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Transcription FAQs - Linking and unlinking images

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By popular demand, here is another post in the Transcription FAQs series.

This one will look at the topic of linking: why, when, and how you should link and unlink photos.

asked Jan 7, 2016 in Frequently Asked Questions by Grave_Digger BG Master (91,420 points)
edited May 2, 2016 by Grave_Digger

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Q. What do you mean by "linking"? Do you mean, connecting Grandpa Joe's record in Baltimore with his son Mike's grave in Chicago? I think I read that somewhere or other in BG I can do that.

A. You can do that, but it's called Relationships, and it's a separate feature of BG which I will deal with in another Transcription FAQs post. It's not what I'm talking about here.

On this page, when I use the word linking, I'm talking about joining together multiple photos of the same grave into a single set. It doesn't have to be the same person - you can have more than one person buried in the grave - but it must be the same grave in the same cemetery.

Q. What does a linked set of photos look like?

A. You know how when you're transcribing, you sometimes see a row of two or more thumbnails on top of the large one? And as you transcribe, you have to click on each one and look at it and rate it? That's a linked set. The photographer took more than one photo of the same grave, and linked them to make a single set. You transcribe each person who's buried there only once for the whole set, rather than once per photo.

Q. Why do photographers do that? Why don't they take just one photo per grave? It would make my life a whole lot easier.

A. Firstly, they do it because BG's highest priority is to build up a repository of the best quality data, the best possible memorial to each deceased person. It's not about making your life easier, or mine, or the photographer's. (I mean, it's nice if they can, but not at the expense of good quality data.) Photographers often take more than one photo of a grave because they're trying to show it from multiple distances and angles, to give family members who live too far away to visit it a good sense of what it would be like to stand there in front of it. See the linked set above? There are close-ups and there are long shots. You get a really good sense of the overall setting in a way that you might not if there had just been one photo.

And secondly, be careful what you wish for. Some graves in BG have only had one photo taken of them, and they're just crying out for a second photo, because the first is too hard to read. Many a time I have wrestled with a headstone that would have been easier to read if the photographer had moved in closer and taken a second shot. So don't grumble at the photographer for taking more than one photo. They may have done you a favour.

Q. Fair enough, but why should I care about linking? It's obviously the photographer's job, and I'm a transcriber, not a photographer!

A. You need to know about linking because sometimes photographers forget to link photos, or they get it wrong. You need to know when to step in and do what they should have done, and you need to know how.

In fairness, I must point out that not every BG photographer is happy about the fact that transcribers have the ability to link and unlink photos. It was only made available a year or two ago, and I recall reading a discussion from back then where one photographer was vehemently opposed to it. I can't find that discussion right now - I'll link to it if I do find it - but what they said, from memory, was that the photographer who took the photos is standing right there at the grave, and they and only they are in a position to know whether two images are of the same grave and should be linked, not someone sitting at their computer who has never been to the cemetery.

Now, I don't completely agree with that. Often the transcriber can tell whether two images are clearly of the same headstone. Moreover, photographers are not infallible. They can forget to link, or link wrongly. Other people need the ability to fix what the photographer got wrong.

But even so, that BG member had a point, and we should take their objections seriously. They're concerned that someone is going to barge in and mess up their carefully linked (or non-linked) photos. They're right to be concerned. Linking and unlinking are not things a transcriber should be doing frivolously or carelessly. You have a responsibility as a transcriber to be careful and to do your best to get it right.

Q. So when should two photos be linked?

A. Assuming you're looking at two photos which the photographer has not already linked together...

You should link two photos if they are very clearly the same headstone - which is usually easy to determine, because it's very obviously the same stone or plaque photographed a bit further away or at a different angle - or very clearly the same grave - which is not quite so easy.

You need more than a common family name to link two photos together and call it the same grave. If you can clearly see from a long shot photo that two graves have some physical feature in common - a shared headstone extending across two slabs, or a shared slab, or a fence or border enclosing them both, or they are different sides of the same obelisk - then quite clearly they are related, and should be linked.

If the inscriptions on two or more adjacent graves indicate they are husband and wife, or parent and child, or siblings, or connected in some other way - e.g. a cremation plaque with "William Andrew Bloggs, husband of Ethel Marie", and right next to it, another plaque with "Ethel Marie Bloggs, wife of William Andrew" - then clearly they are one family, so it's OK to link them too. (Not essential, but OK.) And if there's any one photo which has both of these related plaques in it, definitely link it to the individual photos.

If the cemetery has an online index (outside of BG), and you've looked up the deceased people in it and discovered from the plot location that it's the same grave, then it's OK to link them.

