Saturday, April 4, 2020

My 5 Favorite Genealogy Blogs

Genealogy is one pursuit in which I've relied heavily upon blogs to further my skills and awareness. There are MANY terrific genealogy blogs out there, but listing the merits of every deserving one is well beyond the scope of a single post. Nonetheless, I want to recognize here the blogs that have especially shaped, and continue to shape, my outlook. Keep in mind that these have only been the most important ones for me. I always gain valuable insight from many others as well.

Without further ado, here are my 5 Favorite Genealogy Blogs in alphabetical order (without their tag lines).

AmyJohnsonCrow.Com (by Amy Johnson Crow)

Amy is a very well-known, active figure in the wider genealogy world. The thing I really like about her blog, and about her podcast (Generations Cafe) for that matter, is that they exhibit her great gift for giving clear, unencumbered advice. She has a way of making readers quickly understand the important points in what are often some very complex methodological issues. This is not only extremely helpful for beginners, but it's also beneficial for more experienced hobbyists who need to come out of the weeds and start seeing the forest for the trees again. And she delivers everything in a most congenial manner! Amy is also the inventor of the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" Challenge (see her own explanation of it here), which many bloggers have taken up. I hope to start my own such odyssey here soon.

Family Locket (by Diana Elder and Nicole Dyer)

If I had to pick a single blog that effectively relates to the novice what the standards and methodologies of professional researchers look like, it would be this one. Family Locket is run by the mother-daughter team of Diana Elder and Nicole Dyer, and it is a companion to their equally wonderful podcast, Research Like a Pro (as well as their book of the same title). When you're ready to take your genealogy to the next level, this blog is not to be missed. It is full of detailed procedures for things like finding and citing various kinds of sources, taking effective notes, and incorporating DNA into traditional research. It averages around several posts per week, and boasts a massive library of extremely useful content. Along with Genea-Musings, this is my favorite "How To" genealogy blog.

Genea-Musings (by Randy Seaver)
God blessed Randy Seaver with an enormous amount of energy. How else does one explain his daily posts of substantial content? In fact, Randy produces so much content that he has several weekly series ("Amanuensis Monday," "Tuesday's Tip," "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun," etc.) as well as other series such as "Seavers in the News" (part of his work on his own family), "Best of the Genea Blogs" (where he graciously recognizes other genealogy blogs), and news/collections updates from several of the major genealogy services. Randy also provides plenty of practical advice on how to cite sources, manage your genealogy software (particularly if you use RootsMagic like he does), and tons more. His coverage of news and hot issues in the genealogy world is second to none. If that weren't all enough, he also shares meticulously detailed/sourced research on his own ancestors in extensive posts. Again, this is all amazingly done on a frequent, regular basis. I get so much of my news, insights, and know-how from Genea-Musings that I typically visit it multiple times per day. I've bookmarked many of its posts. It is one of the great online treasures of the genealogy world, and an absolutely essential resource for anyone serious about the hobby.

Genealogy's Star and Rejoice, and be exceeding glad (by James Tanner)

Technically these are two separate blogs, but I am treating them under a single entry here. Together, they provide some of the most thought-provoking and entertaining reading to be found anywhere in the genealogy world. In this they remind me a little of Donald Lines Jacobus's book, Genealogy as Pastime and Profession, which readers here know to be my favorite genealogy volume. In addition to occasionally providing direction specifically tailored to LDS genealogists, James likes to tackle bigger issues like the following: genealogy and its relationship to technology, the nature of sources and what they can tell us, and what preserving our research looks like now or in the future. He discusses his topics with a lively wit and humor. (See here for a particularly memorable example.) You won't have to read many of his posts (or view his fantastic BYU Family History Library Webinars on YouTube) to see that he isn't afraid to be blunt...or disagree with certain bits of conventional wisdom. This makes him something of a man after my own heart. For these reasons, James has exerted a powerful influence upon my genealogical thinking.

