Click Here to Receive New Posts
in Your Inbox

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

    Now Available

    Follow Me

    How to Add Photo Metadata Without Special Software

    Embedding metadata in a photo is a bit like turning over a snapshot to scribble your name and a note on the back of the picture. The information travels with the photo, where ever it goes. Yes, it takes an extra step to view the metadata on a digital file, in the same way that you have to turn over a photo to read what’s recorded on the reverse.

    So, What Is Metadata?

    Have you ever viewed the information for a digital photo and wondered where it came from and what it means? This information is called metadata, or “data about data.” To understand how metadata works and why it’s useful, it’s helpful to understand how capture devices organize images internally or on a memory card. 

    Every image can include two different kinds of data: Exchangeable image file format (Exif) and International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC). Some data are automatically recorded by the camera and others are available for your input. This data is used to sort and organize images in the camera and when transferred to your computer. 

    Both Exif and IPTC data are referred to as metadata and provide information about your digital image. The data is embedded in the digital file itself for JPG and TIFF format images, or saved in a companion “sidecar” file for RAW images. There is some overlap in data between the two sets of data.

    Exif is Device Data

    Typical Exif information includes all kinds of information about the camera  make and model, resolution, exposure, location and other settings, but most importantly for organizing files, Exif records date and time of capture with a unique file name for each image. The date and time is used to organize image files in folders and the unique file name identifies individual image files. Because Exif data is added automatically by your camera or capture device, you can’t really input Exif data except to insure that your camera is set to record the correct date and time.

    In Adobe Lightroom, the Exif panel looks like this:

    Exif Metadata

    IPTC is Subject Data

    The IPTC data set is usually added by the user in the form of title, caption, subject, photographer, copyright, and so on. Originally designed to help news providers locate and credit photo sources, IPTC data is a genealogists friend when it comes to adding information about the people, places, and events shown in an image. Some IPTC data can be set automatically but most information must be individually recorded. 


    The IPTC data looks like this:


    IPTC MetadataAdd Metadata to Shared Photos

    Using embedded metadata is a bit like writing your name and phone number on the back of a snapshot. The information travels with the photo, and anyone who opens the file to look at the Properties or Information will be able to read the information you’ve recorded.  For photos that will be shared on a public or online website, it’s a good idea to add a few basic lines of information so that someone down the line can learn where the photo came from and who is pictured in the image. The most basic data is usually enough, including:

    • Your name and email as the current owner of the image
    • A short title identifying the photo subject
    • A brief description or caption identifying any people, events, or dates

    To add IPTC metadata to individual photos, you can use the Properties panel on your PC or the Get Info option on your Mac.

    Add Metadata on a PC

    On a PC, right-click on the image and select Properties. Rename the file in the main window [A]. Click the Details tab to add tags and keywords [B].

    PC Properties Window

    Add Metadata on a Mac

    On a Mac, select an image and open the Information window with Command-I. Rename the file [A] and add tags and keywords in the window [B].

    Mac info

    When organizing large image collections it’s usually most efficient to add tags, keywords, and captions to the metadata using batch-editing functions in a photo management program such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom, Picasa, or Xnview.

    My favorite tagging and data tool is Adobe Lightroom where I can add keywords, event names, and unique filenames as photos are imported from my memory cards or mobile devices. If you’re working with a limited number of photos, however, it’s a quick and easy task to add metadata to a few images with the Properties or Information panel.

    Learn more about organizing your digital photos and making the most of metadata in my book How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally, available from ShopFamilyTree and


    How to Use Evernote for Genealogists Book Review


    I’ve been a fan of Evernote since it’s 2008 debut as the one place to  “Remember Everything,” but I’ve discovered how to make the Elephant do even more with How to Use Evernote for Genealogists by Kerry Scott, the newest publication from FamilyTree Books. Kerry is an Evernote master, and showed quite a few tricks I’d never considered.

    Census Extracts, for starters. I’ve used spreadsheet templates successfully to extract household census information and track meandering ancestors, but I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Excel. Using census form templates in Evernote is a handy method for recording information in a very user-friendly format. And to make it even easier, Kerry has designed specific Evernote census templates for each U.S. census from 1790 to 1940. You can copy the form from the book or download a digital version with the included link.

    Genealogists manage a lot of data, and Kerry gives specific examples and  tips for organizing all kinds of information with Evernote, from genealogy research trips to heirloom histories and oral history interviews. An entire chapter devoted to working with various kinds of digital files takes the guess-work out of using photos, audio, clippings, handwritten notes, PDFs, and documents with Evernote.

    And because no two researchers work exactly the same way, Kerry shows different methods to organize Evernote stacks, notebooks, and tags. Easy to follow examples and screenshots illustrate that with Evernote, there really are many ways to organize and manage your information.

    Fans of Kerry’s genealogy blog, Clue Wagon, will appreciate her lighthearted, no-nonsense approach in sharing Evernote’s best features for family historians. Kerry understands that getting started with a new organizational system can be daunting, so she gives simple instructions and clearly describes the pros and cons of various options when you’re just starting out with Evernote. Her approach is reassuring for newbies and inspiring for seasoned Evernote users. 

    How to Use Evernote for Genealogists doesn’t stop with research solutions. As a busy wife, mom, and blogger, Kerry uses Evernote to handle all kinds of information. I love her smart idea to use different Stacks for the different roles in her life: personal, business, client, research. 

