17 August 2013

Haste Makes Waste and "How" Do I Know?

This post began with an error.

In my original haste to post this picture to another website, I incorrectly identified one of the children. The back of the original had the individuals identified, but when I was placing the names on the image I relied on my memory. The older lady in the picture I correctly identified as Nancy Jane (Newman) Rampley. She was the only person in the picture that I never actually met. The young lady on the right was her granddaughter, Nellie (Neill) Shanks (my grandfather Neill's sister). As I looked at the picture, the resemblance of the boy to my Grandfather Neill's brother Ralph was striking--striking enough that I incorrectly identified the young boy in the picture as Ralph.

The only problem was that the boy in the picture was not Ralph Neill. It was his younger brother Herschel L. Neill.

And I knew that. There were four children in the Neill family into which Ralph, Nellie and Herschel were born. Nellie was born in 1910, Herschel in 1912 and Ralph was older than them both. The boy in the picture is clearly younger than Nellie and, in my haste to post the image, I identified him as the wrong child in the family. But this is not a post about the pitfalls of hastily compiling information or identifying people in pictures.

The error was unintentional and the individuals have been correctly identified. But it got me to thinking. How do we know the identity of individuals in pictures we obtain on the internet? And, better yet, how to we track that knowledge when we do have it?

There is metadata associated with this picture of which most of us are aware:

  • when it was taken
  • who was in it
  • who likely took it
  • where it was taken
With the exception of who likely took the picture, genealogists are pretty good about the importance of who is in the picture, when it was taken and where it was taken. Usually we are not so concerned about who took the picture. 

But there is more about the picture that we need to record in some way:
  • how did I get the picture?
  • how did I identify the individuals in the picture?
  • how certain am I that these individuals are who I think they are?
In this case, the picture was identified on the back by Nellie (Neill) Shanks. The identification of Nellie as the identifier was based upon the handwriting and the fact that she was in possession of the picture upon her death. She would have been old enough to remember the individuals in the picture and might even have remembered the fact that the picture was taken. That information is just as important as who is in the picture. 

The identification of people in pictures is more than just "who" is in the picture. It is also "how" that picture was identified.  

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