Photograph Identity Questions 4, 5 & 6 – Results

Thank you to the 21 people who responded to Photograph Identity Questions 4, 5 & 6. A couple of people did not answer all three questions, so each ended up with 20 answers as follows:

Face comparison 4,5 & 6 results

Face comparison 4,5 & 6 results

The no votes have it, to varying degrees, with 70% for photo pair 4, 60% for photo pair 5, and 90% for photo pair 6. From these results, pair 6 certainly seems to be different people, but it is hard to be so sure for pair 4 and pair 5.

In this series, I have now asked ‘Is this the same person?’ for 6 pairs of faces. Photo pair 1 was a control case where I knew the answer was ‘No’. Photo pairs 2 to 6 are all about comparing people in the group photo below with other photos in the same album.

group photo

Allport, Thomas B. (photographer, Uttoxeter). ca. 1860s-early 1870s. Group of 8 people. Faces extracted for comparison in photo pairs 2-6.

To recap all 6 results:

Photo pair Result Result% Strathclyde result
1 No 76% Human: Yes 69%; Picasa: Yes, threshold 65
2 Yes 94% Human: Yes 94%; Picasa: Yes, threshold 75
3 No 65%
4 No 70%
5 No 60% Human: Yes 82%; Picasa: Yes, threshold 65
6 No 90%

Three of the photo pairs were included in a project I undertook in 2010 for the Genealogical Studies postgraduate program at the University of Strathclyde. The methods were a little different as most respondents gave their answers offline and they were asked to give ‘instant’ answers rather than try to consciously analyse the photo pairs. In the Strathclyde study, 4 of the 5 control face pairs known to be the same person scored 70% or more ‘Yes’ votes, but only 1 of 4 the control face pairs known to be different people scored over 70% of ‘No’ votes. So I thought responses to face pairs of unknown identity with a substantial majority of ‘Yes’ votes, especially those over 80%, were likely the same people. I hoped for consistent results for the 3 pairs repeated in this series. Photo pair 2 delivered the same result, but photo pairs 1 and 5 did not.

Comments from respondents suggest that they spent time consciously analysing the photo pairs. If undecided did you vote ‘No’? Did you become less sure the longer you tried to analyse the photos? Are these potential reasons for the preponderance of ‘No’ votes? Could the 60-70% middle ground ‘No’ votes really indicate uncertainty? I welcome comments on these questions.

I admit that I hoped that pairs 2 – 6 would have decisive ‘Yes’ answers to support the conclusions summarised in Cartes de Visite album links to the Stanley family and Earls of Derby.

© Sue Adams 2014

Thoughts on Mastering Genealogical Proof: Chapter 7-Writing or Making Genealogical Soup

The written conclusion, the answer to a particular single genealogical question, is like a delicious soup. Soup, when skilfully prepared from carefully selected ingredients, develops just the right flavour for the diner. Not everyone likes the same flavours, and some need a simple and digestible meal. Chefs tell us that fresh, quality ingredients make the best soup.

Rosehip soup

Rosehip soup CC Josefine Stenudd

A proof statement is like a simple soup, suitable as a starter (needs context), made from just a few raw ingredients (original records, primary information) that have harmonious flavours (no conflicting evidence). Preparation (analysis and correlation) is straight forward.

Shark fin soup

Shark fin soup CC chee.hong

A proof summary is like a more substantial soup, suitable as a light meal (can stand alone), typically made from a range of ingredients. It still contains raw ingredients, but might contain some preserved ingredients (derivative records, secondary information) when fresh are unavailable. Flavours may compete, so a balance is needed (conflict resolution). Preparation takes longer than a simple soup and may involve two or more stages (documented facts).


Minestrone CC Julie Anne Workman

A proof argument is like a filling soup that is a meal by itself. It contains many ingredients, including some that need extensive preparation or long cooking (questions of identity and substantially conflicting evidence). Eventually the flavours blend into a rich complex that gives an initial impression, develops on the tongue and leaves a distinct aftertaste. Preparation may include test tasting (hypothesis), adding new flavours (building blocks), and contrasting flavours (if-then syllogisms).

How did the first soup you made taste? Writing a genealogical conclusion gets easier with practice, just like making soup.


Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof  (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013)

© Sue Adams 2014

Find My Past miss-judges its Kittens, I mean Customers

Dear FindMyPast

I am concerned about your treatment of my fellow felines, aka. FindMyPast website users. Until recently most of us were pretty chilled and enjoyed ancestor hunting forays with FMP.

I am sure you have heard that a healthy genealogy diet includes a range of tasty sources not just pop-tarts alone. I was in need of the nutrition provided by a nice juicy apprentice promised on the menu months ago.

So I entered the dining room (aka. search) and met with a very nasty surprise – a dowsing in horrid cold water. Only a few felines like water, and those that do only like it on their own terms. Such nasty surprises put us in bad humour and make us irritable.

By this time I was hungry, so made my way into the kitchen (aka. Facebook) to make my views known to the FMP monkeys. The monkeys expected me to play that kitten game of chasing a toy/laser. The attention span of little kittens is limited, but the monkeys expect us all to play for 100 days.

Teasing a tetchy, hungry feline is never a good idea, especially grown up big cats. FMP, your customers aren’t little kittens or docile moggies, we highly skilled hunters like these:

Big cats, all Creative Commons. Leopard, Steve Jurvetson; Lion,  Martin Fisch;  Tiger, Shahadat Hossain

Big cats, all Creative Commons. Leopard, Steve Jurvetson; Lion, Martin Fisch; Tiger, Shahadat Hossain

We don’t look please do we? You’ve got work to do before we will purr again.

© Sue Adams 2014


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