101 Best Websites for Genealogy: Old Photos and Maps

By David A. Fryxell Premium


Launched in 2000 as a place to share vintage family photos, this site now also includes family stories and even recipes. Photo tags make it easy to look for pictures of everything from cowboys to royalty.

Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records

Maybe you should be nicer to your Uncle Sam. This easy-to-search government site provides access to federal land records for public-land states, including images of more than 5 million land patents plus survey plats and field notes.



Home to more than 107,000 old family photos representing nearly 18,000 surnames, this site helps reunite orphaned images with their families. It’s free, though a $19.95 annual premium membership offers enhanced features.

Find a Grave

Simple to search and constantly growing, this collection of 77 million grave records may surprise you with how often it solves your genealogy puzzles. Besides searching, you can browse by cemetery to find ancestors buried near your kin. Many records include photos of headstones and family photos.


Even if you don’t want to share your photos, Flickr is worth a visit for the collections of those who do—including the National Archives, Library of Congress and Smithsonian. Or check out groups such as Graves, Tombs And Cemeteries, with 29,932 members and 220,844 photos.


Historic Map Works $

Newly reduced in price ($124.99 a year, or pay per use), this database of historical maps—nearly 1.6 million images—has been geocoded to match modern maps. That makes it easy to search for old maps using modern addresses or latitude and longitude coordinates. You also can search by keywords, town names, mapmakers’ names or by year. More than half the collection can also be accessed via Historic Earth, a “geographic time machine” that overlays Google maps on historic ones.

HistoryGeo $

This historical mapping service from Arphax Publishing puts a growing collection of more than 42,000 old maps at your fingertips for $79.95 a year. You can add markers and annotate maps to save to your personal map collection.


This free website from the British nonprofit We Are What We Do seeks to bring generations together by combining geography with the history of their communities. You can search photos—more than 104,000 at last count—posted by users and drawn from collections such as the Library of Congress and the National Archives. Then your results get plotted on a map powered by Google Maps, which you can use to compare old photos with a street view of how those locations look today. Apps for iPhone and Android even let you explore the past of places you visit while you’re there.

Newberry Library Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Finding your ancestor’s county way-back-when seems like such a simple task—until you get lost in the shifting county lines that are part of most states’ histories. This free interactive atlas comes to the rescue, with panning, zooming and options to overlay modern borders.


The hottest new social media site, which emphasizes pictures rather than text, has a natural application for genealogists: “Pin” your online research finds, such as census or vital-records images, and organize them on “boards” like giant scrapbook pages. Online images, which you can annotate, retain links to their original locations. You also can upload files, such as old family photos, from your computer. You can share everything on Pinterest with fellow researchers.
Check out the rest of our 101 Best Websites for genealogy in 2012! Click on a category below.
From the September 2012 Family Tree Magazine

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