Can Google Images help in my family research?

Stepping up my research

Anyone that has been around me long enough, knows that I kind of have a passion for searching. Not so much in searching for lost keys or socks, but more in the area of searching to put together a bigger picture when it comes to family history stories. I know… that was a lame beginning, but it is the honest truth.


Did someone say fun?

When I heard that Google, my first place to search, had added a feature that could search by images, I knew that my explorations had just gotten a little more fun. Say for instance, that you wanted to see if you could locate a photo of a Civil War unit online to try and get a date for the photo. Of course, you could simply type in the name of the unit and see the results, but somehow the magic really happens when you simply drag and drop your photo right into Google Images and let it do its thing. Really…

Identification made easy

One of my ancestors belonged to the Indiana 44th unit and I had found a photo of that group but it had no identification as to when it was taken. I could imagine that possibly my ancestor was among the men listed or simply do a Google Images search and find the same exact photo along with others taken that day in May, 1864, in Chattanooga, TN.  Well… finding that date might have dashed my idea that I had found his military photo because I knew he wasn’t in Chattanooga, TN at that time, but it also gave me a thrill to have found such great information about the group. It did confirm that he would have been wearing the same uniforms as these men and I found a great website resource.


And yes, I could have simply done a regular typed-in Google Search, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun because I might not have quickly seen that other units had their photo taken that day, as well, in front of the exact same building! What a story that makes for surely, a great deal of these men probably never made it back home and if it weren’t for that photographer, most of those soldiers probably wouldn’t have ever had a photo taken.


So, have I caught your interest? Let me share with you how I found the car that my father was sitting on as a little toddler back in 1928.


Let’s get started

First of all, you need to bring up Google Images in order to do this type of search. So, type in “Google Images” and it should bring you to that link. If not, then you can get there by typing, “” or just click on “Images” under the Google search bar if you have it on your screen. Either way, you will know you are there if you see a camera icon in the Search bar!


Here is the photo of my dad, which I love, and it must have been taken by his father, I’m guessing, so he could show off not only his son, but his prize car as well! I’m so glad he did because it gives me double pleasure since I can see my dad as a little toddler and it gives me a peek into their life at that time.

In order to do the Drag-n-drop method with Google Images, I need to have my file explorer up on my screen as well as a browser with Google Images ready to receive the photo. I’m going to show you my file explorer just so you can see a bit of how my Family History folder is shaping up.



Loving my new file organization

Do you remember the article I wrote back in June titled, “Are You a Searcher or a Browser?” I went over the best way I’ve found to organize family history research in our computers and it really shines when I’m looking for all the photos from a certain time period or even all the photos taken of a certain person.



Can I just take a second to tell you just how much I love being able to see my photos up close when I’m browsing? Here is that same view of my file explorer but I have clicked on a newspaper article that I have saved from NewspaperArchive about my grandfather. In the second to last note, it appears that my grandfather had lost a valuable horse. (Newspapers back then were oh so chatty!) The great part is that I don’t even have to open up the photo to be able to read the article. It just shows up there in the display side of the file explorer. Guess what? It will even show multiple page pdf’s in that little viewer section and you can even scroll through the pages — all without ever opening it up! Love, love, love that!




In this case I have found the photo of my dad and I’m ready to drag it over to my Google Images that is ready and waiting. Once you click on the file name or the photo thumbnail, Google Image Search will add a box for you to drop the image. Here you can see what the screen looks like when the results pop up. I have already zoomed in to the photo and could see the 1928 license plate as well as the Chevrolet logo on the car so I have added that to the photo search as well.



Again, I could have simply done a typed-in search but this just makes the process so much more fun and it brings up images that match mine as well. It must have been a thing to take a photo straight on to show off the classic look of that car! And the prize is that I found a photo of what looks to be a very similar car that was for sale on the website,, complete with side, front and back photos of a restored car. I even now have a photo of the inside of the car thanks to this posting. I’m adding it to my personal layout page where I can show off what the car might have looked like to get a real sense of why my grandfather felt so strongly about what must have been a big purchase for him at the time.


Little golden nuggets of goodness are everywhere

I think it’s these extra pictures that really bring what seems like just a cute little photo into a whole spread which might include some background on that photo. You see, in some of the other newspaper articles I found about my grandfather Paul, it mentions all the visits he made to his parents, who lived close to ninety miles away. And of course, they would have drove in their car. I have a stack of articles that seem to place him visiting his parents almost two or more times a month which also tells me just how much it meant to them to stay in touch. See what I mean about adding to that one photo? Now to figure out how long it would have taken him to drive those ninety miles in 1928! Who knows if either of the families owned a telephone at that point since it sounds like it was hit or miss until later years, so driving might have been their best way to really stay in touch.


So, what else can I use this for? Let see…


  • Face search to see if there are any other photos for the same person
  • Item search such as a heirloom plate or teacup or treasured dish
  • Place search to see now and then photos of a particular venue


The fun part of this is that you can quickly open up a photo in a Paint software and crop out a person’s face, save it and then do a search on the face to see if anything pops up. Of course, this quick cropping can work on items that you want to focus on like a special plate as well. I did it with several of my mother’s plates and up popped a lot of great photos that lead me to the background of the plates. For someone that doesn’t have their mother around to ask how she got the plate, I really enjoy finding out the history of these plates and then can imagine how they might have come into her possession!


Good hunting to you. If you have some good luck in finding something using Google Images, please share! It’s all so much more fun when you can tell others…

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  • Sharon J Chambers October 27, 2017   Reply →

    Wow I love this we have all my grandmothers photos an d there are loads that we just know nothing about them even my mum who 82 doesn’t know either and she is now the oldest in the family. So I will try your ideas as I’d love to see what I could find out x

    • Michele Kerr October 28, 2017   Reply →

      Thank you Sharon! I hope that you are able to find some interesting stories! Please share if you do.

      The thing that I love about trying this is that even if we don’t always know the story of exactly what is happening in the photo, we can sometimes find some background information that gives us a connection. I have looked at that photo of my dad sitting on top of the top of that car a lot of times but I never got the feeling of why my grandparents would have put him up there in the first place. Seeing the photos of a similar car in all its’ glory gives me the idea that my grandfather wanted to show off the two prize possessions that he had which was his son and his fancy new car.

      I guess that what I’m trying to say is that we are so used to seeing cars in our current life that we take lots of photos in and around our cars but they aren’t always part of a valuable photo. My grandparents were not prolific photographers so I know that when they took a photo, it was pretty important to them and signaled a special event. Cars, especially that type, were fairly new and this car must have felt opulent compared so something like the Model T or first vehicle that they had owned or back to the horse-drawn carriages.

      There are so many images out in the internet stratosphere that it is pretty incredible to actually be able to do something like this. I’ve tried it on faces as well with not as much luck but if one had a lot of photos where you didn’t have any clue who was in the photo, it might be worth a try!

      Good hunting!

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