Where to Look for Photos of Ancestors

Are you on the hunt for some great photos? Here are some ideas of where to look.

1. Relatives. You may have already thought to ask relatives, such as siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. But have you contacted distant relatives? I have found some great photos I’ve never seen before from 2nd and 3rd cousins and great-aunts/uncles. Remember, pictures were given to lots of relatives at the time, who may have passed the pictures to their descendants, who are your distant cousins. They may not want to pull out that box in the attic until you make a visit to their home, so don’t give up too easily when contacting them. Most people are thrilled to have a visitor to share the stories of the pictures with! Or if they are tech savvy, they could scan and email the pictures to you!

2. County Histories. These are one of my favorite sources! Most counties created a historical book at their centennial commemoration. Most of them asked for photo and biography submissions of families from each town. They sometimes had pictures of clubs, organizations, school children, military servicemen, and other great group photos. You may find photos of the local churches and school houses, as well as the local businesses. County Histories can be a gold mine of photos!

3. FamilySearch. FamilySearch is a great website where millions of people are collaborating by adding photos and stories of ancestors. You’ll need to sign up for a free account, and then search for an ancestor’s name in the “Tree” tab. The farther back you go, the better chances you have of finding an ancestor. People are uploading documents such as death certificates, journals, newspaper articles, as well as a plethora of pictures!

4. Historical and Genealogical Societies. There are state, county, and city societies all over the United States. Google the area you are researching to see what society is available. Many times they have collected pictures and stories of the residents in the area and compiled them in books. There may not be copies anywhere else except the society. Sometimes they sell the books, and other times you can make copies. These little gems can be the key to finding a picture of that elusive ancestor!

5. Yearbooks. Did you know that many archives have copies of yearbooks? They may be at a state or county archive, or at a local or county library. You may also find some at the historical or genealogical library. These can be great to find an ancestor when they were younger, as well as see some of the activities they participated in.

6. Newspapers. Often times we think of photographs as a single copy buried in a box. But don’t forget that pictures were often posted in the newspaper! These could include marriage announcements, obituaries, and general fun stories about your relative. Newspapers used to be the Facebook of the day, so much of the content was the social happenings. Don’t miss out on some great stories and pictures that have been preserved in newspapers!

7. Organizations. If your relative was a member of the Freemasons, a military group, a local society, or other organization, chances are there were group photos taken. See if you can contact the organization to find out where the older photos are kept. You may find an ancestor at an age you’ve never seen them before!

I wish you all the best on your hunt for more great photographs! And don’t forget, once you get your hands on an amazing one, make sure to preserve it by making a digital copy and distributing it to your relatives to enjoy!

Published by colleenstutz

I am an Accredited Genealogist®. I have worked as a researcher, a college instructor, and owned my own genealogy coaching business. I love to help others improve their genealogy research skills!

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