How To Find Old Family Photos

How To Find Old Family Photos

Old family photographs can help you to discover more about what your ancestors, and can help to give you a better understanding of what they were like as people, rather than simply having birth, marriage, and death dates.

You may be very lucky in that you already hold a great number of family photographs of your ancestors, but for the vast majority of us, the only things we know about our ancestors is what we have found in the records.

This article will help you to find old family photographs, even if you do not think that you will be able to find anything.


Ask The Family If They Have Any Photographs

You should always ask your direct family if they have any photographs they may be willing to share with you.  You should also ask distant relatives such as cousins and aunts and uncles as they may have photographs of your direct ancestors and relatives. 

When I met my 2nd cousin, she showed me many photographs of her grandparents and their family, some of which included photographs of my grandmother I had never seen before.



Look in Archives

Many Archives have numerous photographs and images in their collections, some of which may include your ancestors.  Some of these photographs have been indexed, so it would be prudent to peruse their catalogue to see if your ancestors and relatives are mentioned.


Facebook

Many Facebook Groups are dedicated to the history of a place, whether that is a town, village, or county. 

These groups are not only useful if you need help with your research, or need to know where somewhere in the village or area was, members also post historical photographs, which may include photographs of your ancestors.  

You can search for these groups by searching for the region, town or village you are interested in, and requesting to join your chosen group. 

A Facebook group dedicated to the history of the area in which I live frequently posts old images of the village.


Flickr

Some Archives and Record Offices have digitised some of their collections, and have put them on Flickr

Flickr is a photo-sharing platform and social network where people share their photographs on a secure platform for other people to view.  Users are able to create a free account and can then upload their photographs to share with friends and followers.


FamilySearch Photographs

It is also possible to find family photographs online using FamilySearch photos.  You can search through their collection of images, download them, or add your own images.


Family Old Photos

Family Old Photos contains over 52000 vintage photographs, so it is worth searching through the site to see if they have any photographs of your ancestors.  The photos on the site are mainly from the United States, however.


Village History Books

Many village history books include many photographs of buildings and people, so it is possible that a photograph of your ancestor may have been included in the book.  Many books have indexes, so you may be able to search for your ancestor's name.  If the book is not indexed, you may have to go through each page to see if your ancestor is in any of the photographs.  


Family History Books

You may find that you are not the first person to research your family history, and that the researcher has written a book about their research.  This book may contain family photographs you may not otherwise have seen.


Online Family Trees

Although online family trees can be inaccurate, and you must always verify the information you may discover, some online family trees contain family photographs of your ancestors and relatives.


Using Google

Another way of searching for family photographs is to make use of Google and/or other search engines. 

If you search for your ancestor's name in a search engine, you may find that images have been uploaded.  To narrow down your search, it is best to include dates in your search.  You may also have more luck if you click images rather than use the normal search.


Criminal Records

Although you may not like to think that your ancestor was suspected of/was involved in criminal activity, many criminal records contain either a photograph or a description of your ancestor.


Passport Photographs

If your ancestor ever traveled overseas, they were issued with a passport which would have included a photograph. 

My family did not have many photographs of my grandfather, but because he travelled to Kenya in the early 1970s, he had a passport which contained a photograph of him that is now displayed in the house.

Harry Richardson 1907-1990Harry Richardson 1907-1990

Army Records

If your ancestor served in the military, you may find that a photograph is included in the record.  Even if no photograph is included, they often contained a description, so you can imagine what they might have looked like.  

My ancestor Thomas McJannett, who served between 14 April 1805 and 31 August 1816, was invalided out of the Army after suffering ten injuries in the Battle of Waterloo. 

Thomas's discharge paper stated that he was five foot four inches, had brown hair and blue eyes, and had a brown complexion.

If you are unable find a photograph, and know the name of his regiment, searching for the regiment may turn up a regimental photograph that includes your ancestor.


Hospital Records

If your ancestor was admitted to hospital, you may find that the record includes a description of their mental and physical characteristics so you can obtain more of a picture of what he or she were like as a person.


Business Directories

If your ancestor ran a business, and advertised in a business directory, you may find that the advert contains a photograph of them.  This may include a photograph of them outside their business premises.


Wills

Photographs were very rare in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so it is possible that if your ancestor only had one photograph taken during his lifetime that he bequeathed it to a family member in his will.  

If you find that a photograph was bequeathed in a will, and the benefactor was not one of your immediate family, it is prudent to research the line of the person it was given to to see if you can track them down and ask them (or their descendants) if they still have the photograph and if they are willing to share a copy of it with you.


Newspapers

If your ancestor served in the military, he may be mentioned in the newspaper, this possibly including a photograph.  You can also narrow down the search field to search for a local newspaper.

You may also find that your ancestor is included in a regimental photograph printed in the newspaper, so searching for the name of their regiment may yield results.

A significant family event such as a wedding may also be mentioned in the newspaper, which may include a photograph of the happy couple.

If you search for the area in which your ancestors lived, you may find that photographs of residents were included in the paper's description of a village event or other activity.  These photographs may include those of your ancestors.

If your ancestor received an award for his business, or for helping out his local community, you may find that an article written about the honour includes a photograph.


Sports Photographs

If your ancestor was involved in sport, you may discover that his photograph was included in a newspaper or in a book or publication about the history of the team.  

My ancestor Herbert Dunkley was one of the original boys of Northampton Saints Rugby team, and he is included in a team photograph published in a book about the history of the team.


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