TamuraJones.Net (by Tamura Jones)

Speaking of bluntness, we have Tamura Jones's blog. Tamura addresses research practices in genealogy with considerable success, but his special area of expertise is technology. And when it comes to what he thinks works and what he thinks doesn't, Mr. Jones doesn't pull any punches. This makes his posts extremely valuable; he's not trying to toe a company line or sell a service. He will tell you frankly, and often wittily, why a certain genealogy software program or other product succeeds or fails. He has abundant understanding of programming, and he knows how to share this knowledge in ways that don't mystify the layman. Tamura's blog has opened my eyes to a number of factors to consider when evaluating computer-based tools. (Thanks to him, I'll now vigorously avoid anything without unicode!) He also deftly addresses industry trends; I love his year-in-review posts. TamuraJones.Net doesn't offer new content very regularly, but I check back frequently all the same. When a new post does appear, I typically drop everything else and read it on the spot.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

On the Importance of Keeping a Well-Tended, Public Tree

I imagined that being isolated at home during this pandemic would allow more time for genealogy. It turns out I've found plenty to keep me occupied, which partially explains why I haven't blogged in a while. Actually, there is one activity that has devoured what genealogical time I have had: working on my tree. Recent advancements in my research that were made possible by this tree have reinforced its importance for me. Hence, I've kinda "binged" on it a bit lately. Has this taken time away from blogging? I'm afraid it has. If you look forward to my blog posts, I hope you'll forgive me for striking while this particular iron has been hot. But at least the preoccupation has given me occasion to share some thoughts on what I feel is an extremely important tool.

Why should you keep a well-stocked Ancestry tree? Why should you make it public? For multiple reasons. First, Ancestry has a massive number of subscribers. This means that your work is going to get more exposure there than possibly anywhere else. It also means that you have an increased chance of encountering user-contributed records and artifacts there (though places like the FamilySearch Family Tree may eventually gain ground). I myself post Non-Pajama Contributions to my public Ancestry tree very frequently. Having this tree be public allows me to see who is attaching my contributions to their own trees. This in turn allows me to connect with users who may be able to help me in my research efforts, and whose research I may be able to help advance.

Second, Ancestry has the largest DNA tester pool of any large genealogical service, and their ThruLines feature depends greatly upon people maintaining accurate public, or private-but-searchable, trees. The more that users add and source-support not only direct ancestor lines on their trees, but also cousin lines, the more that other DNA users are able to make sense of their matches, connect with you if you match them, and further everyone's research. Carolynn ni Lochlainn calls this process of adding to cousins "shrubbing." I like that term. The practice is one of the most important uses of an Ancestry public tree, and one of the main reasons I keep tending mine.

Third, there's no getting around it: Ancestry has a massive lead on the number and kinds of records they can offer to subscribers. I've downloaded countless vital certificates, parish records, and other items there that have more than made up in value for the site's subscription fee. And it is EASY to attach these records to one's tree there. This allows for very efficient workflow. Also, it may be true that more of everything is available at Ancestry for you than it is anywhere else. You'll have to attach (and source!!) outside records to fully flesh out your relatives' profiles, but it's very convenient to work through the hints (CAREFULLY!!) and relatively quickly account for the census and other obvious stuff in relatively short order (in most cases). Even if you don't have a tree on Ancestry, the sheer size and continued growth of their records database make it practically mandatory that any serious genealogist check back there often.

Fourth, the mechanics on Ancestry's personal tree program are extremely intuitive and effective. With more features and tools being added all the time (see the latest here), it's quite the easiest way to showcase your work online in a setting controlled by you. And it's free! You must have a subscription to Ancestry to attach most of their database's records to your tree, but you don't need a subscription to keep the tree itself and attach outside records and photos. Also, paying subscribers can access your ongoing work even if you are not currently subscribing to Ancestry. This all makes it easy to keep working on your tree there while you may have lapses in your subscription.

Fifth, keeping a public tree on Ancestry is just another hedge against your work being lost to history. If your eye is on eternity, maintaining a presence on the site of the world's largest genealogy service should be within the line of vision. You never know who might use your work, and who might help preserve the memories of the people you research. Ancestry is a big place with lots of traffic, so eventually there's bound to be some of this going on. It's just another example of how sharing freely with others pays big dividends.

