Thursday, February 07, 2008

Using Facial Recognition Software in Photo Identification

I decided to try my hand at using the face recognition software at to see if it would give me any hints about the unknown faces in a family photo. Here's the photo that I'm working with.
This is a wedding photo with three of my family members in it. Karolina is my paternal grandmother, Jozef is my paternal grandfather, and Sophia is my grandmother's sister. The other people in the photo are unknown to me. What I'm most curious about is, who are the bride and groom?

My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in March of 1905 so the photo had to be taken after that. Karolina and Jozef were married in January of 1907. Karolina definitely looks younger in this picture than in her wedding photo so I'd guess this was a year or two before her own wedding but it could have been anytime between March of 1905 and say May of 1907 (when she would have been largely pregnant). With Karolina, her sister, and fiance in the photo it seems most likely to me that either the bride or groom was a relative of theirs or possibly Jozef's.

Karolina had 6 sisters. One died at the age of 3 and one never married. So neither of those could be the bride. Of the other four sisters, Mary married in 1898 when Karolina would have been 9 years old and Jozef wouldn't have been here yet, so that eliminates her as the bride. Katy married in 1900 when Karolina would have been 11 and Jozef wouldn't have been here yet, so that eliminates her as the bride. Sophia married in 1909 but she's seated to the right of the bride and groom, so that eliminates her as the bride. And Anna married in 1923 and I have another picture of her as a bride and it's definitely not the same woman. So I can eliminate all 6 of Karolina's sisters as being the bride.

Karolina had 4 brothers. One died at the age of 1. Michal wasn't born until 1893 so he would have been 12-14 years old in the 1905-1907 time period. That eliminates him as the groom. Her other two brothers were born in 1898 and 1900 so they would have been in grade school at the time this photo was likely taken. So that eliminates all of Karolina's brothers as the groom.

The only other family member that I'm aware of that could be considered here is Jozef's sister, Jenny. She married in February 1909. However, Karolina would have been 7 months pregnant with her second child in February of 1909, and with her tiny waist in this picture that's virtually impossible. So I don't think the bride could be Jozef's sister. None of Jozef's other siblings immigrated to the U.S.

Having pretty confidently eliminated all the siblings of my grandparents, I got to thinking that the bride or groom might have been cousins of my grandmother (none of my grandfather's first cousins were here yet). And that's where the face recognition software comes in!

I uploaded facial pictures of Karolina and Jozef and the bride and groom and compared them. Here's what I got. When I compared Karolina (as "child") to the bride and the groom I got her looking more like the bride by 9%. I don't see it. I don't see any similarity at all! Hmm.

When I compared the bride to Karolina and Jozef (as a neutral party) I got the bride looking 14% more like Karolina than Jozef. A surprise once again because I think the bride slightly resembles Jozef if anything.

When I compared the groom to Karolina and Jozef I got the groom looking 21% more like Karolina than Jozef. This is what I would have guessed the connection to be by my own assessment of facial features. I think the groom and Karolina resemble each other a great deal. I'm not sure what this tells me, if anything, but it doesn't surprise me.

So what have I learned from using this face recognition software to analyze an old family photo? Not much. Certainly nothing I could use as evidence of a likely relationship. But I had a lot of fun doing it! I do think I'll look first for possible male cousins of Karolina and Sophie to be the groom before I look for female cousins to be the bride though.

What? The bride and groom could be friends of Karolina, Jozef, and Sophie rather than family? Oh please, don't even go there. That would take away my justification for continuing to play with the face recognition software at!

What do you think? Got any unknown people in photos you'd like to identify?


  1. Jasia,

    Funny you should ask...yes, I do! I received a photo from my visit to my Bavarian cousins in which one member of a wedding party looks very, very much like my great-grandfather. I was going to post it and ask for other's opinions, so I definitely will now - and cite your post, too. I'm not sure I'll try the site you used, though, since it didn't offer you much. I'd be curious how it would "score" if you used a photo in which you actually KNEW all of the parties. If you loaded one of your own family, would it say that you looked as if you were related to your sibling or parents? Curious minds want to know!

    What's Past is Prologue

  2. I played with the site once just for fun. The results varied greatly depending on which pictures I used. Fun, but not very helpful. I played with the celebrity one too. I got Oprah Winfrey and Sissy Spacek. LOL

  3. Good question Donna! I've tried a bunch of different scenarios and gotten mixed results. For instance, I compared my daughter at age 4 to my husband and myself when we were in our 30s and my daughter looked 21% more like me than like my husband. Then I compared my daughter's high school senior picture to my and my husband's senior pictures and my daughter looked 34% more like me than my husband. If you looked at my daughter's senior picture you'd probably say she's a dead ringer for me. But then, my husband and I share a similar facial structure so I can see why the % wasn't higher in my favor.

    Apple, I can sort of see the Sissy Spacek, but Oprah? Nah!

  4. Should the question not be "Are there any of us who do NOT have photos with people in them we should like to identify???"
    I wish genealogy was not quite so much fun - there is a lot of housework etc out there waiting to be done! How do you (and so many other bloggers) find time to write so much, so entertainingly?
    Kind regards,

  5. Ah Bronwyn, yes the housework never ends does it? But I've found that it's very patient and it will wait a long time to get done ;-)

    I never have enough time for everything! I am always deciding, "what most needs to get done today?" The best days are when I can blog guilt free, but there aren't many of them. And I really need to figure out a way to blog/research while exercising. Now that would make exercise fun!

    Thanks for your kind remarks!

  6. Thanks for stopping by my site.
    I was going to try this software, to see if a photo I have is my mothers parents wedding photo. My mother doesn't really remember her parents young,since she was born when they were much older. I am
    not so sure I will try it now...... Any other sites that might have this? Thanks!