For many genealogists, old photos hold cherished memories, but the details, including when they were taken, often remain shrouded in mystery. Searching for clues on the reverse side of these photos might yield nothing, leaving us with unanswered questions about our ancestors.

MyHeritage, however, has undertaken the task of unravelling these mysteries by introducing PhotoDater™, an innovative free feature that employs Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to estimate the year a photo was captured.

Distinguishing Feature

Developed by the AI team, PhotoDater™ utilizes robust technology to provide an educated guess on the photo’s creation date. This can be an invaluable tool in shedding light on the identities within the photo and the occasion it commemorates, aiding genealogical research. PhotoDater™ is also offered completely free of charge.

Recognized by Experts

PhotoDater™ has already garnered praise from esteemed figures in the genealogy community. Renowned genealogy expert Maureen Taylor, often referred to as The Photo Detective™, lauds PhotoDater™ as a significant addition to MyHeritage’s suite of photo tools, serving as an initial step in unravelling photo mysteries. Genealogy Bargains’ Thomas MacEntee commends MyHeritage for effectively employing AI to serve practical genealogical purposes, highlighting PhotoDater™ as a highly beneficial tool for analysing undated photos.

Inception of the Idea

The concept for PhotoDater™ was conceived by MyHeritage’s Founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet, and was first introduced during his presentation at RootsTech in 2020.


PhotoDater™ operates by utilizing an exclusive machine-learning algorithm developed by MyHeritage. This algorithm draws from a dataset of tens of thousands of definitively dated historical photos, enabling it to recognize subtleties like clothing, hairstyles, facial hair, furniture, and other distinctive features characteristic of different eras.

The algorithm provides date estimations for photos captured between 1860 and 1990, with a high degree of confidence in its accuracy. Notably, only undated photos without existing metadata dates, featuring people, and captured as photographs (not documents or gravestones), are eligible for estimation. The accuracy of the algorithm has been extensively tested, revealing estimates to be remarkably precise, often narrowing down to an approximate year.

Utilizing Date Estimates in Genealogical Research

Date estimates offered by PhotoDater™ can greatly aid in family history research. Determining the year a photo was taken can facilitate the identification of individuals and help deduce the occasion, such as a wedding or milestone event. For instance, if a date estimate suggests a marriage year based on a wedding photo, it can lead to a narrower birth year estimation for the individuals involved. It’s essential to note that while PhotoDater™ provides highly accurate estimations, these are still approximations. As such, saved date estimates appear in GEDCOM format, reflecting their estimated nature rather than absolute certainty.

Availability and Beyond

PhotoDater™ is a complimentary feature currently accessible on the MyHeritage desktop platform. Its availability on mobile web browsers and integration into both the MyHeritage app and the Reimagine photo app are forthcoming.

Unveiling the Past

Historical photos serve as tangible connections to our ancestral heritage, enriching our family narratives. With PhotoDater™, these photos transcend mere heirlooms, becoming powerful tools for unveiling new insights. While date estimates offer valuable guidance, they should be interpreted with cautious optimism, as they might hold the key to groundbreaking discoveries in your research.

Image Source:

  • Photo by Annie Spratt: instant images