The following appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Times Living Section on Sunday, April 15, 2001:
Springdale man turns hobby into popular Web site of old family photographs.
It was a 1902 photograph of a New Jersey woman holding an infant that eventually led Joe Bott to create www.deadfred.com an Internet site dedicated to providing a comprehensive source of old family photographs that has taken off faster than Bott ever anticipated.
But first the photograph. Its a hobby of Botts, collecting old photographs. The avid collector says he has 10,000 in his collection, 70 percent of which date from before 1900.
That 1902 photo got Bott thinking. Although the woman, identified as Ms. Griegson, would be long dead, the baby, named William, might still be alive. Granted, hed be in his late-90s, but Bott wondered if he could locate the now elderly man.
Using the Internet, Bott searched the Social Security Death Index, which contains more than 65 million names of deceased people who were issues Social Security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. Bott found William Griegson, who had died in 1995.
Determined to locate someone connected to his 1902 photograph, Bott conducted an Internet search and found several Griegsons in New Jersey. Bott called the one with the same first name as the babys.
At first leery of this man on the other end of the phone, the younger William Griegson finally realized the photo showed his grandmother holding his father.
He didnt know it existed, so I sent it to him, and I thought, You know, there are a whole lot of Griegsons out there, Bott said.
So began the thought process that became www.deadfred.com, Botts Web site devoted to old photographs. His interest in both photographs and genealogy alerted Bott to the dearth of a comprehensive collection of photos through which people could connect to their past.
Originally from southern New Jersey, Bott and his family moved to Springdale in 1993 after Bott accepted a job with Tyson Foods working in research and development. Thinking he could turn his passion into something more full time after retirement, Bott worked with Vulcan Creative Labs, an agency in Springdale, to create deadfred.com.
Bott said he was used to creating a product and waiting to see if it takes off he just never imagined his Web site would prove so popular. In the first few days, the site received more than 9,000 hits, growing to 20,000 in only a few weeks, Bott said. At one point, his daughter-in-law, who lives in Virginia and helps with the site, received 250 e-mails in a 12-hour span.
It was totally overwhelming. Thats how it happened, Bott said. Im sitting here three weeks later . . . and theres no way I can manage it.
Only the photographs in Botts collection that are identified by either name or geographical area are in the Web site right now. He scanned and numbered each photo himself and jokes hell have to take a leave of absence to scan the remaining photographs that dont have identifiable details, which is a task for a future date. Those photos will be found in the mysteries section of the Web site, which currently has only a small number of unidentified photos, Bott said.
Visitors may search for family photos in a variety of ways, including clicking on the first letter of the name, typing the full name or searching by a specific photographer, Bott said. The Web site also features a lost and found section, and people may post their own photographs that date before 1960 and feature deceased people.
If someone finds a photo on deadfred.com that contains his or her family, Bott will return it after one year, which allows enough time to see if anyone else also recognizes it, he said.
And people are locating family photos on the site. Bott recently received a letter from a woman whod identified two uncles, one aunt and one great aunt.
Thats our grand slam four of them with one woman.
He thinks part of the reason his Web site has been accessed by a large number of visitors in a short time has to do with the increasing interest in genealogy.
You got to find the niche and go for it.
So, now to perhaps the most interesting question: Whos the fred in deadfred?
Botts great-great-grandfather was alive at the same time as Frederick III, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, which is where the fred part comes from a tribute to Botts German ancestry. A recently purchased photo of Frederick taken after his death from throat cancer can be found on the Web site.
Theres also a more practical reason for the name.
I went to my family and said, Give me names, give me names, Bott explained. We whittled it down, and deadfred stuck.