At the recent National
Genealogical Society conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a woman told me she had
just bought all the identified family photographs she could find at a local
antique shop. She is part of a new trend in genealogy — rescuing photographs and
trying to restore them to family members. Many individuals spend countless hours
researching the people in the images they find, searching for living
descendants. They might also post the images on the Internet for relatives to
As genealogists we love to share information online via message boards or by
posting research on a home page, but how do all those old and new family
photographs fit into online information sharing? Are you trying to identify a
family photograph, share pictures with other relatives, or dive into digital
photography? Several different types of websites can help you. These include
online communities, reunion sites on which you can search for photographs or
post your own unidentified images, and photo suppliers that print digital or
film images. Sharing photographs is easy, fun, and usually free. Here’s what you
need to know to be a savvy user of photo services with some sites for you to
By far the largest online
community is Myfamily.com.
Post a free home page on their site, complete with photographs, and invite your
relatives to participate by adding images and information of their own. Since
Myfamily.com owns Ancestry, this site is genealogist-friendly.
relatives is one way to find new photographs for your genealogy, the Internet
provides an innovative method to reconnect with those lost family pictures. You
know the ones I mean. As soon as you start to ask relatives about family
photographs, they tempt you with descriptions of pictures they saw years ago in
the hands of long-lost cousins. Your first thought might be to track down living
descendants, with the hope of locating those pictures. Another option would be
to use one of the many Internet search engines to search by surname for family
photographs. There are many search engine choices, but Altavista is a personal favorite
because it filters out adult content and displays each hit as a thumbnail with a
An easier avenue might be to consult the online reunion websites described
below. A few of these sites were created by genealogists, but others focus on
the collectors market for photographic antiques. Make effective use of these
websites by typing your surnames into the search engines and seeing what you
find — possibly a few “missing” photographs to take to next year’s family
gathering. A couple of sites even allow users to post a wish list of lost
• Ancient Faces www.ancientfaces.com
According to Daniel J. Pinna
of Ancient Faces, users should look for an updated version of the site sometime
this year. The updated site will “allow users to fully participate in our
community that makes past, present, and future connections with family and
friends. In addition, professional researchers and merchants will be able to
post classified advertisements and list items for sale, allowing our users to
find professional genealogical services, memorabilia, handcrafts, genealogical
books, and supplies.” There are currently more than 1,300 photographs in their
database, arranged by the following topics: military, family, and mystery
photos. You can also look at the Special Collections section of the site for
weddings or school photos, Civil War portraits, and others. Photographs appear
with short descriptions and dates.
• Ancestors’ Lost
& Found www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/ancestors
This a great site for
genealogists who need a place to share photographs, memorabilia, bible records
or reconnect with lost items. Take a look at their unidentified photo section to
see if you can find any “missing” ancestors. It features an interesting search
engine for finding material on their site. Affiliated with The American History
and Genealogy Project and The American Local History Network, this site is worth
a second look.
• Ancestral Photos
Pw1.netcom.com/~cityslic/photos.htmOnly a few images appear
on this site. The site manager posts images and sells them for $10 each. Most
have a brief identification.
• Dead Fred: The Original Genealogy
Photo Archive www.deadfred.com
Joe Bott started this site as
a personal project and it has been amazingly successful. Besides featuring a
creative name, the site offers researchers the opportunity to view more than
18,000 images covering 6,500 surnames. Sign up for the free newsletter and learn
more about Joe and his dedicated team. They are expanding their yearbook photo
section, improving their search capabilities (including wild cards), and have
more planned for the future.
• Ford and Nagle
Eric C. Nagle and Larry L.
Ford are genealogists who have created a site to reunite people with the family
photographs, Bibles, and documents the two of them have collected. While you
can’t view the actual items online, descriptions help users identify whether or
not an item is from their family. The site even offers a section devoted to
“photographs returned to family.” Read the testimonies of people who found
family photographs using this site and you’ll begin to understand why these
reunions are so poignant.
• City Gallery
This is one of my favorite
sites, but its future is a little uncertain because it is non-commercial. Steve
Knoblock works hard to keep it up-to-date with all kinds of useful material and
contacts. The Old Photo Guide offers articles on topics related to identifying
photographs, there is scanning help in the Digital Album, and you can share
images in the Old Photo Gallery. Type a keyword into the search box and see what
you find. Only members can upload images. Contact the City-Gallery editor for a
• Heirloomslost.com www.heirloomslost.com
You can use this site to find
documents or photographs related to your family. Search by place, surname, or
type of item. According to the home page, more than 1,600 items are in the
database, covering more than 4,400 surnames.
• Your Past Connections www.yourpastconnections.com
Search this database for
photographs and memorabilia or post a description of an item for which you are
looking. Fees are set by the individuals who posted the memorabilia.
There is yet another
online option for all those new family photographs you’ve taken. If you haven’t
tried sharing your snapshots online, don’t delay. The downturn in the economy
affected many of the top-rated sites — some even went out of business — but
there are still plenty of choices. You don’t even have to use a digital camera
to participate. Most sites now develop film, in addition to printing from
digital images. Most photo sharing/photo printing services allow you to email
images to others, order reprints, undertake basic photo editing, and create free
Before uploading your digital images or sending your film to a photo sharing
site, become an educated user by trying several sites to see if they offer the
features for which you are looking. Since some companies charge fees for their
services, pay particular attention to each site’s terms and conditions. Check
out the Wall Street Journal’s recent comparison of the online photo
printing services (July 16, 2002, p. D2) If you’re still shooting with
traditional 35 mm. film, make sure the company returns your negatives and posts
the images online — not all do. Don’t forget to guard your online privacy by
seeking a site that requires passwords or invitations to see your images. Read
privacy statements carefully and always password-protect your albums.
If you plan to upload all of your digital photographs to an online site
without maintaining copies at home, be cautious. Consider what will happen if
the site you’ve trusted to maintain an archive of your images goes out of
business. Until recently, one of the leading sites was Photopoint.com — until it
closed operations. Individuals who used Photopoint can now obtain a CD-ROM copy
of their photos through a third-party service.
Don’t let these issues discourage you from exploring the possibilities of
photo sharing at these sites — the sites are easy to use, offer photo editing
tools, and provide new ways to share pictures with your family. With these
sites, you no longer have to promise to have copies made of favorite photos —
relatives can order their own prints from your online album.
Ofoto is one of the leading
photo printing sites — the Wall Street Journal named it the top site on
the basis of photo quality and products. Sign up for their email newsletter to
read about special promotions.
Photoworks develops film
negatives, makes prints from either negatives or digital images, and has
expanded into traditional markets with a free catalog of their services.
Excellent customer service
makes Shutterfly a good choice for new users of online photo services. Like many
of the other sites, Shutterfly allows you to send invitations to family and
friends to view your images.
Discover for yourself why this
site was editors’ choice of PC Magazine this year. If you would like to
make unique presents from your family photographs, this site is the place for
you. You can order photo jewelry, pencil sketches derived from your images, or
even Rice Krispy bars with a photo icing covering!
Digital Fridge takes photo
sharing to a new level with public and private albums of both images and videos.
Digital video is a growing part of the home imaging market — this is the only
site that allows users to share those moving images with family online.
If you are dazzled by the
current offerings for the family historian and photo enthusiast, brace yourself
for more. Since this new frontier is only a few years old, the offerings change
every day, so there are bound to be even more options and sites to choose from.
With so many genealogists embracing new technology to pursue their centuries-old
hobby, why wait to join in on the photo fun?
Maureen A. Taylor, of
TaylorandStrong.com is a featured columnist in New England Ancestors.