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Scanning Update

Scanning Update

This morning I was up early but not to shop. Before 9 a.m. I scanned another 487 photos. I have learned to scan all mindlessly. I can decide what to keep, whether it is a duplicate, etc., later. My ScanSnap saves both sides so if there is something on the back to help me identify the photo later that is saved. Step two of this process will be naming the photos.

While scanning the photos I have found those I had no idea I had and plenty that I can’t identify as well as innumerable pictures of that little girl everyone apparently loved to photograph. What is really bad is today I found a picture from 1957 where I could only identify one person [my oldest brother] and possibly another [neighbor]. My sister, who was not born in 1957 as I am sure she wishes me to point out, used her later time memory to suggest a logical possibility for two of the people. The other two remain a total mystery. As shown before here, sometimes an outside person can shed light on a picture. Never hesitate to ask anyone you can.

I am now down to one file drawer, about half full of documents not related to genealogy, and one box of photos. Unfortunately it is a large box and probably contains 12-1500 photos. The good news is half of them are travel, scenery, etc., which may not survive the pruning. Prior to digital we took some bad pictures and were stuck with them.

I’m not giving up my beautiful remaining bookcase even when it is empty but I do have three shelves of books relating to the later 15th Century in England I’m ready to donate. No genealogy unless you a Plantagenet.

A Great Picture Viewer

A Great Picture Viewer

I am using Windows 7. I had tried Media Center in Vista but it was mostly an unpleasant experience. Win 7 was no better and I wrote it off. Then I discovered Media Center is meant to be manipulated with a remote control rather than a keyboard and mouse. After dithering for several months I ordered a remote for Windows Media Center. They seem to run between $12 and $25. I don’t know anything about them, chose the $18 variety.

Oh my! I opened my picture folder. I quickly learned I could make the picture the size of the screen which in my case is 22″ – which translates to 18.5 by 12. I quickly spotted details I had not noticed before. A little more playing and I found I could zoom in more and then once more. I can pan the picture, left, right, up and down. It’s great for group shots.

A long mysterious group shot containing quite a few relatives now can be seen to have background details virtually invisible before which might provide clues to the location of the event. I was able to study faces a lot better and have tentatively identified two more people.

Imagine doing this on a large flat screen television. I did not notice any distortion in going from the standard size from full screen. Who knows what one might discover.

You can also view videos, play music, even view and record tv assuming you have a tv tuner or have cable hooked up. I did run into trouble when I tried to access photos on my network attached storage which works well with other programs. I have not had time to look into that.

Media Center is part of the OS in Vista and Windows 7.

Identifying Photos Revisited

Identifying Photos Revisited

I got involved in revising my file system, going to Network Attached Storage and installing Windows 7. The last required a clean install and a reinstall of all programs. Thus I downloaded the last version of Picasa which is 3.6. I turned it loose on my pictures in their new location. This time I was able to do with an unattended laptop that I didn’t need for the day so it was allowed to do its work uninterrupted.

The latest version seems faster and also seems more adept at facial recognition. It has identified nearly 7,000 faces and identified about 100 people who are in multiple pictures. It has found the younger version of people I only knew as old and, upon inspection, has been right most of the time. It thinks at times my sister might be me and makes other interesting family connections, my niece in a close up and my grandfather for example. I don’t see the resemblance but it must be there.

Some of those 7,000 faces are people who happened to be in the picture, maybe in the background. You can tell Picasa to ignore those. Some are part of historical group pictures I own but cannot identify. Why my grandmother had them if there are no relatives in them escapes me so I continue to look.

I have been able to identify about 700 of the 7,000. Some are relatives I never met, knew or even heard of. Some are children of friends of my mother or grandparents that I never knew. When I have a rough time frame and perhaps a last name and location I have posted the information to boards and lists, so far without success.

I have enlisted extended family in identifying the pictures. I don’t understand why people get possessive about pictures. Scan them, share with all, get help with the identification. I’m not one who has to own the original but even if you feel you must you can still scan them and share.

We say we should have ask these questions, identified these pictures, etc. when the older generations were still here and yet we aren’t doing it for future generations.

I’ll get off the soapbox now but considering making scanning and identifying your photos, old and newer, a New Year’s resolution.

Mystery Pictures

Mystery Pictures

Last year I scanned all the paper. Bits and pieces keep showing up but, for the most part, I am current on scanning my documents. See Ancestor Hunting if you are interested in the details of how I did it.

Pictures are another story. I mentioned late in the series that the pictures were not done. They are still not done. In the interim one of my brothers [who never used a computer until very recently] has taken all the pictures he had and scanned them. Yes, he put me to shame. He has the same problem we all do — we don’t know who a lot of these people are.

If the picture is from my lifetime I can make a pretty good guess and probably find someone who agrees or recognizes themselves. Before that it is a guess. It may be an educated guess but it is often a guess. Further, others may disagree and there is no way to determine the truth. I need to work out some details [posting multiple pictures is not my greatest skill] but I think I will do it. If it works maybe other pictures can be added.

So I was thinking, almost all of my pictures came from Logan County so maybe posting them on a web site with a Logan County connection will help identify some of them. Maybe it would encourage me to get cracking on the scanning too.

In the interim, do you know these people? I know a couple people so I can safely say it is about 1905-1909.

Solving the Mystery

Solving the Mystery

Genealogy is often a mystery. Everyone loves a good mystery, right? In genealogy we want to solve all the mysteries and end up with all the facts. But until we do we need to search out the facts like any good detective.

