During the holidays, many people think about family. It is probably why more genealogy projects start over the holidays than any other time during the year. It makes sense. The holiday season is when relatives gather together and recall both good moments and bad. Inevitably, there is a disagreement over who said what and when. This year, why not enliven the discussion by pulling out old family photographs? Invite relatives to bring a shoebox of pictures as well. Networking with relatives is one way to find new photographs for your genealogy. This activity will add names to your family tree and give you additional research avenues. As everyone begins to look at the photographs in the room, people will begin to remember pictures they saw years ago in the hands of long-lost cousins. Ask questions about those images such as who was depicted and the last time someone saw it. In my own family, there are rumors that a Bible once existed along with a photograph collection. Unfortunately it’s no longer in the possession of anyone I know, but I haven’t given up hope. There is still a chance those items can be found.
I think one of the best ways to find those missing images and artifacts is by using online resources. There are plenty of Web sites that attempt to reunite individuals with family items and pictures. Genealogists created some of these sites, while others focus on the collectors market for photographic antiques. Try your surnames in the search engines and see what turns up. A few sites even allow users to post a wish list of lost images. You have nothing to lose by trying these sites. In fact, you might find a few “missing” photographs to take to next year’s family gathering.
• Ancient Faces
Photographs are grouped by topic: military, family and mystery photos. You can also look at the Special Collections section of the site for weddings, school portraits, Civil War portraits and others. Photographs appear with short descriptions and dates.
• Ancestors’ Lost & Found
Part of the Nebraska GenWeb project, this site attempts to reunite people with family photographs and memorabilia related to Nebraska. Submission guidelines appear on the home page. So if you’ve found some Nebraska images at an auction you can request permission to post up to five images on this site and help reunite a family with their “missing” memorabilia. There are four sections to the site: The Sharing Center for memorabilia, Ancestors Found for images looking for a home, Treasures Found for miscellaneous items and a photographer’s index with locations.
• Ancestral Photos
Only a few images appear on this site. The site manager posts images and sells them for $10.00 each. Most have a brief identification.
• Ford and Nagel
Eric C. Nagel and Larry L. Ford are genealogists who decided to create a site to reunite people with family photographs, Bibles and documents they’ve picked up. While you can’t see the actual items online, the site contains descriptions to help users identify whether or not it is from their family. Nagel and Ford sell these items for a nominal fee and will even include an e-mail link to the item in case other family members want to contact buyers. They also have a page of testimonies of people who used the site and found “new” family photographs.
• City Gallery
This is one of my favorite sites. Steve Knoblock works hard to keep this site up-to-date with all kinds of useful material and contacts. The Old Photo Guide has articles on topics related to identifying photographs. There is scanning help in the Digital Album. You can also share images in the Old Photo Gallery. Type a keyword into the search box and see what turns up. Only members can upload images. Contact the City-Gallery editor for a password.
You can use this site to find documents or photographs related to your family. Search by place, surname or type of item. According their home page more than 1,600 items are in the database that covers more than 4,400 surnames.
• Your Past Connections
Search this database for photographs and memorabilia or post a description of an item you are looking for.
• Dead Fred: The Original Genealogy Photo Archive
There are more than 12,000 images available to be search for close to 5,000 surnames. This site even offers a free newsletter.
Searching online databases is one way to build your collection of photographs and memorabilia. These are just a few of my favorite sites. Keep up with new sites by checking the category “Photographs and Memories” on Cyndi’s List at www.cyndislist.com.
For more ways to build your family photograph collection, see my article in the April 2001 Family Tree Magazine, “Getting the Picture.”