Genealogy Crime Series #2: No Photo Identification

I recently inherited a ‘multimedia’ folder – an assortment of over 7,000 photos and records with virtually no identification.

The images that I’m interested in are the paternal grandfather’s line only. There’s no distinction by family line. I got it all. All the photos and records connected to over 38,000 people.

About 3,000 of them make an interesting family history. The other 35,000 are from a weekend whim back to Adam & Eve that include an unexplained fascination with General Robert E. Lee and David Brinkley in particular.

Everything is named beginning with a first name. Sometimes there’s only a first name. For instance, Minnie. Minnie who? Or just a nickname. Lots of people had ‘Minnie’ for a nickname. No surnames.

What in the world am I to make of a photo named ‘Ruth and Momma’? Is the person who wrote that even still alive to be asked?

No dates. Dates aren’t critical but they can help.

Insofar as I am able to recognize anyone, I notice that sometimes women are listed by their maiden names, sometimes by their married names. Considering that 99% of these images come from a single county of cousins married to cousins, using roughly 10 main surnames, the distinction is critical.

For starters, I did a broad sort between people, places and gravestones. Then I kicked out the Knights Templar, the kings of England and Cain and his brother Abel.

Since then, I’ve sat for hours with the Legacy Name List open on one monitor and one of these folders open on the other and picked through one name at a time sorting them into Mine and Not Mine. Mine are mere needles in a haystack.

ALL of these images came to me as JPG, most of them scanned at original size. Oftentimes someone’s head is cropped out of an original at about 30 pixels wide. See how to scan your photos.

These images were collected from a variety of sources over 30+ years. If I knew who any of these sources are maybe I could write and get better copies. There are no sources other than the person who sent them all to me.

We know genealogy can be a challenge. Is it necessary to make it a near-impossibility?

Photo Identification Tips

  • You might consider separating the files of your father’s line from your mother’s or your line from your spouse’s or your four grandparents from each other, just in case someone else is only interested in one of them. You know, a filing system of some kind.
  • If you must file by name, at least file by surname. List women by their maiden names, the same way they exist in your database, and be consistent about it.
  • Please add dates and locations to them if you know.
  • It’s a really simple matter of adding the source before you send images out into the world. If it’s not you, it’s someone else or even an online database.
  • If the photo needs further explanation that doesn’t fit in any other metadata field, write it in the caption.

Read about tagging images at Tag Images.

Get over your Picasa face-tagging addiction and get some intelligent software that can get the job done.

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