Monday, April 15, 2024

Photo Fun And Confusion Apps, DPI, Sizing, Storage /Scanning Photos and Negatives

A collection of our old family cameras

In the past decade, I've found myself inheriting family photos by the hundreds. Many aren't marked. I've been using photo facial recognition software to try to identify people in the photos. I've also been looking through old boxes for negatives of our family's lost photos. I watched a Legacy Webinar, "Got Old Negatives? Scan Them With Your Phone and These 5 (Mostly) Free Apps!" by Elizabeth Swanay O'Neal, on how to use phone apps to scan negatives. These apps produce positive images of your negatives so you can get digital copies of old photos. I've been meaning for years to try to restore the lost photos, using the negatives.

Scanning Photos

Scanning old photos has been very time-consuming. It's been especially time-consuming because I've rescanned photos more than once. I should have done more research before scanning the photos. According to several experts, it's best to scan photos at 300 DPI (dots per inch) and as TIFFs. The size of your scanned photos should be at least 1280 x 720 pixels. The one scanned below was too small to enlarge even on a computer screen. I'm rescanning everything not large enough, or that is scanned as a JPEG.


My laptop had to be restored to factory settings due to a virus. I haven't reinstalled my scanner software yet. I decided to use my phone to make copies of some photos. I noticed the phone actually saves my photos at a larger size. I used Google Photoscan app for some of the photos. Some of the scans didn't come out sharp enough. I then tried using my phone's camera, and the results were sometimes better.

You can see below that the photo on the right is sharper than the one on the left. The one on the right was taken using my phone camera, the one on the left was scanned with Google's phone app. I think generally, if you're using a phone, just using your camera generally produces the best results.

A problem using the phone goes back to the DPI (dots per inch) debate. My Google Pixel phone saves photos at 96 DPI. The DPI recommended to make prints is at least 300 DPI. I've set my scanner to 600 DPI. It does sound like DPI is important if you decide to make prints.

From Google AI

I'm not planning on making prints at this time. I would like to save them at a good resolution to print in case family members would like prints. I plan on reloading my scanner software and using that instead of my phone.

I tried using a scanner at a library, but their scanner didn't automatically crop the photos like mine. When I cropped the photos myself, the DPI went below 300, down to 120 DPI.

I've been backing up the photos using Google Photos. I didn't realize they didn't automatically save photos at the original quality. Storage saver is the way they save the photos unless you choose original quality. The photos are compressed to save storage space. That might be fine, but if I've gone to the trouble of producing high-quality scans, I want high-quality backups.

Scanning Negatives

As I said, I watched the Legacy Webinar about scanning negatives using phone apps. I have not made a lightbox yet. A lightbox would produce the best quality prints. I've installed Kodak, Photomyne, and Filmbox negative scanning apps on my phone. I'm using Filmbox the most. That app seems to produce the best results for me.

Different size negatives I've found. The bottom 35mm negatives, on the bottom, are easiest to develop. 

Filmbox suggested using a laptop screen to scan your negatives. I have actually gotten better results using my iPad, which I can lay down flat.

This scan turned out well. The only thing I don't like is the graininess; otherwise, it's acceptable considering I no longer have the original. Better than nothing.

I took the negatives to Samy's Camera, in Pasadena, California, and had them scanned there. Most photo developing places don't scan or develop old Instamatic camera negatives. Below is the photo scan they produced.

The image produced by Leona at Samy's Camera isn't grainy and is lighter in color. The cost to scan these at Samy's Camera is $2.00 per digitized negative photo. That is the least expensive scan. The price goes up if you want them scanned larger. For that price, I received a CD with the scans, and I brought in a flash drive to also have them saved to.

Leona, at Samy's Camera, got a better scan than I did, the comparison below. My Filmbox scan is dark and grainy, on the left.

These party photos are from 1973. Some of the negative images may be deteriorating a little. Some of the photos were blurry to begin with, as you see in the photos below. The old Instamatic camera didn't take good photos of moving objects.

