The Name Game

So, here was the problem. I had all these family history photos on my computer—some of them in several different forms, sizes and quality. It was obvious I had to do some housekeeping—but how. There were about 3,000 of them. True, many were duplicates, but how do I reduce those copies down to one quality photo.

My solution was to go through and rename each photograph so that nearly identical pictures would end up close to each other—this so I could compare and cull them. I wanted to consistently name a photo so that the next time I came across its twin, the name would be similar but not identical.

  • Since I was interested in people, the file name would be a person’s name, last name first. If there was only one person in the photo, the name was easy.
  • When there was more than one, I’d try to name all of them, left to right.
  • If everyone had the same last name, I just list first names. If not, I’d list complete names.
  • I’d try to be consistent in what names I used. My daughter, Jennifer is always Jenny. There were no nicknames or aliases. I expect that in the future, I may want to do a computer search for a person’s name, so consistency is important.
  • I called myself by my name—after all, in 50 years the photo labeled “Me and Joe” would be meaningless. I’d never use titles, such as Dad, Mom, Grandpa, or Uncle.
  • I tried to include a six digit date code when a date was known. April 15, 1949 was listed as year, month, day—490415—if the year was approximate, I write ‘about 1951’.
  • For large groups, the name was based on that relative common to the gathering. The 2010 reunion photo had about 100 people and I named it ‘Haroldsen, Oliver family group 100618 (105). The 105 meant that it was the 105th photo I took that day.
  • If appropriate, I included a code that identified the scrapbook that the photo came from.

 I wanted the first half of the name to be applied consistently but I wanted the last half to be unique. Consider this. I have two photos of Christian Haroldsen, one from by grandmother and one from my sister. Let’s say the first photo is a high quality scan and the second is low quality. Using consistent naming rules, both photos would be named ‘Haroldsen, Christian’. I might find the first photo on the first day of my quest but the second might not be found for another week. On the first day, I drop the photo in the folder, then a week later I drop the second photo in the same electronic folder. The second low quality photo could easily be written over the top of the high quality photo and I’d be the loser.

 Fortunately, most computer systems will alert you to the fact that you are at risk of making this mistake and will give you information about which file is larger and the time date assigned to the photo. Unfortunately, this information might not be enough to tell you which is the better photo. The best choice is to save both files with different names and then examine them later to see which is superior.

 My mother had six photo albums. When scanning them, I copied the entire page. I invented a code—MHV1 23 and assigned it to the page. In this case, it meant Maralyn Haroldsen, Volume 1 page 23. All the photos from Volume one were stored in its own folder—never to be modified or changed. This was my original. Never mess with the original!

 Later, I copied Volume 1 to another folder and split each page into its individual components, and adding an additional character indicating which photo it was on the page. If there were six photos, they were named consecutively a through e. I did this to all five volumes. Then I did it for Aunt Helen and Grammie Boulier’s scrap books—now you know how I got 3,000 photos.

 Once a photo had been properly named, I’d drop it in a folder. (Originally, I organized folders in the same shape of my family tree. That didn’t work. I had to keep stepping through folders to find the person I wanted.) I named the folders alphabetically using rules similar to the naming of photos. Some folders were for individuals, some for a person and the family and some for a special category.

 Currently, I have 75 folders. For example, I had folders named:

  • Haraldson, Ingar Maria Amundsen & family
  • Haroldsen, Christian
  • Haroldsen, Oliver
  • Haroldsen, Oliver’s family
  • Haroldsen, Oliver’s farm

Obviously, all photos of Oliver by himself went into ‘Haroldsen, Oliver.’

A photo of Oliver and his wife, Celecta, went into ‘Haroldsen, Oliver’s family’ as did group photos of his children, even if Oliver was not in the photo.

Photos of ‘German POW’s working in the field’ went into ‘Haroldsen, Oliver’s farm.’ This was one of the special folders.

Photos of Christian Haroldsen by himself went into ‘Haroldsen, Christian’.

Photos of Christian with his two sisters went into ‘Haraldson, Ingar’ folder since she was the common ancestor.

Next topic—How do you select the photos to keep and the one to deleted?


About erharoldsen

Information about Family Life, Family History, Humor, Emergency Response, Disaster Preparation, Latter-day Saint Religion (Mormon) and other stuff that tickles me. Contact me through erharoldsen at But use the @ symbol. (This helps me avoid spam.)
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