MyHeritage has worked with the creators of a machine learning technology to enhance photos by upscaling (increasing the resolution) the faces that appear in them. This produces exceptional results for historical photos, where the faces are often small and blurry. The enhancement is supposed to work best on photos that feature multiple people, and allows you to go face by face to see how each one has been enhanced.
The above photo is of my paternal grandparents and my father, who I would estimate would have been between 10 and 15 years old in the photo. As my dad was born in 1907, I reckon this puts the photo around 1917 to 1922.
George William Rudgard Chaplin Kent was born on 19 Jan 1851, the son of George Davies Kent, the vicar of Stratford Tony in Wiltshire, and Anne Rudgard, both parents originally from Lincoln. He attended Queen’s College, Oxford and graduated with a BA in 1874, and an MA in 1877. During this time, he was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church (1876), becoming the Vicar of Hough-on-the-Hill, in Lincolnshire. He married Averilladay Mary Hobson at the age of 44 in 1895. She was 27 at the time, having been born in Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire in 1867. Averilladay was the name of her great grandmother (Averilladay Overton 1772-1838), and which she also passed down to one of her daughters. I remember as kids when we first heard what her full name was (as opposed to being called Averil), we found it very funny and renamed her “‘ave a lovely day”.
They went on to have 3 children, the youngest of whom was my father, George Davies Hugh Kent, born in 1907, who ended the family tradition of joining the clergy, becoming a Mechanical Engineer, and migrating to South Africa in 1935 to work as a mining engineer in the coal mines of the Transvaal. The, he married a teacher from Wales, Ann Eleanor Jenkins in 1935 and had a son David in 1937.
He joined up to serve in WWII in 1940, serving in the North Africa Campaign, escaped being captured at Tobruk, and then served in Palestine and Italy Campaigns for the rest of the war.
After the war, they divorced, and he subsequently married my mother, Beatrice Marion Wall (born Watson), who had recently been widowed with 3 children, my half-siblings.
I was born in 1962, when my dad was 55 years old. He left the mines in about 1964, and found a position as resident engineer at the Cape Orchard Company in the Hex River Valley, managing the cold storage complex for farms producing apples and grapes for export. He ‘retired’ from this position at the age of 65, moving to Cape Town (Fish Hoek) but continued to work as an engineer in the SA Naval Dockyard in Simonstown until just before his death in 1990.
This photo is of my maternal grandparents and my mother and her brother, who I would estimate would have been about 6 and 10 years old at the time. As my mum was born in 1917, and her brother in 1921 I reckon this puts the photo around 1925-1927.
Archibald Watson was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1887. He was the grandson of Joseph Watson from Northumberland, described in an earlier post. His parents George Anthony Watson and Alice Bryer Cowx migrated to the Eastern Cape in South Africa in about 1882. At the age of 29, he married Ida Millicent Marion Crowder in Cape Town in 1916, where my mother Beatrice Marion Watson was born in 1917. He worked for the Standard Bank in South Africa, becoming Bank Manager of the Middleburg branch in the Transvaal in the early 1920’s. His son, George Archibald Watson was born here in 1921.
In the original photograph, it is clear that he is wearing very light rimless spectacles, and it is interesting that the enhancement algorithm in the colour photo has tried to remove these but left what appears to be a horizontal scar on his face where the temple rims had been.
My maternal grandmother, Ida Millicent Marion Crowder was born in Kimberley, in South Africa in 1883. She was the daughter of Alfred Crowder from Staffordshire in England and Jane Emily Stevens, who was born in Durban, South Africa – my earliest South African born relative. Her father was Henry Williams Stevens from Mistly in Essex. My grandfather Archibald Watson died in 1959, followed by his wife Ida in 1962, 4 months before I was born.
In this photo, my mother Beatrice Marion Watson would have been about 9 or 10 years old. She was born in Claremont, Cape Town in 1917. She qualified as a domestic science teacher, and worked as a demonstrator for the Johannesburg Gas dept. In 1940, at the age of 23 she married Dudley Charles Wall and had 3 children, my half-siblings. Dudley died young in 1950, whilst she was pregnant with my sister. It must have been tough as a widow with 3 children in those days, but she managed to find work as a dietician for the Witbank Provincial Hospital, and in 1951 married my dad George Davies Hugh Kent. Soon after I was born in 1962, we moved to the Cape, where she worked as an Arts & Crafts teacher, running classes in Cookery, metalwork and leatherwork at various technical colleges. She died at the age of 84 in 2002. Unfortunately, I never met her brother, my uncle, George Archibald Watson who would have been about 4 or 5 years old in this photograph and lived in Durban. He passed away in 1990.
How Does The MyHeritage Photo Enhancer Work
This weeks 52 ancestors in 52 weeks theme “Favorite Photo” was the stimulus to try out the new tool in MyHeritage. I had imagined that is was just another sharpening, editing tool that many digital photo apps provide, but found that it is very definitely much more than that. It certainly does remove scratches and creases from photographs, but the key differentiator is how it uses machine learning to edit parts of images that are blurred or obscured and can add elements that weren’t in the original photo by comparing and learning from its huge database of photographs that it ‘learns’ from. It can replace or redraw small obscured elements in the original image by using photographs it considers to be very similar. If facial parts are blurred or obscured, a more complex process comes into play, and it will attempt to infer (or guess) what “should” be in this piece of the image.
For example, suppose one eye is obscured or shaded in a headshot. It will attempt to use the other eye in the photograph as a reference for size and shape. It can then replace pixels with what it has learned within the same photograph. – Explanation summarised from an article by Margaret O’Brien in DataMiningDNA.com
Mother & Daughter Passport photo's
Another by-product of this weeks challenge was my finding the passports of my mother and grandmother, with photos taken when the were probably roughly the same age. I hadnt noticed this before …. but wow – do they look similar!