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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