Longtime readers know I have been on a quest to get all of my old family photographs identified. I’ve made good progress toward my goal, but I still have more photographs of individuals I do not know.
Why is this such an important goal to me? How does identifying the individual(s) in one photograph benefit my research? It’s more than curiosity.
How does identifying the individual(s) in one photograph benefit my research? It’s more than curiosity.
I want to be able to tell those individuals’ stories! I want to know the family stories contained within those old family photographs.
One thing that has been obvious over the years of working with these family photographs is that I need help. I need more eyes on a photograph to increase my chances of getting it identified. I need to crowdsource for my answers.
I can hear you asking, “Lisa, what do you mean?!”
Crowdsourcing is gathering information contributed by others for a project. (Source: Dictionary.com) Crowdsourcing family stories is utilizing other family members to gather those family stories. In my case, I am seeking to crowdsource the identification of individuals in a photo and/or discover further details in those photographs.
I’m so glad you asked!
There is no denying it, but the more eyes you get on a photograph, the higher your chances someone recognizes the person. As you reach out to individuals for help, always ask “Who else should I talk to?”
When you continue to reach out and connect with family members and other researchers, often a relationship develops. If someone recognizes one of your family photos, they likely have more information about the family. You will share research interests and potentially work on other parts of family history projects together.
This is perhaps my favorite benefit of crowdsourcing family stories! I want to know not only an individual’s identity; I want to know about the individual. I want to know reason the photo was taken. I want to know whose house is in the background. I want to know the reason for the celebration. I want to know why a specific brooch appears to be worn by different women.
I want to know the answers to all possible questions!
I know you are asking yourself that question! 😀
The obvious answer is to start with reaching out to your family members. Reach out to your immediate family and your more distant family. For those of you without family to ask, you are not off the hook for this!
Reach out to other researchers working on the same family lines you are. Contact the local genealogical society in the area(s) your ancestors lived in. Their members may be able to assist you and have local knowledge you do not.
📝 Genealogy Tip! Always ask, “Who else should I talk to?” when interviewing a family member or other researcher.
Now that I’ve convinced you on the value of crowdsourcing family stories, let me show you how I do that using a new tool called Ponga. Ponga allows you to easily organize your family photos and share those photos. It goes beyond sharing photos, though. On their platform you can invite others to discuss details and have conversations regarding a photo(s).
Let me show how I use it.
This is a photograph of the Haley family women of Charlotte County, VA. That’s my grandmother on the left.
Frequently, I use Vivid-Pix to edit and enhance my photos. [Learn how I use Vivid-Pix to “fix my pix” in Restoring Old Family Photos — A Vivid-Pix Tutorial) I did that with the photo above.
Then I uploaded the enhanced photograph to Ponga where I highlighted certain areas and made notes about the photograph or asked questions in the dialogue section.
The power of doing this is I can now invite people to see and comment on photograph. We can actually have a dialogue about the photo and the family stories within it. Perhaps a distant Haley family member can answer my questions or give me insight into the reason behind the gathering.
Here’s a short video on what that looks like:
As I learn of more and more people who are connected to the Haley family, I can invite them to join the dialogue. Remember, I’m always asking who else I should talk to!
(This article was originally published in July 2021 and included a special offer.)
The sharing of an old photograph, and a memory, isn’t a popularity contest, or a “what-ya think” moment. It’s not about the number of hearts or likes it collects. Leave that to social media and random current event images. Sharing an old photograph, can and should be the starting point for a walk down memory lane. Or perhaps the discrete reveal of stories shared with one relative but not to another.
As we share the details we find in pictures, clues lead from one story to the next. Connecting the dots with context and memories we soon reconnect as a family. Having reached out to my tier-one and tier-two relatives, siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews, I experienced pure unadulterated joy. Their comments, remembrances, and reconnections have been beyond amazing. I invited my family to the storyboard albums I’d created, …Then… I remembered Myrna. The game was afoot!
Following these steps will help you get your photos in order. Once you have the physical artifacts organized, you can digitize your collection and will be ready to get your digital collection into Ponga where you automatically organize them by person and start sharing your photos and the stories that go with them.