MyHeritage’s New Photo Tool Adds Life to Old Pictures

Updates: MyHeritage has just announced that it’s new color tool will be free until April 22 on account of the coronavirus keeping so many people home. They also changed their subscription model so there’s now a slightly more affordable subscription option if you want access to it forever. Have fun!
Sometime earlier this week, I received a promotional email from MyHeritage, an Ancestry.com-like website where you can upload and maintain your family tree online. I normally ignore their emails because they send so many, but a distant cousin had reached out to me on their site just last week and subsequently helped answer a family mystery (more on that later!), so I’ve been curious about what MyHeritage has to offer me. I opened the email.

You guys, THIS IS SO EXCITING!

MyHeritage just released MyHeritage In Color (TM), and it’s amazing. You can upload any black and white photo (even if you’ve patched it up in Photoshop, messed with the contrast, and applied a filter like yours truly does frequently), and an algorithm works in the background to transform the photo into color.

Apparently, there’s some room for error in terms of pixel color, but I’ve been really pleased with the photos I’ve run through the system. I have run into a few glitches with files not being recognized or the processor erroring out, but it seems to work more often than not.

MyHeritage does include a small icon on the bottom left to indicate the photo has been colorized to preserve historical integrity and a MyHeritage logo on the bottom right if you don’t have their Complete subscription ($209 annually for the first year and $299 annually after that – I know. Wowza! Probably this is why I haven’t delved into this site much before now.).

Obviously, releasing this tool is an incredibly smart move by MyHeritage, since photos are social currency online these days and most of us have very little incentive to upload our personal ancestry photos otherwise. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

It’s worth noting that they currently erect their paywall at 10 photos, so choose wisely unless you’re ready to sell your house and do the annual subscription.

I decided to try some of the oldest photos and some group photos I have since they would be the most fun to see in color. Here’s what I got back.

Happy coloring!

 

Early 1900s photo of Cornelis “Cees” Kool, governess

Cornelis "Cees" Kool and governess.

Cornelis “Cees” Kool and governess. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This kid looks like he just does not trust the camera.

This is an early 1900s photo of Cornelis “Cees” Kool, with his governess, that Halbo Kool sent me a while back and I recently remembered I meant to post it. Cornelis was born on July 6, 1900, in Groningen, Netherlands, and died a grandfather in Canada on March 27, 1979. From what I’ve heard over the years, he was a pretty cool guy. Very smart. I’ll write more on him later.

Johan “Hans” Siersema in G.H.B.S. photo

Johan "Hans" Siersema and friends.

Johan “Hans” Siersema and friends.

UPDATE: Cousin Anje was able to track down a Ducth newspaper clip that said Johan graduated from Gooisch Higher Citzens School in  Bussum in 1943, indicating that this is a school photo. She posted more details in the comments.

ORIGINAL POST: This photo almost could be filed under Mystery Photo Series on this blog. It includes my grandfather Johan “Hans” Siersema (fourth in from the right), but I have no idea who the other people in the photo are. The writing on the back says only G.H.B.S. Google searches brought up a hockey club called Gemeentelijke Hogere Burger School for those initials, and hockey is fairly important in my family. My opa played in an adult league after immigrating to Canada and my uncle said he thought my opa broke a couple ribs playing. However, this club is in Groningen and to my knowledge, Hans didn’t spend any time there. If anyone else has ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Portrait: Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is the third, final, and most recent photograph of Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer that I have. It was sent to me by Halbo Kool. Gonda lived to be 81 years old [1840-1921], spending her whole life in Groningen, Netherlands. She married Cornelis Kool [1838] and they had four children that I know of so far: Halbo Kool [1873], Germ Kool [1875], Elsina Anna Kool [1867], and Hendrik Kool [about 1870].

Portraits of Hendrik Kool

Hendrik Kool, birth date unknown.

Hendrik Kool, birth date unknown. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is a portrait of a relatively young Hendrik Kool and below you’ll find one of him a little older. Hendrik was born around 1870 to Cornelis Kool [1838] and Gonda Maragaretha Duuntjer. Hendrik lived to be 92 years old and died on January 24, 1962. I don’t know anything else about him but would like to, so if you have any information to share, please post it in the comments.