Beyond that, proceed with caution. If the people whose names appear in the different photos do not overlap, then it is better to err on the side of NOT linking them, and leave it up to the family to decide which images should be linked. Remember: linking images effectively means they end up in the same virtual "grave". There are some people, related or not, who do not want to be in the same grave.

Q. And when should two photos NOT be linked?

A. If you see a set of photos you strongly suspect contain unrelated people (i.e. there is NOTHING that they have in common - no common surname, no common surviving family members, different styles of headstone, photos not taken consecutively), then I urge you to consider unlinking them before you transcribe. This is especially important if the number of photos is large, because it suggests the photographer really doesn't know what they're doing and is using the Link button randomly.

I once discovered a cemetery where the photographer linked images for about a dozen graves in at least two separate rows, possibly three, into the same "grave" purely because they have the same surname. It's easy to see from the pictures that these are not the same grave - there's a great variety of headstone styles, and the long shots make it clear that they're not all in the same row. And the photographer has done that for at least three different families.

This is a very bad idea. For one thing, it makes a mockery of the GPS location if graves so far apart are lumped together as a single grave.

For another thing, unless he or she is related to them, the photographer cannot know, for instance, whether Great-Aunt Agnes in grave F3 had an abiding hatred of Cousin Harold in grave G11 and wants no more to do with him in death than she did in life. Linking the images means she's now sharing a grave with him. She may have hated that idea. Her family may hate that. Unless you're related to them, you don't know.

Another transcriber brought to my attention a set of 73 linked photos of totally unrelated people That is truly ridiculous. "Stupidity", she called it. I have to agree. Even a war memorial is not going to have that many linked images. Clearly it was done by a photographer who had no idea what they were doing.

So please don't do this. If they're separate graves, unlink the images, transcribe them separately, and then a family member who comes across these images can decide whether to call them one grave or not. And I'm guessing most family members will decide against it, especially because BG offers a Relationships function which allows you to link up the people without trying to pretend they're all in one grave.

Q. I'm worried. I'm looking at a large set of linked photos that don't seem to have anything at all in common, but there might be some relationship there that's not obvious. I'm worried that if I unlink them before I start transcribing, some family member will be upset that I unlinked Grandpa from his daughter or whatever, and I just didn't recognise them as a family because they have different names.

A. Your concern for the families of the deceased is commendable, but I wouldn't worry too much if I were you. Unlinking is never irrevocable, so if you're fairly sure they are not the same grave, I'd go ahead and unlink them. Unless the photographer is a family member, no one in that family is ever going to know they were ever linked. (And if the photographer IS a family member and the linking is important to them, then they should have done the transcribing themselves, and not left this puzzling set of photos for some poor stranger to wrestle with!)

If you make the wrong call and the people really are related after all, they can be relinked fairly easily. But if you leave them linked when they shouldn't be, they can't be easily unlinked after they are transcribed. (It's possible, but complicated.) What's more, you risk causing great offence to one or both families if you leave them linked and a family member comes across them. So in my opinion, the lesser of two evils is to unlink them.

Q. But if I unlink them, where do they go? Does the photo I unlinked get thrown away?

A. Not at all. It just goes back in the queue. You can even transcribe it yourself if you want to! Just make a note of its image number before you unlink it, then after you finish transcribing the current image, go to the URL box in your browser, replace the current image's number with the number of the image you unlinked, and hit Return. Assuming no one else got to it in the meantime, the photo you want will be displayed with a set of blank fields, all ready for you to transcribe.

answered Jan 7, 2016 by Grave_Digger BG Master (91,420 points)
selected Jan 7, 2016 by BillionGraves Admin
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Q. OK, I think I understand when two unlinked photos should be linked. But something puzzles me. I'm the transcriber. I'm on the transcription screen. It's showing me ONE photo. How am I going to know that there's ANOTHER photo out there of the same grave, that I should be linking to this one? I don't normally have two transcription windows open at the same time, and even if I did, I just accept whichever images the transcription pool gives me. How will I see that second photo? How will I even be aware of its existence?

A. Good question. This is why linking is largely a photographer's concern, and less often a transcriber's. (UNlinking is more often a transcriber's concern.)

Photographers tend to look at large arrays of photos at a time. We transcribers tend to just look at whatever the transcription pool gives us - either a single photo, or an already-linked set of photos. We tend not to go hunting to see what else is out there that might just need linking. Largely, we have no need to.

