Historical images example

An historical image of two photographers found at LOC-PPOC

Adding historical images to your family stories can help bring them alive. Ideally, we’d all have actual photos to add to our accounts. However, many of us are hard pressed to find images to accompany stories of relatives and ancestors. I know I have a lot more stories than photos. Historical images can be the answer.

Finding historical images isn’t as intimidating as you might think. Here are some easily accessible Internet resources.

Finding Historical Images at the Library of Congress:

historical images example of interior of tobbaco barn

The interior of a tobacco barn.

It’s easier to get to the Library of Congress (LOC) than you might imagine. You don’t even have to leave the couch. Subscribers to Ancestry.com have access, but you can go directly to the LOC. The LOC’s has a collection available for online history buffs. It’s called the Prints & Photograph Online Catalog (PPOC) is available at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/. There are photo collections, posters, and prints. You can search for images with key words.

For instance, my mother was raised on a tobacco farm, but there are no photographs of the barn.  However, through the PPOC, I can find a photo of a Virginian tobacco barn (right). Caveat:  The Library of Congress gives whatever copy- or usage rights it can, but securing appropriate permissions is up to the user.  If you’re using the images commercially, you need to look at carefully at the accompanying information.

Using Ancestry.com and Other Genealogical Resources

If you’re not familiar with it, Ancestry.com is a subscription service for genealogical research. In addition to images of historical documents, it also has an extensive collection of historical images. If you don’t have (or want) a subscription, check to see if your library has a subscription. Ancestry’s library edition lets you access the same data. If you access it from inside your library, chances are that your friendly reference librarian can help you get started.

Remember, you can also use images of historical documents as illustrations. For instance, a census record could bring visual interest and historical context to a story of a family home. (See How Historical Images Can Enrich Your Page.)

Ancestry.com isn’t the only game in town. Other sites, such as FamilySearch and the National Archives also have such images, although they are not indexed to the same extent.

Online historical and veteran’s archives

You can find a wealth of images at historylink101.com, including photos from the D-day invasion. Tip: An example of a historical document augmenting a narrative:  “My Grandfather’s Military Service

Google Earth now has Historical Images

Google Earth is a program that lets you view satellite images. Although current images are interesting, through Google Earth 6, you can also view historical images (back to 2007). You can see (and save by making a screen print) of your hometown. You can see how an area has changed over time.

©Laura Hedgecock 2013

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