Hendrik Kool

Hendrik Kool. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: Mother, child in Groningen in 1800s

Mystery photo likely on the Kool family side taken in Groningen.

Mystery photo likely on the Kool family side taken in Groningen. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

There’s a good chance the subjects in this mystery photo are directly related to a previous mystery photo subject I mentioned recently on this blog. Both photos came to me through Halbo Kool and both appear to have come from the same place and have similar coloring. In that mystery photo, I postulated that the subject was a brother of Cornelis Kool [1838]. It would stand to reason then that the woman and child in this photo were his wife and child. That’s the best educated guess I have, however, so I’m open to other hypotheses.

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: The man with the chin curtain

Mystery Photo

This photo, while likely taken of an ancestor, is a complete mystery to me and Halbo Kool, who sent it to me.

Look at that beard! I looked it up. It’s not quite an Old Dutchman, funnily enough. This is a style of facial hair often called a Chin Curtain or The Lincoln. I’m going with Chin Curtain, since the one thing I do know about this photo is that it was taken in the Netherlands, not America.

Anyways, this photo was in with others of the Kool family in the possession of Halbo Kool (the living one, not any of the previous generations). He doesn’t know who it’s of, but we are able to tell it was taken in Groningen and you can see a slight resemblance to Cornelis Kool [1838] in the eyes, nose and lips. His clothing is similar to that of ancestors in other photos I’ve estimated to be from the mid- to late-1800s. All this leads me to guess that the ancestor in the photo is likely one of Cornelis Kool’s brothers, of which he had three: Jan Kool [1840], Heero Kool [1844] or Harm Kool [1846]. There was a fourth brother, but he did not live to adulthood.

Mystery photos from an early 1900s album belonging to Helena de Wit

An album that belonged to my great-grandmother Helena de Wit in Beverwijk, Netherlands, in the early 1900s was in the box of photos and documents my grandmother gave me. If you follow this blog, you’ve seen many of those photos retouched over the past year and a half or so. These are the photos that remained untouched, with their subjects unidentified.

I know that without any additional information, the chance that readers here will know any of them is slim. But, please, if anyone recognizes an individual in one of the photos, mention it in the comments.

To see larger images, you can click on one and scroll through.

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: Could this be Arentje Vermaas, Klaas Siersema, Bets Siersema and Leentje Siersema?

Mystery Photo No. 3. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Mystery Photo No. 3. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

I recently came upon this lovely portrait in a box of old photos and documents that I borrowed from my uncle Philip Siersema. At first, my reaction was, “Great! Another photo where I have no idea who the people are!”

But upon looking closely, the mother in the photo looked a lot like a woman I’ve seen in some other photos who thought was likely my great-great-grandmother Arentje Vermaas. It would make sense: They look similar, and she was a mother of two girls and one boy, my great-grandfather Klaas Siersema.

So, I’m polling you, dear reader. I cropped photos of who I think are Arentje, Klaas, Helena “Bets” Elizabeth, and Leentje from two group photos based purely on speculation. What do you think?

Arentje Vermaas? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Arentje Vermaas? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

A young Klaas Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

A young Klaas Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or "Bets" Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or “Bets” Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or "Bets" Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or “Bets” Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Photo: Anthonie Johannes Swalve

Anthonie Joahnnes Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Anthonie Joahnnes Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Anthonie Johannes Swalve, shown above in a photo contributed by Willem Vlietstra, was born Anthonie Johannes Koster on Nov. 8, 1876, to Helena Catrina Koster. A little more than two years later, Anthonie took the last name Swalve when Freerk Bellinga Swalve married Helena. This was noted on their marriage certificate, which I found on the now-nonexistent Genlias.nl site.

Some believe this may mean Anthonie was the son of Helena and Freerk, and some believe this may mean he was the son of Helena and another man. I have been unable to confirm via digital research and so would be interested to know if anyone has more information on Anthonie, who also went by the name A.J. It’s also probably worth noting that, despite traditional Dutch naming conventions wherein the first born son takes the name of the father’s father, in this case A.J. was named after his maternal grandfather, Anthonie (or Anthonij) Johannes Koster.

As for the photo itself, I find it to be a bit perplexing. A.J. is clearly has an anchor on his shirt and is posing with cooper props. If anyone can elaborate on that, I would be interested as well! He looks to me to be 15 or younger, which would date this photo sometime before 1891.