Without the original photos, it's hard to say whether the photos developed 50 years ago were any clearer or the colors more accurate?

In the case below, I'm not sure if this old Brownie Camera negative can produce a better image? This negative is over 60 years old, taken in May 1962. A wedding photo of my parents. I'll eventually have a professional scan it.

I love old family photos and want to make sure they are backed up and not lost so we can continue to relive happy family moments.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Can Names Give Us Hints To Family Origins/Can AI help?

The most common first names in my Family Tree

This isn't an April Fools' Joke. Yes, in some cases, names can indicate family origins. You can use AI, with the caveat that it can sometimes generate inaccurate information, to point to a possible place of origin based on naming patterns.

For instance, no one in the family knew where our Kapple line originated. Doing some library research using books on surname origins, we discovered it's of Germanic origin. It's also easy to identify colonial American German ancestors because they tend to use different first names, sometimes written in German, such as Johann or Ludwig.

I've been interested in tracing my colonial American ancestors back to a place of origin in the British Isles. In most cases, that is impossible to do because passenger lists weren't kept. British Isles ancestors were citizens of the empire and didn't have to swear an oath of allegiance when arriving in America. I know my Forgey ancestors were Scots-Irish. Family members left a written record of where the family was from, and approximately when they came to America, which was in the mid-18th century. The fact that they were Presbyterians was also a clue to their origins.

Most of my colonial ancestors settled in the backcountry. According to the book "Albion's Seed," most of these backcountry people were from Northern England. The settlers were often from both sides of the Scottish Border, and Ulster Ireland. I know I have several Scottish and Scots-Irish lines.

Lines I'm not sure of the origins of are my Browning, Wray, and Hicks lines. I decided to do a quick comparison of popular first names in England and Scotland in the 18th century to see if I could relate the choices of names to either England or Scotland. I already know, from my Forgey family, that Andrew, James, and Hugh were very popular names for the Scots and Scots-Irish.

According to ChatGPT, these male first names were most popular in 18th-century England:

The most popular 18th Century Scottish male first names according to ChatGPT were: 

According to ChatGPT the most popular girls names in 18th century England were: 

According to ChatGPT the popular Scottish girls names in the 18th Century were:

Some popular names should have been on the Scottish lists are Hugh, and Eleanor. Otherwise I think ChatGPT did a good job coming up with popular names. 

The names used by the lowland Scots and English are quite similar not really helping me much. The names Andrew, Alexander, are helpful in identifying families with Scottish origins in the 18th century, otherwise the names used are basically the same. 

I then gave ChatGPT the names of my ancestors Moses and Elizabeth Wray's children's names and asked about this families origins. 

What ChatGPT came up with is very plausible. I don't know when the Wray's came to America. They certainly could have been mixed English and Scottish. 

Moving on to the Browning family. What does ChatGPT have to say about them?

ChatGPT is predicting English ancestry based on these names. Edward, the father of this family, was likely an indentured servant. He may have come from England. Could be right? Unfortunately nothing was past down in the family regarding where the family originally came from? 

ChatGPT also predicted English origins for the Hicks based on first names used:

Let's test ChatGPT with ancestors with known origins in Ulster Ireland, my Forgey family. 

It identified them correctly as Scottish or Scots-Irish. 

I'm not sure how long the Wrays, Brownings, or Hicks families were in America or whether they married out of their ethnic group? They could be mixed English and Scottish. Mainly English and Scottish. Without surviving records it's hard to say. 

I mainly did this for fun. The information regarding origins is impossible to verify, at this time. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Childhood Greeting Cards 1960s


Me sometime in the 1960s. Probably taken at JC Penney in El Monte California.

Going through some old boxes of stuff I found some old greeting cards from the 1960s. I was born in 1963. 

The earliest of my cards was congratulating my parents on my birth in 1963. 