I'll say it again: keeping a public tree is the best way I know of to showcase your work publicly. It's true that you need a subscription (or access to a library subscription) to access other members' trees in most cases. But even granting this, your tree's exposure there can be considerable.

I offer the above thoughts assuming one big thing: you're meticulous. If you're not meticulous (if you are slapdash or willy-nilly with hints, and you don't source outside records carefully), your work is next to worthless. Don't add to the problem of bad online trees. Instead, take your work seriously, pay close attention to detail, and be the change we all want to see with online genealogy. Because a well-researched, public Ancestry tree is a boon to all. It might not be your "main" tree, but it definitely should be one of your trees.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Making High-Level Contributions to Online Trees

With this post, I'm going to double back a bit and talk more about Online Trees. Specifically, I want to discuss the nature of one's contributions to them. Do you use Big Online Collaborative Trees such as the FamilySearch Family Tree or WikiTree? Or do you keep your own tree on Ancestry, MyHeritage, or Findmypast? Which kinds of things do you typically add to them? From where I'm sitting, I see the majority of people adding what I would call low-level contributions to these different trees. (And here I am specifically referring to source contributions and not citations and other such things.) What are "low-level contributions"? They're items that are easily and freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection and the smallest grain of research skill: memorials, FamilySearch census records, Wikipedia, etc. If you're working on the FamilySearch Family Tree or Ancestry, for example, low-level contributions include anything that quickly/easily appears as a hints and can be added from the site's collections. Put another way: they're contributions that anyone can make with little or no difficulty, and that don't distinguish their contributors in any way.

Not that these low-level contributions aren't important. They definitely are. But if these were the only contributions that everyone made to online trees, our knowledge about our ancestors would progress much more slowly. High-level contributions, on the other hand, tend to be harder-won. They're widely copied, but much more rarely offered firsthand. I'm going to coin an acronym here for them for the purposes of simple reference and rhetorical punch: NPC's. In the video gaming world, "NPC" is short for "non-player character," which means any character in a game controlled by the computer and not by an actual human playing the game. My acronym, though, will stand for "Non-Pajama Contribution." Why? Because the high-level contributions I'm talking about require one to get up, get dressed, leave the house, and go seek the valuable sources that are inaccessible on the internet. (Or, they require you to get in contact with someone in close proximity to needed resources and is willing to send the records to you, sometimes for a price.) A high-level contribution, or non-pajama contribution (NPC), is a source that hadn't been digitized and wasn't widely accessible on the internet prior to the researcher putting it there. NPC's often dramatically advance our knowledge of the people with which they're directly concerned. NPC's, provided they're cited and vetted properly, distinguish those who make them as special facilitators of new historical discoveries. The stuff of NPC's is typically found at libraries, archives, courthouses, county clerk offices, and personal/inherited collections, among other places.

Here's an example:

Say there's a shared ancestor that Ancestry's or FamilySearch's record indexes only say died in 1886. The FamilySearch Family Tree and just about every public user tree on Ancestry has duly copied this fact. Then YOU, as the Non-Pajama Researcher, get curious enough to visit the repository where a death record for this person is held. You might pay a fee for the document and/or image. Then you post the image to the FSFT and your Ancestry tree, along with a full citation describing the source and when/where you got it. Boom, this is an NPC! You are now responsible for authoritatively demonstrating that this person died on August 23rd, 1886 in Pittsburgh, PA. You've put something valuable on the internet and have advanced knowledge of your ancestors.

For another example, here's an NPC record I found:

This my great great uncle's declaration of intention to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. It's not a large record that reveals a great deal, but since the origins of Mr. William Levithure (spelled variously) are a bit obscure, every bit of information from contemporaneous sources helps. For this, I had to travel to the indicated county clerk's office and dig through some very old tomes that were in rather delicate condition. Who knows how soon (if at all) this record would ever have been digitized and added to one of the major vendors' online collections? More records are being put online every day, but this is still very much true. Well, now the above record is online for people to see and use...because I put it there.  