The tools of a genealogy detective are very much like those of a good reporter. We want to know all the facts. We want to know the source of all the facts so we can evaluate their validity. “Anonymous sources” and those “highly placed sources” aren’t good in genealogy. A good genealogist deals in documented facts.

Let’s take the picture below. Who is it? It is Eliza Sciota Harding, known to her friends as Lida. Hopefully it says that on the back of the picture but most likely it doesn’t. The picture’s owner knew who it was and likely didn’t see the need to write it on the picture. The owner never dreamed we’d be studying it 130 years later. We know it is Lida because we compared it to other pictures of Lida and recognized her, not to mention there were living folks who had known her when we first found the picture. In this case it was easy.

What is it? It’s a picture. Did you think this was a trick question? That was the easy one.

When was it taken? This is harder. It can important in identifying who is in the picture. There are books which tell you what to look for in terms of backgrounds, poses, clothing, etc. If you have a lot of pictures to identify invest in a good book or two.

Lida isn’t terribly old in this picture. How old do you think she is? Can you see that “I don’t want to do this” look on her face? That, her childish body and her shorter skirt are indications of her age. Let’s say she is 10. Since we know she was born in June 1869, if she is in fact 10 in the picture, this could have been taken between June 1879 and June 1880. It was probably taken in the winter because farmers didn’t take time out for such things in the summer when every hour was devoted to work. We know her father was a farmer.

Where was it taken? Perhaps the name and town of the photographer is on the picture or the picture enclosure. In this case she was born, lived and died in a six mile area of the same county so we can be pretty sure it was taken in Logan County, Illinois.

Why isn’t a critical question in this case. We have other pictures which would indicate all of the family members, Lida, her sister, her three brothers and her mother had their pictures taken at what appears to be the same time, same studio, same backgrounds. What about her father? If his picture was taken it did not survive. If there was a family portrait made it did not survive. The father, Benjamin Harding, appears in later family portraits so he wasn’t against having his picture made. Probably his picture was taken when this one was but for some reason did not survive.

Genealogy Photo Album

Genealogy Photo Album

One of the things you can do on Facebook is upload photos and, frankly, it is a lot easier than creating a web page. Now you can share the photo albums with people who aren’t on Facebook.

You can find my first venture into a shared genealogy photo album at:

I’m learning as I go. I just realized there is a continuity with the pictures I picked at random. They are all related.

Done Digitalizing the Paper

Done Digitalizing the Paper

It’s been awhile but at this point all of my paper is scanned in and pretty much organized. It’s also backed up. It’s a great feeling. That doesn’t mean I have entered all the information in my genealogy program or done everything I want to do with the materials but I have eliminated the possibility of losing it to, say, a hurricane.

I still have a couple boxes of pictures. For some reason I dread scanning them. Of course, I will not be tossing them after they are scanned either.

The multi-function Brother printer/scanner/fax/copier is attached to my router and available to all computers on my network. Sounds great, right? The reality is you really need to be sitting by the scanner when you are scanning.

I’m experimenting with software which allows me to write a caption on the photos so down the road people won’t say “who the heck is this?” as I have said many, many times.

Who Are Those People? – All Those Pictures

Who Are Those People? – All Those Pictures

Going Digital 4

Scan all your old pictures. That’s the first step. If you have many pictures think about scheduling an hour or two or three a week to the task until it is done. There’s plenty of advice online as to how to do it. Select the method that is best for you and get busy. As you scan them name them in whatever system you are using. I name them by surname first name(s) description and then file them in the appropriate surname folder. Some people assign them numbers. If there are many people in the picture and you know who they are this is the time to make a text file with that information. I save it with same file name as the picture ending with ID. Thus the picture is jones john and family at 1876 graduation.jpg [or .tif] and the text file is jones john and family at the 1876 graduation ID.txt. Getting the pictures scanned should be a priority.

You probably should start the identification process as you are scanning because you may need the help of people who don’t have forever left. Start with those with a few missing people and work up to those where you know only a couple of many or no one. Study the picture. Makes notes about what you do know in a text file you can save – date, location, event, who you can identify, etc. Share the picture and the text file with other researchers and family members. Great Aunt Nellie may not remember everything but she may recognize someone in the picture. Take a dozen pictures to her. Since she’s not computerized you can take those you haven’t scanned. [If she is send them by email.]

Set aside some time to identify pictures on a regular basis until you are done. In my case that will be the rest of my life.

Remember, your older relatives are your friends as are any older people who lived in the area where your family is from or who may have known the people in the photo for any reason. Researchers who didn’t live locally may provide clues — “looks a lot like Mary Jane Smith in this picture” or “don’t know who they are but that is the old house at the homeplace in the background.” Remember, none of us are getting any younger including those older relatives. This is something you should not put off.

I have a photo my mother clearly had all her adultt life. It’s probably a high school senior picture and based on the clothing she is close to the same age as my mother. I don’t know the person. My mother’s relatives do not know the person. My mother’s closest friends and high school classmates do not know the person. How did my mother get this picture and who is she? I intend to find out.

Unfortunately, just becase Great Aunt Nellie thinks it is someone you still need to seek other verification. I sent a picture to some older relatives. Two of them agreed as to some of the people in the picture and it seemed reasonable since these two relatives were actually in the picture. They should recognize the people, right? Unfortunately, several of the people identified were dead before those relatives were born. Later I realized some of those deceased people had children with the same name. Are those really the younger namesakes, a distinction blurred a bit by age? The investigation continues.