Photographic images of our ancestors are priceless. They really provide some insight to the relative, not just a name and date. Seeing how they dressed, if they were holding any special object such as book, who else was in the photo, whether it was taken in a studio or outside their home or business … all which gives a little more details about their life. It is great to see any familiar resemblance also. You have a square jaw line and you now see a great aunt with the same facial feature, now you know how you inherited it.
To find as many family photos as possible you have to make sure you have checked every conceivable location, especially those that never occurred to you to check.
How to start:
Always check with any family members; aunts, cousins, grandparents, etc. If they are unable to physically go through boxes of photos, volunteer to do it or see if there is a family friend or other relative who can assist. Scan or see if the relative will give any photos of interest you located. Ask if the relative knows the name or date of a person in the photo. Even if there is no name, and the person looks like a relative, scan if, you just might find later who the person is.
Distant Cousins can be a great resource for family photos. Their grandparents would be relatives to you and photos were usually shared.
Contract the family hometown historical society, the local genealogical society and the local museum. Any or all just might have files of town families with photos. They could have been donated by a relative or friends years earlier and housed at one of these societies or especially in a local museum. They would keep images of original town folks or well-known citizens. These societies and museums believe in preservation, so do check them.
Find using the hometown public library microfilm or an online newspaper archive any of the local newspapers and search for the family name. Start with the surname because the given names can be in different forms such as initials. Most of the time, if found, will be an article about an ancestor. However, every so often, there could be a photo or in earlier years an illustration of the person. This method has paid off, but it does take patience.
See if you can locate, especially online, digitized copies of school yearbook pages. It could a high school or a college, many of which have been placed online with individual state archives or with the school itself or college.
Family friends … if you can ever come across names of family friends and if there are any of their descendants, that could be a resource for photos. It was common practice to share photos between friends. Many of those photos were then handed down to the next generation. This would take some research and time.
Big auction site, such as eBay, could also be a gold mine for locating images. It is best to search using a hometown name. Occasionally using a surname will produce images related to your family. Generally using the photographic studio and its location is what is placed on a photo rather than a name. You can even really luck out the surname or each person’s name can be labeled on the back, as was the case of a recent eBay image of Will and Lucy Atchison.
The 1880s photo of four cousins also on eBay, with some labeled on the back with Effie age 16, her cousins Ruth, Lulu Howard standing and Nord Cunningham sitting. The fourth one not labeled, but an address in North Tory, NY was also written. Here you have a couple branches of a family – such a jackpot.
Then eBay image of the young fellow portrait in the 1880s from the St. Peter, Minnesota area. A small area in the 1880s. No name, but with a good photo of him and the area, it just might be a relative if your ancestors lived in that area during that time frame.
So don’t overlook the many methods of locating family photos. Try at least one new method.
Photos: 1880s – eBay auction for photo of Will and Lucy Atchison from Louisville, KY for $2; 1880s photo in North Troy, NY with Effie age 16, her cousins Ruth, Lulu Howard standing and Nord Cunningham sitting for $9.99; and a young man from St. Peter, Minnesota in the 1880s, price $5.99.
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