NPC's are extremely valuable. But only a very small percentage of online tree users make them. Why? Lots of reasons, a few of which are related to ignorance, disinclination, and a matter that I will address in closing: issues of ownership. The common complaint goes something like this: "I paid lots of money and/or gave time to track down this record; I'm not giving it to everyone else for free!"

I can understand not wanting others to "get a free ride" off of one's own hard work. I used to think squarely this way. But I've come around to a different mindset recently. I'll tell you why. Most if not all of us have been the beneficiaries of records and artifacts as a result of the generosity of older family members and other researchers. Often the only thing they ask in return is to be good stewards of their history, preserving it for future generations. Increasingly, my eye is on eternity when it comes to genealogy. What's more important in the long run: that I didn't give others a genealogical free lunch, or that I did what I could to preserve my family's memories? I think the latter is more important, and the best way to do it is to make as many NPCs to online trees as we can, and cited as meticulously as possible.

So, by all means click and work through those Ancestry/FamilySearch/Etc. hints. They're great, and they'll increase as the terrific people who digitize these sites' collections continue in their important work. But if that's all you're doing, and you're capable of doing more, you're limiting yourself and anyone else who might benefit from your high-level contributions. I invite you to maximize your research, get away from your computer, and seek the higher-hanging fruit where it may be found. Digitize and share whatever is physically and legally possible. The people researching your lines will thenceforth bless your name.

(3/13/2020 Edit: Obviously I am making this argument with the assumption of normal conditions. At present, it's best to take precautions suitable for helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus [COVID-19].)

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


Another RootsTech conference is in the books. By the looks of it, I missed many great presentations and expos. Again. In fact, I've never attended RootsTech. I don't know when I will get to attend. Why? There are several reasons, and I have a hunch that they may apply to others as well. If the ubiquitous Twitter hashtag #NotAtRootsTech is any indication, many people don't attend but are interested in the event and would be there if they could. I believe this speaks to some issues with both the conference and with the genealogy community at large. If a few commentators I've read are really serious about getting more people involved in RootsTech, they should consider the following factors.

1. RootsTech is held at an inconvenient time. 

Late February/early March may not be the best time for this conference for multiple reasons. First, many students and younger professionals are busy with school and work. Often, younger professionals are parents of kids who are in the thick of attending classes. Even if you're not an educator (like I am) or another professional for whom February is a very busy month, chances are good that you're tied down somehow if your kids are still at home and you're not retired. In short, anyone directly involved with the school year or their professional industry events (where other travel and conferences that occur throughout the winter take precedence) is going to find it difficult to attend RootsTech without going to some very inconvenient lengths. Second, this time of year is right in the midst of cold and flu season. People are often more vulnerable to these sicknesses when they travel, and traveling from January to March coincides with when they're at their peak.

2. RootsTech is held at an inconvenient place.

I understand why RootsTech is held in Salt Lake City every year. There are sound logistical, commercial, and cultural reasons. But people who live in Utah, Arizona, California, etc. aren't the only ones who are interested in genealogy or this conference, and they disproportionately benefit from their perennial proximity to it. More than half of the country's residents live east of the Mississippi River. Even for many who don't, SLC is a remote location requiring extra time and dollars to reach. Many professional academic societies hold their annual conference in a different city throughout the continent every year. This makes it convenient for willing parties to attend at least once in a while. Perhaps RootsTech should consider a similar approach. (I know there is now a London RootsTech conference, but we could use more options on this side of the Atlantic, too.)

3. RootsTech may be cost-prohibitive. 

I've looked over the prices for the 2020 conference. I like how many package options there are, depending upon how much one wants to participate in the events. But the cost of substantial participation will seem considerable to many, especially if they also have to pay for airfare to far-flung SLC in addition to lodging and extra food. Certainly many younger people paying off houses, student loans, and other such necessities would find the total venture cost daunting. Maybe RootsTech should consider offering cheaper student rates. This would encourage more youthful participation and perhaps be a good investment in the future of the genealogy hobby. (I'm also not sure that the celebrity speakers justify their cost, but that's another matter.)

