content and ideas about family research or reunion weekends, please contact me.
A great deal of the work I undertook was pre Internet and online records. The Internet has made the business of searching far more convenient but it also brings many pitfalls and false trails. It helps to have experienced the highs and lows of research prior to this time.
Can you give a talk to my group?
I can give talks on various subjects to do with genealogy and searching for family members as well as some of the work I have undertaken on the interregnum period and some of the challenges the early Jewish community of London faced under Cromwell and the Commonwealth. I can also talk about photographic scanning and video transfers. Based in Otford in Kent I can travel to most South East locations easily.
I can’t find the answer to my question?
If you would like more information on any aspect of our ordering or production please feel free to contact us by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our local rate number 0333 011 8514. We look forward to being of service.