Do you have an old family photo you cannot identify? Are you unsure of the time or place a photo was taken in? Perhaps you want to connect with others who are researching a specific ancestor you have an image of? Try using Google Image Search to aid you in your family history research.
Here’s how simple it is to uncover new information about your old photos, and the people in them, in just a few steps.
1. Find a photo you want to research. If you have a copy on your computer you will be able to upload it directly to the search box. If the image is already online you can simply drag and drop the image to search. We’ll be using the image of the boy above for an example search.
2. Visit Google’s Image Search. Once you have the search page open you can either drag and drop your image from another website into the box to begin your search, or upload an image from your computer. To drag and drop, click and hold on an image while dragging it from another tab. Roll over the text box and it will expand into a gray area for dropping your image. To upload, click on the camera icon and chose a photo from your computer. We uploaded the above image directly to the search box.
3. Google will automatically show a search results page after you drop in or upload your photo. The search will showcase visually similar photos and exact matches. For genealogy purposes it will generally be the exact matches you’re interested in, but the visually similar images can provide helpful details about the time period or location your photo was taken in — and can even sometimes provide different photos of the same individual. Here is what we get when we uploaded the above image into the Google image search box. We now know that the boy in the photo is John Clem, have a historical background on him, as well as a list of several other websites hosting the same image (where more information can be found). Imagine if these were the results for a unidentified photo you have in your files or for an ancestor you have hit a brick wall with. Of course, results will not be so robust for a less well-known individual, but you might be surprised how much information you find.
4. Have a lot of results? You can further refine your search by adding or changing the keywords in the search box next to your image to make your results more valuable and relevant. Use this to limit your search to certain sites, time periods, or surnames.
Go ahead and try it for yourself! We’d love to hear about your results.
You may also like to check out this article from The Sociable on researching photo locations. It’s a great read.