4. RootsTech strongly comes across like it's marketed toward seniors and industry insiders. 

For the reasons given above, RootsTech seems to communicate that the conference is primarily for: A. retired hobbyists with the time and resources to attend, and B. industry insiders whose livelihoods depend upon networking, working booths, and/or otherwise finding customers and business leads. I know that the conference has experienced remarkable growth, and that there are nice options for those who must tune in remotely. Also, I don't expect all of these ideas to go over well. But if there are very many people in my boat, or in boats like mine, I believe that the conference organizers stand to dramatically extend its reach and influence, not to mention those of its vendors, by taking some of these concerns to heart.

Friday, February 21, 2020

What I Love Most About WikiTree

As I've said here already, I'm an avid user of Big Online Collaborative Trees. Although they have imperfections (sometimes glaring ones), I'm a fan of both their dynamic approach to genealogy and their potential to disseminate and preserve ancestral knowledge. The two I use most are the FamilySearch Family Tree and WikiTree. Today I want to talk about the main reason why I love WikiTree and spend considerable time there.

Here is the simplest way I can summarize my enthusiasm for WikiTree: it combines basic family tree functionality with wiki-style data entry. This allows for the entering of precision research into a large text space with very few constricting fields. The site's html/inline citation features for entering biographical, note, and source texts are all extremely attractive to someone like me.

Why someone like me? Because I mostly can't stand the windows, fields, and stiff-arming of traditional genealogy software. There, I said it. I use traditional software for my "main" tree, and am convinced by the basic arguments telling me that I should do so, but I don't like it. I always fume at spending more time negotiating my software's source lists and confining layouts (especially for my citations) than I do actually getting real research done when I use it. With Wikitree, I can write everything out in an unencumbered manner, and easily link very detailed source citations to multiple facts and biographical information for each person. I can even hot-link to other  people's profiles on different pages. I can make lists. I can link multiple facts to a single citation without having to worry about entering different forms of the citation. It's like having a big Microsoft Word document that also works like a family tree.

If there were a genealogy software program that could work exactly like WikiTree does on my desktop, and editable only by me, I would buy (at a hefty price) and use that program for my main tree in a split second. Are you reading this, Chris Whitten? I think you're sitting on a goldmine. Make a desktop version of what you have at WikiTree, and I'll bet you'd be surprised at how many copies you sell. (If I had such a software program, I wouldn't stop using the WikiTree website. Indeed, I would update both software file and site pages together simultaneously.)

So, there it is: WikiTree is my favorite Big Online Collaborative Tree because it rewards and enables scholarly research while bypassing the headaches of traditional software. In my own research, I am used to writing everything out. I love Wikitree because it lets me do the same with genealogy. Then there is the wealth of other neat, Wiki-related features there, not to mention some nifty privacy and quality controls (which I may discuss in another post). It's no wonder I spend as much time at this site as anywhere else, genealogy-wise.

So, what about the FamilySearch Family Tree? I'm there a lot, too, for slightly different reasons. The main one is their Memories tool and the fact that I'm confident this is the Big Tree that will be around the longest. I try to keep an eye on eternity, and the FSFT is right within that eye's line of vision. But this is a subject for another post.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A Rating System for Ancestry's Public Trees?

Judging from what I see on social media and other internet forums, the wider genealogical community relies heavily upon's public member trees for research clues and information. Despite the copious warnings about the general status and reliability of these trees that genealogy pundits issue to amateurs, I don't see this dependence changing any time soon. So I've been thinking: what if there were some kind of rating system in place for Ancestry's public trees? What could it look like? Why would it be desirable?

Beginning with the last question, it might help researchers of all skill levels to see at a glance which public trees are particularly well-sourced, organized, and otherwise maintained. Trees given special quality designations might quickly attract information/clue seekers to the most helpful places. They would also serve as models for users who are looking to improve at genealogy, and would show them what good work looks like specifically at this most popular of genealogy sites. Such a rating system might also motivate many public tree maintainers to be the best they can be by pursuing marks of distinction for their trees, which may in turn provide them with the widest possible exposure.

