Linda Clyde | Jan 16, 2019

Google Photos—A Genealogist’s Dream?

Google Photos may very well be a genealogist’s dream come true when it comes to organizing and storing a lot of photos and scanned documents. The following are just some of the service’s exciting features:

  • It’s free!  
  • Unlimited storage for photos up to 16 megapixels
  • Free app from the App Store or the Google Play
  • Photo syncing across all of your devices, including Android, iPhone, iPad, and personal computers
  • Basic photo editor
  • Face recognition
  • Automatic organization (also fully customizable)
  • Automatic backup for photos taken with your device
  • Help center available


For genealogist and 2018 RootsTech presenter Michelle Goodrum, organizing her vast photo collection is a priority, and Google Photos allows her to be very particular in how she does it. (If you’re looking to go above and beyond the basics, this article put out by Fast Company is extremely helpful for those getting serious about organizing their photos with Google.)

Here are a few helpful tips from Goodrum:

  • Consider uploading pictures to Google Photos from your desktop or laptop computer. This allows you to retain file names that you created. Goodrum warned that when you upload pictures from your phone, Google Photos labels them with a number that you can’t change later on.
  • As you start uploading old family history photos, they’ll show up in your time line according to the date you uploaded them. You’ll want to go back and change the date so it shows up according to when the photo was taken instead. Goodrum suggests thinking of the time line as a diary not only of your life but also of your family's life. It’s wise to make sure you’re editing the dates as you go to keep them as close to chronological order as possible.
  • Devise an organization system that is meaningful to you by using the album feature. You can organize some of your albums by family names, and you can also organize them by events, vacations, and more. Use the method that works best for you. The steps for creating an album are simple. Goodrum explains: “You can select all the pictures for a particular date by either hovering or just clicking and tapping on the date. Or you can select individual photos. Once you’ve [selected the photos] that you want to add to your album, just click on the plus sign.” From here you’ll get the option to create an album or add your pictures to an existing album. Another tip on albums: you can add the same photo to multiple albums.


Did you know that Google Photos has a basic editing feature? Just click on your image and then click on the Edit icon. You’ll have options to use filters, adjust light and color, crop and rotate your photos, create collages, GIFs, movies, stories, animations, and more. Goodrum, in her 2018 RootsTech presentation, showed a side-by-side comparison of an older photo she had uploaded and applied Google’s autocorrect feature to. She was pleased with how it removed the glare on the original and increased the clarity.

Goodrum also mentioned an additional app by Google called PhotoScan that will change your life if you have a lot of old photos to scan. Instead of running each of your photos through a flatbed scanner, now you can use your handheld device’s camera. Once you’ve scanned all of your old photos, they’ll be available in Google Photos so you can organize and edit them to your heart’s content.

Here’s another article about the editing tool on Google Photos.


Google Photos makes sharing photos easy. Simply tap and hold the photo. Once you’ve done that, you can choose more by dragging your finger across any other photo to add it. When you’ve selected all of the photos you’d like to share, tap the Share button. This will give you the option of sharing on social media. If you’d prefer sending the photos to an individual, choose the option Copy link to clipboard. This will generate a new link that you can share without having to post the images anywhere. The recipient doesn’t even need a Google account to use the link.

Another good reason to use the share feature is to enlist the help of others when you’re having difficulty identifying people in older photos. Goodrum uses the sharing feature for collaborating with others; if she’s not sure who someone is, she can easily share a single photo or an album to invite others to provide additional information.

You can also use the sharing feature to collect memories from others. Goodrum once shared a collage of photos on Facebook she’d created in Google Photos of a relative’s family farm with the caption: “To all of you Bindon descendants, who remembers the Bindon farm in Three Oaks, Michigan? Please share a memory or two.” Here’s what she had to say about the response to her post: “Within a few hours . . . , I can’t tell you how many responses I had from people. And they were all sharing different stories. And these are people from young—way younger than me—to people in their 80s. So it was really neat to have these people sharing all of these memories. And that was just from a real quick little project that I did, sharing to Facebook.”

Google Photos is a fun place to spend some time, and because of its many helpful features it’s a boon to genealogists. “So whether you’re collecting current-day family photos, visiting an old family home, the family cemetery, or digitizing family photos, Google Photos is a fun and easy way for preserving, organizing, and sharing your digital images,” said Goodrum.

Linda Clyde

Recent Posts

RootsTech London Day in Review: A Talent for Genealogy

Donny Osmond closes out RootsTech London 2019 with inspiring stories of family history.
Elizabeth Miller | Oct 26, 2019

RootsTech London Day in Review: Sharing Our Stories and Overcoming the Odds

Kadeena Cox and Steve Rockwood share stories of courage, determination, and overcoming adversity at the RootsTech London 2019 General Session.
Elizabeth Miller | Oct 25, 2019