    If you’ve wanted to try Evernote but been reluctant to take on a new tool or if you’re an Evernote user who want to use this powerful free software to the Max, How to Use Evernote for Genealogists is the kind of tech guide that will show you how to become a more efficient and effective researcher using Evernote.

    Preorder How to Use Evernote for Genealogists today for Free Shipping throughout October and save an additional 10% with code SFT2015. Or buy direct from

    Disclosure: I was provided with a no-strings-attached pre-release copy of the book for this review. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 


    Celebrate Family History Month with Your Ancestors


    October makes me long for New England. Crisp autumn days, color on the trees, and woodsmoke in the air. It's still warm enough for ancestor hunting in old cemeteries and cool enough for a real wool sweater, things we don't get much of in Southern California.

    I may not be visiting my favorite villages this fall, but I'm celebrating October's Family History Month with a few special family history projects. Some have been on the ToDo list for too long, and a few are new ideas for my holiday gift list. I figure any progress will be "some" progress, and I'm going to enjoy the process instead of worrying about getting everything perfect.

    First up, is to pull together the bits and pieces of information I have learned about my great grandfather, E. B. Kinsel. Mom and I found his burial plot in a local cemetery just a few miles from the Marriott Hotel in Burbank where the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree is held each year. E.B. rests in a lonely unmarked space in a quiet older area of the cemetery, and I want to confirm his birth and death information and make arrangements for a headstone.

    And while I have my notes open in front of me I need to write up what I know about E.B., his work as a railroad switchman and his life in New Mexico and Kansas. I'm going to do my best to stay focused on just writing what I know, not spinning off chasing loose ends. Instead, I'll make a note for future research. It's progress, not perfection, I'm after here. And it seems like finding E.B. is a good first step for Family History Month.

    What are you doing with your ancestors this month?


    Hanging Grandma on the Wall with Easy Document Decor [Project Tutorial]


    My handwriting has changed dramatically over the years, and I don’t just mean from block letter printing to Palmer-style cursive writing. Long hours at the keyboard have made it difficult to hold a pen such that most times I much prefer typing to writing. Maybe that’s why I love looking at old handwriting. Even bad old handwriting.

    My grandmother Arline’s baptismal certificate certainly isn’t an example of lovely penmanship. It seems to be a hastily completed form, signed by the pastor, incorrect birthdate notwithstanding. “Someone,” I’m guessing either mother Minnie L. Kinsel or my grandmother herself, corrected the date in red ink  and noted the mistake with a circle. As Dr. Thomas Jones so often notes, however, “Does it matter?” And “No, it doesn’t.” Whether Arline was born October 2nd or 3rd is not important. The year, the place, and the parents — now, this information is important.

    I like this document because it reminds me not only of Grandma Arline, but because it reminds me to stay focused on the things that do matter, and to  avoid the distraction of minutia. 

    The original baptismal certificate measures about 5 x 7-inches and is a pre-printed card. It is the earliest documentation of Arline’s birth I’ve been able to locate. As such, I don’t want to display the fragile original behind a frame or expose it to the elements in my home office. Instead, I created a wooden plaque that I can display in direct sunlight without fear of damage to an heirloom.

    Step-by-Step Project Instructions

    1. Scan the original

    Using my Epson Perfection Flatbed Scanner, I scanned the original certificate at 600 dpi in TIFF format, full color. The orange color-cast is a true representation of the discoloration that has occurred over time. 

    2. Resize as desired and print

    My photo software easily prints from TIFF or JPG images, but I could have converted to JPG for printing if needed. I printed to fill a letter-size sheet of paper, which fit the 7 x 10.5 wooden board I wanted to use.

    For decoupage, I wanted a lightweight paper that would accept a true-color print — regular inkjet copy paper worked well. 

    3. Prepare the wooden plaque

    I prepared the wooden board my sanding the surface and edges smooth and then painting with a diluted coat of white latex paint (leftover from a recent home decorating project). 

    4. Decoupage the print to wood

    When the board was dry, I added a coat of Mod Podge Matte-Mat decoupage glue using a foam brush, smoothed the paper baptism print on top of the goo, and then applied another coat of Mod Podge. I worked slowly and carefully to get the paper (mostly) smooth. When the plaque was dry, I added a final coat. 

    Find more photo project ideas in 25 Easy Keepsake Projects featured in How to Archive Family Photos.


    Go To (Genealogy) School this Weekend

    VC Banner

    Who says you can’t be two places at one time? This weekend I’ll be one of 15 presenters for the Fall 2015 Virtual Genealogy Conference presented by Family Tree University online with video classes in genetic genealogy, research strategies, genealogy technology, and ethnic research. I will also be presenting in-person at the Whittier Area Genealogical Society monthly meeting in California.

    If you can’t make it to Southern California, join me for the Fall Virtual Conference and save $20 on registration with an exclusive coupon for readers of The Family Curator. Use coupon code VCDENISE20 when you register to receive the savings.

    Online learning is fun, convenient, and motivating. Get more out of the weekend by participating in the live chats or message board discussions. Expert genealogists will be available to answer questions, and you can download all of the video classes for later viewing. You don’t have to show up at a specific time to participate; just check in during the conference September 18-20, 2015 for full access. A great “Swag Bag” of freebies from is also included with registration.

    Remember to use coupon code VCDENISE20 to save $20 on registration. 

    Find us on Google+