What would such a system look like? I believe that a few factors could (and probably should) be considered. I have some ideas below.

1. As with the current choice to make one's tree public or private, a rating system could be entirely optional. If users don't want to have scores/badges/whatever attached to their trees, they could opt out. Or, they could opt not to publicly show ratings that get assigned to their trees. Would this limit the amount of public trees that show ratings? Perhaps, but I do think that a fair number of people would opt in. It doesn't have to be millions, but thousands or even hundreds of takers may still make the venture worthwhile.

2. One of the things I like about the Rotten Tomatoes movie/tv show reviews website is that it provides both critical and audience scores for each item. An Ancestry public tree rating system could work similarly. Users could provide star ratings for public trees they use, and trees highly rated by the community could display a special badge or sticker. Genealogy professional/expert ratings for public trees could work the same way. (Such users would have to be identified and given special rating privileges.) There wouldn't have to be "negative" tree ratings displayed. If trees receive lower scores, they simply wouldn't have badges or stickers to show. This ensures that nobody is negatively singled out or shamed.

3. The rating system itself could use a 5-star system like Rotten Tomatoes and GenSoft Reviews do. Tree users could answer optional questions about a tree's sourcing, detail, and accuracy as they perceive them. A composite rating could then be assigned based upon the marks from these answers. A community score and an expert score could be presented side by side for each tree. This gives a tree's potential users a very good idea of its quality or usefulness.

4. Since family trees are works in progress, there could be expiration dates on poor reviews to allow tree maintainers to make subsequent improvements. Dates could be assigned to positive badges/ratings as well to allow for the possibility of declining standards in trees. The time element here is a bit tricky, I admit, but I'm confident that this problem is surmountable.

5. You could also simply have a feedback section for each public tree, GenSoft-style. Tree maintainers could select the best reviews and put them on a sort of front page for their tree, while the other reviews wouldn't have to be publicly displayed. This would be a very simple system, but it would at least increase community engagement and showcase good work. And again, this feature could be toggled on and off.

6. Maybe just a pool of experts, professionals, and/or Ancestry admins could give out badges to especially good public trees they see. Maybe feature testing would reveal that inviting the public into an expansive review system is impractical or would lead to negative experiences.

I don't expect this idea to be adopted any time soon, if at all. But even if Ancestry doesn't like it, they may want to consider other options that increase tree functionality on their site, especially at a time when this company (among others) finds itself facing financial headwinds and pressure to keep subscribers coming back. If Findagrave has shown us anything, it's that users like the game aspect of stats and achievements. Perhaps a public tree rating system is a way to harness those appetites in service of constructive ends.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Get Your Photographed Relatives Identified Before It's Too Late

For the past three weeks, I've been engaged in the happy task of going through family photos that I recently inherited. Since there are over 150 items in this batch, it's been a time-consuming process. This is not only due to captioning, tagging, and digitizing these photos, it's also because I frequently have to stop and ask appropriate family members who is pictured in them (and how they know), and wait for their replies.

This has reinforced for me how important it is to get the people pictured in old photos identified while others who can identify them are still living. It's also important to hunt for these photos wherever they may be. This often means being persistent in asking cousins and other relatives if they have stashes they're storing, and if they'd be willing to send, post, or go through them with you. Sometimes people don't grasp the importance of these activities until it is too late. This is how the memories of our ancestors become lost to history.

Here's a good case study. As soon as I came across the photo below in my recently inherited collection, my excitement rose to a high pitch. I knew right away that the man pictured in the middle is my great grandfather, Dennis J. Ross (1875-1947). I knew this because I have other photos of him (if not one where he is so young as here) and they make his physical appearance unmistakable. Multiple older relatives who knew Dennis in their youth also reaffirmed that he is pictured here. But there is no writing on the back, and no other indication of who is represented.

