Organizing Your Family Photos—Part 3

Organizing Your Family Photos—Part 3

by Kerry Scott on 3 March 2010

I’ve already talked about how I started to tackle the task of organizing my old family photos, and shared some of the cool things I found when I searched my photos for family history clues.  Now I’d like to talk about some of the tools I’m finding helpful in managing this project:

  • Picasa.  Up until recently, I had been using the photo organizing software that came with my Kodak camera.  I hated it, but I never got around to looking for alternatives.  I’m glad this project forced me to finally do so, though, because Picasa is SO much better than what I had before.  For example:
    • It’s free. That fit my budget of zero dollars perfectly.
    • It’s easy to use. Making minor changes (cropping, resizing, etc.) are quick and painless.  I never once had to read the directions.  Uploading the photos to web albums for sharing was a snap.
    • It lets you tag photos by geographic location. If you know where the photo was taken, you can pinpoint that spot using Google Maps.  Visitors to your web albums can also see where the photos were taken.
    • It has a facial recognition feature. This isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough that I found it helpful (and a lot of fun).  It “sees” where there are faces in the photos, and asks you who they are.  As you identify people, it helps you find them in other photos as well.  I was amazed at how accurate it was…and it was interesting to see who the computer thought each person was in photos where I wasn’t sure myself.  It’s also sort of fun to see how it picks up on a strong family resemblance (it constantly confused my great-great-grandma with one of her sons, who looked exactly like her).  The other handy part of this feature is that once you’ve identified all of the people in the photo, your web album visitors can mouse-over each face and the name will pop up.  When I’m sharing group photos with distant cousins who don’t know the people in the photos, this is very helpful.
    • It allows you do make cool collages in just a couple of clicks. I made one to use as my Twitter background, which you can see here.
  • Google Maps. It was fascinating to enter the addresses of some of my ancestors’ old homes and use Google’s Street View to see whether they were still there.  I was surprised at how often their houses were still standing, and saddened to see the state of some of them (the house where my great-grandparents were married is run down and boarded up).  It’s also a nice way to go for a “walk” in your ancestor’s neighborhood, and see what churches, schools, and other buildings might have been nearby in their day.
  • The Minnesota Historical Society’s  List of Photographers. If you have Minnesotan ancestors, this is a must-bookmark.  The Minnesota Historical Society has a list of all of the known commercials photographers and photography studios in the state.  This is a huge help in dating photographs.  For example, I have a photo that was taken at the Hennepin Studio in Minneapolis.  Based on the time the family lived in Minneapolis and the time the website says the Hennepin Studio was in business, I can be reasonably sure that the photo was taken in 1907-1908.  That’s a big help.
  • Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs by Maureen Taylor.  This is one of the handiest genealogy-related books I own (which is really saying something, because I have three very tall bookshelves filled with genealogy-related books and materials).   The tools for dating photographs and coaxing out their hidden clues are fantastic.  Even if you’re not a genealogist, this is a great resource.

What tools have you found helpful in working with your old family photos?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Tiner March 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I’m amazed by the sheer number of photos you have, many of them studio photographs. Do you think this was typical of families in that time frame and location, or were your relatives unique in extensively documenting the family?
.-= Susan Tiner´s last blog ..4. The Final Post =-.


Kerry Scott March 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I don’t think my collection is unique. Most of mine are snapshots; the studio photos are definitely the minority. I’m just lucky in that I have ALL of the photos for my branch of the family, so my collection is probably more concentrated than most people’s.


Susan Tiner March 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I love the idea of the face recognition feature.
.-= Susan Tiner´s last blog ..4. The Final Post =-.


Michelle Goodrum March 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Welcome to the GeneaBloggers community. I love your website and mentioned it in my post today for the 52 Weeks Challenge 9 – Blogs. I look forward to reading your future posts!
.-= Michelle Goodrum´s last blog ..52 Weeks Challenge 9 – Blogs =-.


Kerry Scott March 4, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thank you!


Debi March 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Just got my copy of Maureen Taylor’s book yesterday – can’t wait to read it. It looks fascinating!


Paula April 10, 2010 at 12:43 am

Any idea on how to get relatives to share their pictures with you??? I’ve got very few pictures from my Dad’s Side and I know they have to be out there somewhere.


Kerry Scott April 10, 2010 at 6:38 am

Paula—I don’t have much experience with that in terms of immediate family; I was the only family historian in a very small family, so they came to me naturally. But if you begin to research your family history, I bet you’ll find people out there with photos. I’ve already found some on distant relatives’ Ancestry family trees (people can upload the photos when they upload the tree). I’m also working with another distant cousin now who shared a picture of my 3rd great-grandmother, which was a HUGE thrill since I’d never seen her. In most every family there’s someone with the photos, and if you just find the right person, they’re often eager to share.

If you do the research, they will come. At least, that’s been my experience so far.


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