The following appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Times Living Section on Monday, May 2, 2005:


Old photos find home on Web site.
BY CHARLIE MORASCH

In the mid-1990s, Joe Bott of Springdale discovered the Internet was a valuable tool for his newfound love of researching genealogy.

Bott found scripted records mentioning names, dates and locations. He didn't find any pictures. "There are deeds, birth certificates, every piece of paper you can think of," Bott said, "except photos."

In 2001, Bott started Dead-Fred. com, a Web site that offers nearly 50,000 photos from 1960 and earlier.

The Web site has begun a campaign to ask those doing spring cleaning to donate any photos taken before 1960 rather than discarding them, something that could provide more online photos as well as digital preservation of history. "You're increasing your chances for finding family, but you're also preserving the photo," said Jeannette Balleza, a coowner of the Web site.

Bott receives a box of photos per month, including many unidentified pictures, and Web site visitors can upload their photos to the site.

If they find a relative in a photo that Bott owns, he will mail them the photo.

The site has paired 518 people with photos of their ancestors, Bott said.

The site, run from the offices of Vulcan Creative Labs LLC in Fayetteville, was designed to contrast with the stereotype of senior citizen clubs poring over dusty library documents, Bott said. "Once upon a time, genealogy was homework done by old people," said Bott, a manager of research and development at Tyson Foods Inc. "It's changed. Now it's done with a cup of coffee at your desk at home while you're watching Oprah."

The site garners 40,000-60,000 unique visits per month and more than 1 million hits per month, Bott said.

Though genealogy remains popular with senior citizens, 45 percent of respondents in a 2,000-person survey said they started genealogy before they turned 40, said Megan Smolenyak, a professional genealogist and author from Henfield, N. J.

Americans two to three generations removed from ancestor immigrants tend to become interested in researching their roots, Smolenyak said. "Over the last decade or so, it's been really exploding, due in part, of course, to the Internet," Smolenyak said. "The first two to three generations of immigrants want to become Joe American — we’re just hitting that point from Ellis Island immigrants."

Smolenyak said www. deadfred. com is noteworthy in genealogy circles for its creative elements, including a mystery photo section and the ability to search for photos of people with interesting names. The site has information on 11,900 surnames.

Other sections show 19 thcentury pictures of people after death, something the Web site’s founders discovered was common in that era.

Bott named the Web site for German King Frederick III, who ruled for 99 days in 1888. He said he picked the name because it is catchy and a link to his own German ancestry.

A challenge has remained for turning the site's popularity among genealogists into profits, said Eric Huber, who maintains the site’s layout and organization.

Genealogists tend not to want to pay membership fees, click on banner advertising or spend a lot of money doing research, Huber said.

When the site launched in 2001, it received 30,000 hits in less than two weeks, he said. "We thought, 'Oh, my gosh, we could make a fortune on this site,' but we found out people who were doing genealogy just don't blow money on anything," Huber said. "We always make sure this site is free."

Genealogy-related advertising is the site's main revenue source, Huber said.

Co-owned by Bott, Balleza and Huber and his sister Amanda, the site has been featured in the book Genealogy Online for Dummies, and recently was named one of the top 25 genealogy Web sites in Family Tree magazine.