I initially did not know for certain who the others in the photo are. I currently (and frustratingly) have only one other photo of my great grandmother, Dennis's wife Mary (1885-1957), and it dates from when she was even younger than the center woman shown here. Is that her? Oddly enough, my older relatives seemed unsure about this. There are several people alive old enough to have known Mary, but only when she was quite advanced in years. It's been almost 70 years since she lived. That's an awfully long time after which to recall her properly. At first I thought this photo might be from hers and Dennis's wedding, and that the couples to the side are witnesses named on the marriage certificate I have (which dates from 1903). But last week a cousin saw this photo on my facebook feed, and said she is certain that the couple on the left shows the sister (Jennie, 1883-1979) and new brother-in-law (Richard, ca. 1879-1972) of my Great Grandpa Dennis, and that it is THEIR wedding which is the occasion of this photo. She said she was sure because of other photos from the event that she inherited from her parents and grandparents, some of which she showed me. I became convinced that she is correct, especially since the left couple looked familiar...and seeing things in this new light only supported my cousin's new information. In which case, I have a pretty good guess now of who the people shown on the right are. (But I won't bore you with these facts/steps.)

You doubtless see the problem I'm getting at. If this photo dates from my great great aunt's wedding in September of 1902, it's been many years since anyone has seen these people as they looked then. Likely everyone who could have identified every person shown here by firsthand knowledge has been dead for years. I am 85-95% confident of the identities of the people pictured here who aren't my great grandfather. Maybe that percentage will go up as I discover more photos/other items, and as I listen to the testimonies of more people who are in a position to provide information that is at all credible.

What are the takeaways here? A few immediately spring to mind:

1. Keep on your relatives (politely) to see if they have shared all  of their genealogically significant photos with you, or if they are willing to do so. Sometimes this happens in stages, as people remember and stumble across forgotten treasure troves....or as they have the time and inclination to dig. But persistence is key. The sooner you get started, the better chance you'll have at confidently identifying people in these photos. Always have your eye on eternity, and let your living relatives know how important this endeavor is.

2. Carefully digitize your photos and post them online. This can particularly help if you have remotely-located relatives who may know or recognize some things that you do not and can say so on facebook. You should also post these photos to local history/genealogy groups on facebook. People in these communities often know valuable things. (I've struck gold here more times than I can mention.) You should crowdsource, but crowdsource responsibly. (If information conflicts, you should nevertheless write it all down.) Photos whose people are confidently identified should be posted anywhere possible to help preserve them for posterity. Here are some of my favorite places: my Ancestry tree, the other personal online trees I keep, The FamilySearch Family Tree's Memories Gallery (my vote for the best "Posterity Vault"), WikiTree, and my Google Photos collection where I keep a running catalog of all of my family pictures. Also, posting your photos to these places will greatly increase the likelihood that others will take, preserve, and share copies of them in turn. Also, consider making physical copies of select photos and depositing them at local archives and other carefully chosen places. This "viral" effect is devastatingly good for making sure that your relatives are not forgotten, and that available traces of them don't disappear from the world.

3. Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is CAPTION YOUR PHOTOS. Write names on the backs of them. Keep records of where you got them and how you know the information you received is trustworthy. This is why I love Google Photos. With every photo I keep in my Genealogy Photo Catalog there, I caption the following information:

-A photo catalog number to keep track of the item's place in my total collection.
-Who, where, what, when of the photo's content, and how we know/who told us.
-Where you got the photo and when.
-Any other notes necessary for research purposes.

Some of my captions are huge because they contain lots of this information. For some photos, I have many sentences of unresolved claims as to who is pictured in them, who supplied this information, and when the information was supplied. I remain uncertain as to who is pictured in a significant number of my many photos. Over time I'll get authoritative/convincing answers to some of my longstanding photo mysteries. This always makes me happy.

Does this all seem tedious? Maybe, but think about your descendants. When they're sitting there, long after you're dead, with the photos they will have inherited from you and others, they'll be grateful to have information handed down to them in addition to the photos themselves. And you'll be satisfied beforehand that you and yours won't be forgotten to history because you took the trouble of chasing down lost photos and taking good notes for them. Preserving the memories of our ancestors doesn't happen by itself; it happens because the historians in our families go to substantial lengths to do so. Be a part of your family's solution to this problem.