The following appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Times Living Section on Sunday, May 1, 2005:
DeadFred.com genealogy Web site is more lively than ever.
At least once a month, a box of old, often unidentified photographs shows up on Joe Bott's doorstep. And with the spring-cleaning urge fueling forages through closets, garages and attics, he hopes that will happen more often in the coming weeks. After all, it's going to take a little help for the Springdale genealogy enthusiast to reach his humble goal. "I want every photo in the world taken before 1960," he said with a laugh. Bott, who works in research and development for Tyson Foods, is the brains behind DeadFred. com, a Web site based out of Vulcan Creative Labs in Fayetteville. The site's purpose is to reunite orphaned photographs taken before 1960 with their families.
About 40 years ago, when Bott was in the Navy and traveling frequently, he found time to indulge an obsession with old photographs, purchasing them at flea markets, antique shops and yard sales everywhere he went. Over the years he has accumulated more than 15,000.
In 1998, he was sick for a few days and passed the time doing online research on his own family. He noticed the lack of a comprehensive photo database for the public to search. "Families all posted their pictures on their own sites," Bott explained. "I wanted a place for everyone to post photos."
He contacted Vulcan about designing his site, which began operating March 16, 2001.
In the past four years, DeadFred. com has amassed just shy of 50,000 photographs representing 11,900 surnames and 45 countries. Although many of the photos are identified, those for which no surname is available are filed under a "Mysteries" section.
The site has provided a vehicle for 518 reunions that Bott and his fellow DeadFred archivists Ñ Vulcan staffers Jeannette Balleza and siblings Eric and Amanda Huber Ñ are aware of. Others have undoubtedly happened that no one has told them about, Bott said.
About 60,000 people visit the site each month and spend an average of six minutes browsing, Eric Huber said.
DeadFred's monthly enewsletter, "Relatively Speaking," has about 4,000 subscribers. Among those who completed a personal data form, females comprise about 75 percent of subscribers, and most are ages 50-59. The second largest group is 60 and older. "There are 75 million boomers coming down the road who want to know more about the past," Bott said. "Once you turn 50, you wonder about these things. It must be genetic." "Also, people are more comfortable with the Web these days," Balleza said. "They're starting to use it to find people and put the pieces together." "And they can do it from the comfort of their own homes," Bott added.
In 2000, a poll conducted by Maritz Marketing Research Inc. and Genealogy. com found that since 1995, the percentage of Americans interested in tracing their family history had increased from 45 percent to 60 percent. "It's the second most popular hobby to gardening," Balleza said.
And DeadFred. com is one of their favorite destinations, according to Family Tree Magazine, which has named the site among its top 101 for three years running. Another achievement the DeadFred archivists take pride in is their inclusion in the book "Genealogy for Dummies."
Anywhere from 300 to 1,000 photos are posted to the site from around the world each month. Photos may be submitted either online or through the mail, and their subjects must be deceased.
In fact, sometimes the pictures are actually of a deceased person. Take, for example, the site's namesake. Clicking on "Meet Fred" under the "Information" menu takes visitors to a photograph of Frederick III, former emperor of Germany and king of Prussia, lying in his coffin.
Bott, who is of German descent, learned that his great-great-grandfather was alive during Fred's reign and purchased the photo on eBay. When considering names for his Web site, he thought DeadFred "had a jingle to it," he said.
Amanda Huber agreed. "I loved it," she said. "It really made it memorable."
To submit photographs by mail, send them to P. O. Box 6937, Springdale, AR 72766-6937. Mail-in submissions become the property of the archive and will not be returned. Photographs are inspected by a DeadFred archivist and are normally posted within one to three days of submission.
Donations are welcome as the site's services are free.