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!

 

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)

Klaas Siersema’s pocket photo book

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I recently borrowed a box of old photographs and documents from my uncle Philip Siersema, and in it I found this little gem. It’s a pocket photo book with images of Klaas Siersema’s second wife Maria Wilhelmina van Erp and his son, Johan. Klaas (born 1895), as I’ve noted before, was a career military man, so it would make sense that he was away from home a lot and wanted something with him to remember his loved ones by. I also like that it shows a softer side of him, especially since his reputation wasn’t exactly super warm and fuzzy.

Photos: Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

As promised, here is another photo Willem Vlietstra sent me recently. This one is of my great-great-grandmother Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve (in case you were wondering, yes, the breakdown of the ancestors she was named after is extensive). This is one of the best conditioned photographs of her in my possession, and the oldest I’ve seen of her. In others, there are acid marks, white fading, or distance between her and the camera is a factor, and she is older.

Wubbina was born in 1879 and I wouldn’t guess she is much older than 15 in this photo, so I would date it before 1895.

I also have this one (below), which must have been produced en mass seeing as I have at least three copies of it more than 100 years later. In it, she holds my great-grandmother, Helena de Wit, who was born in 1903. For the longest time, my mother tried to tell me the woman holding the baby was a wet nurse and I was like, “Um, no.” The resemblance between her and my cousins is way too strong (I call them ‘those Swalve eyes’ because they’re so distinctive).

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve with daughter Helena de Wit. (Photo by A.J. Swalve.)

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve with daughter Helena de Wit. (Photo by A.J. Swalve.)

 

 

WHO WORE IT BETTER?: Helena de Wit or Klaas Siersema?

This is the first (and likely the only) “Who Wore it Better?” post you will ever see on this blog, so — remember — your vote counts! On the left, we have my great-grandmother Helena “Lenie” de Wit, and, on the right, we have my great-grandfather Klaas Siersema.

Lenie never served in the military, but she had many friends, including her husband, Klaas, and longtime partner, Gerard Berends, who did. Plus, she’s just so darn cute.

Then, we have Klaas, who was a career military man. He worked his way up from lieutenant to colonel before retiring. Clearly, his look is more stoic (that might have something to do with the fact that he is quite literarlly in the field in this photo, which I believe was taken during WWII).