Do you have an old family photo you can’t identify? Are you unsure of the time period 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? If so, Google Image Search offers a unique way to explore your family history.
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 picture 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 chose to upload our image.
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 you will most likely want to focus on exact matches, but the visually similar images can provide helpful details about the time period or location your photo was taken in — and can sometimes even reveal different photographs of the same person. Here’s 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 and we have historical background information on him as well as a list of several other websites hosting the same image. Imagine if these were the results for an 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 can 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.
Updated: Originally published in Nov 2013