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Search for Old Family Photos

Nothing brings family history to life more than viewing old family photos. It can be an amazing experience to look at the faces of those who came before us.

Not every one is lucky enough to have inherited family photographs, but many of these old photos can be found on the internet for free. Photo Archive websites have hundreds of thousands user-submitted family photographs - many dating back to the 1800's.

The best part about finding an old family photo in a photograph archive is that it might be possible to contact the submitter - a possible distant cousin.

Old Photo Custom Search by Ancestor Search
Search Photograph Archive sites for old family photos.

Photo Archive Search

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Additional Ways to Find Old Family Photos

If the photo archives search didn't find photos of your ancestors, here are some other ideas to locate your old family photos.
  • Talk to your family.
    Somebody in the family may actually have the old shoe box of photos without you knowledge. Check with your cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents to see if they know who has the photos in their possession. Once you find who is the custodian of the family photos, it is easy to scan the photos or take photos of them.

  • Look for unknown distant cousins on
    Build Your free family tree at and you will be connected to other Ancestry members who also have the same ancestors as you - your distant cousins. You can contact them to share research and photos.

  • Search the Photos on
    Ancestry Photos and Scanned Documents contain user-submitted photos of people, tombstone, documents, and more. According to the Ancestry Card Catalog, this database has over 26 million records.

  • Look for unknown distant cousins on the Web.
    You could post on the
    Post to the message board of the county where your grandparents or great-grandparents lived or post on the surname mailing lists. You may be able to connect to a distant cousin who shares a common ancestor with you and share information and photos.

  • Search for Photographs on the Web.
    Use Google Image Search to search for photos of ancestors that are located on persona genealogy pages, historical websites, and in Google books.

  • Search Old County History Books.
    County History Books were popular 100 years ago and contain thousands of county resident photographs and biographical sketches. If there is a bio in the book, you might find also find a photo. Places to search for county books:
    • The local library where your ancestor lived.

    • Search Google Books for the name of your ancestor and the county where he lived.

    • US Genweb Archives have transcribed many bios from county books, but usually have not uploaded the matching photo.

    • has digitized many of these county books. To search for county books on Ancestry for a surname, check the box that restricts your search to Stories and Publications.

  • Search for obituaries
    Obituary Search gives ideas for places to find old obituaries. Many times old newspaper obituaries include a photograph or illustration, just as they do today.

  • Images of America Series
    Images of America Series , available for many towns and counties across the US, have photos from the town’s historical society. While the book may not have portraits of individuals, they may have group shots those who lived in the town. These books can be found at local book stores, local libraries, and at Of course, there is no guarantee you will find your ancestor in the Image of America books. You will, however, find some pretty good photos of your town as it used to be. To find these books at, search for your county or town name with the words Images of America. Be sure to check out the years the book covers as some of these books have historical photos while some have contemporary photos.

What Can You Learn From Old Family Photos?

While it can be amazing to view a never before seen photograph of your ancestors, there are also things that can be learned from a long-ago photo.

  • Many family photos are group photos, so you can learn about other family members especially if the submitter labeled the names.

  • Some family photos are taken in front of the family homestead or family farm house.

  • You can find possible distant cousins by contacting the submitter of the photograph. They may have more information about the family.

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