Photos and Prints at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress LogoThe main element that every family historian looks to have in the family genealogy project is photos of ancestors. Next would be images of the family home or farm and then a family business and next the hometown. Each image allows the researcher to step back in time to better understand and appreciate their ancestor’s life and the historical events that affected them.

The U. S. Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. is the largest library in the world. Besides the rich assortment of books, letters, documents, records and maps held for safe keeping at the Library of Congress is the massive collection of some 14 million photographs and prints. To assist all types of researchers, the Library of Congress has online The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) with listings of the many collections related to photos and prints. It is an ongoing process adding a scanned image of each photo or print along with a description, so not all 14 million items are presently available on the catalog.

There are more than 1.2 million images that are digitized and placed as a thumbnail (smaller) image on the Library site. Many of the thumbnail images can also be enlarged so they can be downloaded. Others that are not larger can be downloaded right at the Library of Congress or copies of the images can be ordered and mailed from the Library of Congress.

Collections of different themes, events and eras of photos and prints have been donated or purchased by the Library of Congress over the years. The array and variety is immense. Some of the selection of photos included: African-American life from 1860 to 1945, Civil War and Aftermath Photos from 1861 to 1869, Japanese-American Internment Camps in the USA, News Events and News Makers 1900 to 1931, Portraits in Daguerreotypes from 1839 to 1864, Government leaders, military officers, actors, religious leaders and artists from 1860 to 1875, Illustrations from magazines of America from 1850 to 1930, Cartoon drawings from 1780 to 1975, Native Indians from 1890 to 1929, America from 1935 to 1945, California and Nevada scenes from 1862 to 1867, Posters for travel, political and business from 1840 to 2010 and celebrities from 1932 to 1964, to name a few.

There is an easy search engine in which to locate images from any of the collections. Placing the name of a hometown generally produces many images. For example: Frederick, Maryland had 532 photos, illustrations and prints. The town of Santa Fe, New Mexico had 459 images; all covering scenes, groups and individuals. To add to the family knowledge explore what what might be available at the Library of Congress Photo and Print Collections.

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