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Alternative Family History Images

doughboy-2As you put together the family tree, a family newsletter, or even the entire family history in book form, the greatest challenge will be finding illustrations or photos of your family. Some individuals are very fortunate to have a massive collection of images handed down through the generations, others have little or nothing to view. Or you might have quite a bit from one side of the family and nothing from another side, but don’t give up, there are other methods to use.

First, make sure your have tried all fellow researchers in your family line and extended family members. Even if you asked them years ago and they said they had nothing, maybe the have uncovered something previously unknown. So do check again. Offer to share any you have. If they have some photos unlabeled, ask to view them or have a digital copy sent to you. Many discoveries have been made by comparing known photos with unknown and then spotting the similar features or locations.

If you locate some images on a researcher’s web site, do ask permission to save those photos or have copies sent to you. When doing a search use surnames, hometown names, certain occupations (such a doctor, lawyer), military units, etc. Your great uncle just might be pictured with his Army regiment from World War One on a website.

That leads to using alternative photos and illustration. You can’t locate a photo of your great uncle in his military uniform, but you have found the name of the Army camp he was stationed at in 1918. You could add a photo of another soldier who would have served at that time period in that military branch and use that photo to illustrate what your ancestor might have worn. That alone will speak volumes since it shows the environment (the camp and his uniform) he lived in at that time period. Another alternative image would be postcards and photos of a person’s hometown. Seeing scenes of the streets they walked or the stores they may have shopped at can really make that newsletter or family history book come alive. To find some of these locations you can contact the local museum, use a search engine (like Google) or even place the name of the hometown on Facebook. There are many individuals of that town who just might have some interesting images to share. Using Facebook is also good to put a request or message out there for anything you are especially looking for. In a Google search also check the listing for books, surprisingly there will be images in a digital book which won’t appear in a regular search.

When you know an occupation, such as shoe maker in a Massachusetts shoe factory in the 1910s, there are countless available images online and from museums of such scenes. True, your ancestor is not pictured, but it does illustrate a similar work environment. Also be familiar with what was a popular recreation of the times such as bicycling, roller skating, early baseball in the late 1800s. There are numerous illustrations for those activities.

Look at historical events during your ancestor’s life time. If they lived on the American Great Plains (Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, etc) during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, there are many photos illustrating that experience; living with clouds of dust for days and weeks at a time. If you located the name of the passenger ship they immigrated on to reach America, there could be an image of that ship online. The list of possibilities is endless, just review the years your ancestor lived, what locations, occupations and go from them. Before long you could have quite a collection of alternative images to enhance your family history.

Photo: World War One – typical ‘doughboy’ – soldier.

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