A 1964 1rst Birthday Cards from my parents, and another from an aunt, uncle, and cousin:

A card from my Aunt Grace who was also my godmother:

A 1966 3rd Birthday Card from neighbor children:

Some 4th Birthday Cards from 1967:

A Valentine from my maternal grandparents Charles and Graciela Forgey:

A season appropriate card. An Easter Card from my maternal grandparents. My grandmother Graciela was Nicaraguan. English being her 2nd language she had a little problem spelling grandfather:

Saturday, March 23, 2024

The Puzzling DNA Genetic Communities/ Now you see them now you don't

 When the DNA communities first came out I was a little disappointed I had so few. I'm still disappointed. As a matter of fact I lost a community that was accurate for me, as did my mother. 

AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe have these genetic communities. I haven't been checking them so I didn't know my mother's, or mine had changed at AncestryDNA. 

These were our communities at AncestryDNA in March of 2017:

These are our current Genetic Communities at AncestryDNA:

Were the changes for the better? 

No. I lost the Connacht Community which was accurate for me. Evidently my connection wasn't strong enough. My great-grandmother Helen Mullen-Mason was born in Connacht, Galway, Ireland, so that was correct. 

I've gained, along with my mother, a large Upper Midwest & Western Settlers Community, which generally doesn't relate to our ancestry. Only one of our ancestors, Anderson Wray, lived on the fringe of the community in south east Kansas. He migrated there in middle age from Indiana without his late wife, our ancestor, and his daughter Elizabeth, also our ancestor. So we have only one direct ancestor who lived in that area. We do have many cousins who lived or currently live in the Upper Midwest & West. We have many relatives from all over the United States. I would say the Upper Midwest & Western US Settlers community doesn't reflect our ancestry very well. I would rather have communities that reflect our actual direct ancestry. 

According to AncestryDNA's Genetic communities I have Upper Midwest & Western US Settlers from both my mother and father's side. I'm not aware of any of my father's ancestors in that area? All of my close matches are in that community also. It's a way to vague, and broad, a community to be meaningful at all. It's also inaccurate. 

I've marked all of the counties my direct paternal ancestors lived in on the map below. You can see how there are no ancestors living in the community area. 

The first communities, still vague, were better reflections of our actual direct ancestry. My mother's earliest communities included Virginia and parts of Tennessee where many of her paternal ancestors lived. Below is a map of the counties my mother's ancestors lived in. 

I suppose it depends on where you live as far as how useful the communities are. For Americans a broad community in a foreign country is helpful. Connecting to another country is helpful. Broad genetic communities in the United States aren't very useful for Americans. We are a very mobile country, while some families have stayed in the same areas for generations, most Americans have genetic cousins all over the country making broad communities not very helpful. 

My broad Nicaraguan community would be helpful for an American cousin unaware of their connection to that country. My Quebec, Canada community is accurate. My great-grandfather Pierre Masson's family came from the Trois-Rivieres, and Maskinong√© area of Quebec (oddly, I have no French admixture at AncestryDNA even though I'm in a French Canadian community there?). 

My Aunt's Burgenland community at MyHeritage is very helpful for cousins unaware of this connection. 

I would say that only fairly accurately pinpointed genetic communities in the United States are helpful for genealogists. At this point in time, for someone like me, their genetic communities only show a limited picture of our ancestry. I only have 3 genetic communities, only one inaccurate one covering the western United States. As you see in the map below my ancestors were from a different area in the United States than the Upper Midwest & Western Settlers group would indicate. 

Personally I have a good idea regarding where my family came from. I've been researching my family for over 20 years so I should. So far I haven't found any non paternity events DNA testing. I really don't need the communities. It is interesting, however, to see how they evolve, and how close they are to reflecting our true ancestry. If at some point these communities pinpoint my mother's family in Jackson County, Indiana, where our Forgey ancestors lived for generations, I would say they are now very accurate and useful for our American ancestry.