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Tagging tricks

A few columns ago, I wrote about my project to tag everyone in my family photos. Since I have been researching my family history for 25 years, and have scanned the photo collections of many relatives, I have over 23,000 photos to tag. If it’s any surprise, yes I am still working on this project after all these months.

I have a few new items to present to those of you who might have thought about starting this project with your own photos. Believe me I am not discouraging anyone from starting the project, even though it is taking months for me to complete my collection.

The project has been made much easier by the fact that I can start typing part of a person’s first or last name and it shows me matches and I can quickly select the right one. In fact, if I type part of a surname, I can check the boxes of several people at the same time if they are all in the same photo. Let’s just say that if I have to type “Anna Angela Santoliquido” every time I had a photo of my great-grandmother, I might have found a different project. Instead, I type “Anna A” and only two or three names come up. I could also type “Santol” to narrow it down to a dozen or so.

However, I made a small mistake in using multiple computers to do the project. I have all my photos on my laptop, but I wanted to take a subset of photos to tag on my tablet. The tablet computer is small and easier to use in a small table. So I copied about 500 photos to a flash drive and took the drive and the tablet with me to a bar where I could watch the Blackhawks and work on this at the same time.

Before you say it, no I didn’t spill my beer on my tablet computer, although that could have happened. But my mistake was that I lost the use of all the tags that are on the other photos that are on the laptop. It turns out that you need to turn on “File Indexing” for the folders that contain your photos. This is the only way Windows can quickly access every tag in every file fast enough to display it while you type. I did not realize this until I spent an entire evening retyping the same names over and over. It will allow me to copy and paste, but I can only paste the same name if it repeats itself over a series of pictures. So I realized the benefit of using the same computer to add more tags to the collection.

For those of you who have started, or are planning to start this project for your photo collection, make sure you have the File Indexing turned on. Don’t just turn it on for the entire drive, because it will pick up too many tags from too many places. You can select the main folder, and it will include the subfolders if you check the box.

Now that I am about 75% finished with the project, I have two other subsidiary tasks to perform. One is to figure out who I was unable to tag, and then figure out who I can ask. I plan to find living people who are in the photo with the unidentified person and ask them if they could help. I have been working with my parents for months, and they have helped with a lot of the unidentified people. There are still people that they can’t remember. So I am limited in who I can ask. However, I even have people in pictures with myself and I cannot remember who they are.

I plan to use Facebook as a means of finding people who can help me identify the unknown people in the photos. First I need to friend or message those people. Then I need to create a photo album and make it only available to the person in question. If the person is not a friend, you may have to share a link to the photo album. The photo album can also be uploaded to Dropbox or another cloud area and shared that way if the person you need help from is not on Facebook. My method is to send all photos I have of that person to the album, even if I know everyone in most of the pictures. It’s sort of a payoff for their trouble. Hopefully they can help identify the people you need. If you’re really lucky, maybe they have a few old photos with you and maybe they can send them to you too.

Even if I have everyone identified in some older photos, it might be a benefit to send an album of pictures to people who our family has lost touch with. They might enjoy the rekindled memories from the old days. If you’re lucky, they just might have photos you don’t know about. It can’t hurt to try.

If any of you have any luck using these methods, or if you don’t, please write to me at italianroots@comcast.net and please put Fra Noi in the subject line.

About Dan Niemiec

Dan Niemiec has been the genealogy columnist for Fra Noi since 2004. For the past 25 years, he has researched his genealogy back 17 generations, plus tracing descendants of his ancestors, yielding 74,000 relatives. His major focus is on civil and church records in Italy, Chicago vital records, Chicago Catholic records and most major genealogy web sites. He has given dozens of presentations to many local and some national genealogy societies on topics such as cemetery research, Catholic records, Italian records, Ellis Island and newspaper research, among others.