As noted in my analysis of the possible photograph of John Tanner's relative-by-marriage Samuel Shepherd, a picture needs to meet several tests:We run into the problem from time to time with the photos that are uploaded to the Memories section of the FamilySearch.org website. We are almost continually involved in controversial photo claims for our ancestor John Tanner. This is in part due to the huge number of his descendants and fact that a number of books have been published about his life. One interesting fact about the alleged photos circulating is that they cannot all be possibly accurate. I hesitate to re-publish either of the alleged photos because of their unwarranted proliferation. Instead, I will refer you to the extensive writing on the subject by my daughter in TheAncestorFiles blog. She has an index to her blog posts by the name of the ancestor so it is easy to find all of the posts on John Tanner.
- What is the provenance of the picture? (Who owns it and why? What is the chain of ownership?)
- Is there an identification included with the picture? Who made it?
- Is the technology appropriate to the time it was supposed to have been taken?
- Were there daguerreotypists or photographers operating in the area at the time?
- Any family resemblances?
- Do the ages of the people in the photograph seem to be accurate?
- What can the clothing tell us about when the picture was taken?
- What other details in the picture help locate the picture and identify the subjects?
Mis-identified photos will continue to be problem that will grow as more and more photos are uploaded to the Memories section of the FamilySearch.org website. For example, right now, John Tanner (b. 1778, d. 1850) has 17 photos. four of them are copies of the same disputed photo showing a family group and two are copies of another disputed photo. If you are interested, you can view John Tanner's Memories with his ID number, MMM9-MM1. You might also need to be aware that he has possible duplicates that cannot be merged at this time and that the duplicate has a total of 165 memories including two more copies of the first disputed photograph (actually a daguerreotype) and an original song recorded about him.
One of the realities of the Internet is that photos and other items can be spread almost instantaneously without any supporting validation at all. Their proliferation creates a new "reality" where a photo or story becomes so prevalent that it is accepted as true without substantiation. As we have found, it is virtually impossible to correct such a spread once it begins. This is especially true when we have no way to delete or edit photos or other items uploaded to the Memories section.