Google Images can help you identify those old photos. It can also do some other amazing things with any old photo, even the ones you can identify. It can help you figure out the time and place a picture was taken, which is great for your research if you’re not sure. It can also help you connect with other, previously unknown relatives who are researching the same ancestor.
In other words, Google Images is one of your new best friends when it comes to using photos to further your genealogy research. If you haven’t used it before, be prepared to be amazed at what it can do. This feature of Google has the potential to work genealogical magic. Here’s how to use it to get the most out of your family photos.
All you have to do to get started is to upload a photo to Google’s search box. If the image is already online, just drag and drop it into the search box. Once it’s there, click the link at the top of the Google page to “Images.” This will take you, and your photo, to the Google Images page. You will get a list of search results for your image, just like you would a search using words.
The search results will show both exact matches and similar matches…i.e., pictures that are visually similar to the one you uploaded. For more precise results, focus on exact matches. However, if you look at the similar matches, or if you only get similar matches in your search results, you may be able to use those to figure out the time and/or place your photo was taken, or even locate pictures of your same ancestor in different times and settings. This will give you a nice photo library of your ancestor at different points in his or her life that you did not have before, and adds to your family history record in a wonderfully rich way.
This can be a useful feature for breaking down genealogical brick walls, as the search results will show the other websites the photo is being hosted on. You may find out a ton of historical information on that ancestor you did not previously know, just by going to those sites and reading what is there. You can also contact the owner of the site or sites you find to see if they are related and connect with them by asking genealogical questions about that ancestor and/or that branch of your family. You can be helpful to them by providing the information you know that they may not. Making genealogical connections this way is a fun and highly useful way of expanding your family tree and the individual information you have on it for your various ancestors.
Naturally, there won’t be matches for every single photo. Lesser known people may have no matches at all, or only a few, or only one. If there are no exact matches, look closely at the similar ones. They can still provide you with plenty of clues about time and place, and may actually turn out to be your ancestor as an older or younger person than in your own photograph. And, of course, if you didn’t know who the person was in the first place and you get an exact match… well, now you know who they are and how they are connected to you.
If you get a lot of results to your search query, you can refine it to make the results more relevant to you. Do this by adding appropriate keywords to the search box, such as time, place, and surname. You decide what keywords will work best for you in getting the most relevant image search matches to your photo. You know your genealogy best, after all.
An image search is a little-used tool that can be of superb benefit to genealogists. Even if you know exactly who is in your photo, you may still use image search to find websites with information about that branch of your family you would never have otherwise located. A well-conducted image search can reveal websites relevant to you that you would never have discovered searching only by name. Think about that.
Even if you think you know all there is to know about a particular photograph, including who is in it and the family line they come from, as well as the history of the people in that branch, you may be surprised at what Google Images is able to provide you. It is worth your time and effort to put all of your old photos through Google Images because it can uncover some real genealogical gems you just won’t get with a traditional search query.
We all want to learn more about our ancestors, and using Google Images is an excellent way to do it. It is one of those wonderful little secrets that the master genealogists use to further their research, and now you can use it, too. Genealogical magazines have been saying for a while now that Google, as the world’s most popular search engine, is a marvelous genealogical tool. It is, in many ways. However, most genealogists don’t think beyond the name search, searching for genealogical research websites, or maybe a time period or place search for more information about their ancestors.
For example, many genealogists now know Google Maps can show the street view images of the places their ancestors lived, and what those places look like now. Satellite images provide an overview of an ancestor’s entire town or region. Image searching is now a new tool in your research basket. Use it, and be amazed at what it shows you.
Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)