Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Solving the Unknown Photograph Problem through FamilySearch Photos

One way to identify the unknown people in old photographs is to share them online and allow anyone who sees the photo to identify the unknowns. There are a huge number of websites that you can use to expose the photographs to the public but how do you target the genealogists? For my own photographs, I have traditionally used my blog posts and a board. The main problem with trying to use these websites is that they are essentially passive. It is as if the photos are being posted on a bulletin board somewhere and identification is being left entirely to chance.

During the time it has been online,'s Photos program has constantly evolved. Features have been added to the program that makes it possible to upload photos of unknown people and allow all who search through the program to help identify their own ancestors that may be in the photos. The addition is a the ability to tag the photos with a date and place. If you do not know the names of the people but know where or when the photo was taken, you add a date and/or place tag and then when someone searches for photos using that place, they will see all of the photos with that reference including your unknown ones. Then anyone can identify the people and add the tag links to Family Tree.

Here is an example. I uploaded all of these photos from the Overson Photographic Collection to the Photos program:

Now, I can do two things. I can add the following description to each photo as a description.
This is a picture from the historic Charles Jarvis and Margaret Jarvis Overson Photography Collection, now found in the Archives of the University of Arizona. For more information: Identifications from Images of America: St. Johns (Cameron Udall, 2008)”
I can also add a place tag to each photo from the Event category. See the arrow on the following screen shot.

Now, if anyone searches for a either Overson or St. Johns they will see all of the photos with both either of these terms. Here is a screenshot showing the results of a search for "St. Johns" in quotes:

All of the items have the place "St. Johns" in either the title or a place tag.

A couple of additions to the program would be very useful. They could add the ability to search for multiple terms and they could add the ability to add the Place and Date tags to multiple photos at the same time.

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