Sunday, August 09, 2009

How Google Picasa Face Recognition Software Can Help Genealogists

Google Picasa Web Albums has face recognition software that can help name the unknown people who are in your old family photos.

This free software even recognizes the same person at different ages.

I discovered this by accident. I was scanning old family photos from one of those shoe boxes of unmarked and unnamed photos that every family seems to possess. After scanning, I uploaded the photos to a private and unlisted Picasa Web Album to share with my cousins so that we could collaborate on trying to determine who was in the photos.

I enabled name tagging** so I could name those people in the photos whose names I did know. I thought name tagging would be a good idea to keep us organized. After enabling name tagging, you can hover over a face in a photo in the Picasa web album, click, and type the name the person.

Then I discovered that after name tags are enabled, Picasa Web Albums will look for similar faces in your photo collection using its photo recognition software. Picasa shows an Add name tags button on the My Photos tab along with the number of untagged faces that were detected in the online photo gallery.

The Add Name Tag feature groups similar faces together. Its purpose is to let users tag photos with names a batch at a time, but for genealogists trying to figure out who is who in old photos, it aids in finding all photos of the same person - even at different ages. Then it suggests the name of the person in this batch of photos based on face recognition similarity to other photos.

It was a very impressive moment when Picasa presented me with a large array of photos with the same face, and then suggested a name which turned out to be correct.

I can't begin to say how helpful this was in naming people in my old family photographs. I had been manually going through the photos comparing ears and noses and eyebrows and so on to find all the photos of the same person. Google did this for me automatically.

Google Picasa makes photo name suggestions based on its software - it is up to the user to decide if the person in the photos are the same and that the names are correct. Face recognition is a tool but does not replace human judgment.

Once photographic subjects are named, you can click on a name to see all the photos of that person in your albums even if that person appears in a photo with others.

Picasa's name tags are very helpful but not perfect. The face recognition software works best if the subject is facing the camera. There is a limit to the success of face recognition when the subject is in the shadows or is in profile. And it didn't get all the photos correct. Sometimes in my case, it confused brothers; sometimes it didn't recognize the person at all, but still, oh, what a help.

Sometimes Google found all the photos of one person, but we still didn't know who it was.

But, overall, I found the Picasa photo recognition software extremely helpful in naming the people in my old family photos.

**To Enable Tagging in Google Picasa Web Albums

  • Click Settings at the top right of the page.
  • Click on the Privacy and Permissions tab.
  • Web Check the box next to 'Use name tags to name people in my photos.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Family Tree Maker 2010 Improvements

FTM 2010 is now available for sale in the Ancestry store. ( Upgrade Version.)  You can save 20% by using the coupon code G5JXTRY at checkout.

Family Tree Maker 2010

Here is a detailed list of what is new on this version of FTM 2010.

Tree Management Family Tree DownloadYou can now download your online trees directly into Family Tree Maker and either start a new tree or merge it into your current file. The downloaded tree will include the facts, images associated with the online tree and a link to the attached source records.
Enhanced File Statistics
You can view new statistical information about your tree, including the average life span of individuals in your tree, the earliest birth date, and the most recent birth date.

Data Entry
Enhanced Family ViewImprovements to the People workspace allow you to see more information about individuals in the pedigree view as well as information about the parents of the selected couple.
Ability to Quickly Add Facts on Person TabWhen adding facts to an individual on the Person tab, you now have the ability to quickly add basic facts (such as Birth, Marriage, and Death) from a drop-down list. The drop-down list will include any facts you’ve custom added to the editing panel on the Family tab.
Enhanced Editing of Relationships
A new relationship window gives easy access to relationship facts, notes, and media items.
Saved History List
Previously, when you closed the program, you would lose the history list that showed which sources, media items, or individuals you had. Now the history of your changes and additions is saved even after the program has been closed.

SourcingReplacing Source CitationsSource citations can be replaced by an existing source citation—without losing any links to individuals or media items.

More Robust Relationship Calculator
The Relationship Calculator now has the ability to display multiple relationships for an individual (for example when cousins marry).
Global Spell-CheckAn enhanced spell-check will look for spelling errors in all facts.

Charts, Reports, and Books
Family Group Sheet Redesign
The Family Group Sheet has been redesigned and has improved image support.
Genealogy Report ImprovementsThe wording of the Register and Ahnentafel reports now have a more narrative feel.
Kinship Report Lists Multiple RelationshipsThe Kinship report now lists every relationship for an individual. For example, if cousins marry, their relationships as spouses and cousins will be included.
Sources in ChartsYou can now include source information with a chart; sources are numbered and displayed at the end of the chart.
Export and Delete Individuals from ChartsYou can select a group of individuals in a chart and then export them as a separate tree or delete them as a group.
Include or Exclude Non-preferred Events in Charts and ReportsYou can choose whether to include or exclude non-preferred facts from charts and reports.
Shortened Place NamesYou can enter your own brief place names to use in reports and charts.
Book-Building ImprovementsYou can change the order in which items in your book appear by dragging and dropping them in the book outline; you can also use duplicate names for book items.

Scanner Support
You can scan images directly into Family Tree Maker.
Slide Show
Create slide show presentations using images you’ve included in your tree. (The slide show can be viewed in Windows Media Player).
Work with Media Items as a GroupSelect multiple media items at the same time; choose categories for media items as a group.

Maps and Locations
GPS/Latitude-Longitude SupportIn the Places workspace you can access and modify GPS coordinates. You can also select your own locations on the map and store their GPS coordinates.
Migration MapsShow the locations of an individual’s life events on a map. Or choose multiple individuals and show all the locations linked to an entire family. (You can select the specific individuals to include and the specific events you want mapped.)

Web Dashboard
Shows the latest news and information about Family Tree Maker and

My first review of FTM 2010 shows that it opens and runs much, much faster than previous versions. I am a happy FTM user and really like FTM's search integration. I also like the flexibility of the user interface.
To order FTM 2010 , go to the Ancestry Store, and enter G5JXTRY in the coupon code box at checkout.