But sometimes we need to. One situation is when what's in front of you is difficult to transcribe, because it's a bit blurry, or incomplete, or not close enough, or a bad angle, or the headstone is obstructed by a vase or debris or whatever. Before you write it off as Bad Photo and skip to the next one, it's a good idea to see if there's another photo of the same grave taken immediately before or after this one. That photo combined with this one might make it possible to transcribe the whole thing. And if you find one, you should link it.

A second situation is when you are presented with a photo and you think "Hang on, didn't I transcribe that person yesterday?" Chances are you did. Chances are that what you're looking at is a second photo of the same grave taken by the same photographer, who just forgot to link it to the photo you transcribed yesterday. And if that's the case, you should go looking for yesterday's photo, and link them together. It might just save you the work of transcribing this new photo.

A third situation is when you're doing your transcribing not from the Transcription tab, but from the Images tab on the cemetery page. You can see an array of thumbnail images there, like the photographer who took them saw in his or her MyPhotos folder. As you click on each thumbnail to transcribe it, have a quick look at the thumbnails to the left and right of it. Do they look suspiciously similar to the one you're about to transcribe? Then investigate them, and if they're the same grave, link them.

Q. When I'm on the transcription page, with one photo in front of me, how do I go looking to see if there's another photo to link?

A. Step 1: Scroll down to the bottom of the transcription page. You should see a Link button. It may not look quite like the one below - the buttons on the transcription page vary slightly depending on whether you got to it via the Transcribe tab, or the MyPhotos folder, or the grave pin on the cemetery map - but there should be some button there which allows you to access the Link function:

Step 2: Click on this Link button. It will take you to the Image Linker screen. On the left is a thumbnail of the current image (or set of already linked images). On the right are thumbnails of the images taken immediately before and after the current one. If they have already been transcribed, they'll have a blue border around them. If they haven't, they'll have a grey border. In the screenshot below, you can see that the top right photo has a blue border, so it has been transcribed already, and the others have not. For linking purposes, it doesn't matter whether they've been transcribed or not - you'll still be able to link them if you want.

Step 3: Examine the images on the right. If they're too small to see clearly, click on the magnifying glass symbol in the top right of each photo to enlarge it.

Q. I've found the image I want! How do I link it to the image on the left of the screen?

A. Click on its green plus symbol, like this:

That will bring it over to the left of the screen, and link it to the current image. You will probably get a message saying "This image has been transcribed - are you sure you want to link it?" whether it has been transcribed or not. This is a bug, which I have reported.

You can link as many images as you want, but be very careful you don't accidentally link images that are of different graves.

Q. I found a photo on the right I wanted to link to the one on the left, I clicked on its green and white plus symbol just like you said - and FOUR photos jumped over the left side and linked to the photo already there! HELP! What did I do wrong?

A. Don't panic. This can look a bit alarming when it happens, but there's not necessarily anything wrong. It just means the photo you clicked on wasn't an isolated photo. It was already linked to three others. So when you clicked on the link button, all four of the photos came along for the ride.

Just examine all the newly linked photos carefully. Are they all the same grave? Good. Then nothing's wrong. But is one or more of them a photo of a completely different grave? Then it was linked in error, so unlink it (see instructions below).

Q. How do I UNLINK images that have been wrongly linked (by me or someone else)?

A. On the Image Linker screen, click on this red symbol:

Q. I know there's an image out there to be linked to the current one. I've seen it before. I even know its image number! But it doesn't show up in the column on the right side of the screen. How can I link it?

A. If you don't see it on the right side of the screen, it means that BG doesn't recognise it as a potential image for linking. If you were the photographer, and you know the image number of the image you want to link, BG may display a box on the left side of the screen in which you can enter the image number you want to link and then click Add, like this:

But I think that box is only for images you've photographed yourself, because as a transcriber trying to link other people's images together, I've never seen that box appear.

Q. The image I want to link has already been transcribed - I transcribed it myself the other day. But it doesn't show up on the right side of the Image Linker screen, and there's no image number box like in the picture above, so I can't link it by number. How can I get it onto the Image Linker screen and link it to the image on the left?

A. You can't do it via this screen, but that's OK, there is one final way. You can do it by merging transcribed records. Go back to the transcription screen, transcribe your new image (if there's more than one person buried there, you only need to do one of them), and then click on that person's name to bring up the Record View screen. If you've transcribed it properly, what you've just created should be a duplicate record. You can now merge the duplicates.

answered Jan 7, 2016 by Grave_Digger BG Master (91,420 points)
edited Jun 6, 2016 by Grave_Digger
Thanks for this tutorial, it answers a lot of questions with linking!