Your Family History
Moorshead describes some sources of illustrations.
a popular saying in journalism: "A picture is worth a
1,000 words". Family histories may be well researched,
giving proper references, but let’s be honest, they
can look awfully dull. If you have photographs of your ancestors,
these will brighten things up and will be helped further with
the use of creative captions rather than just a line indentifying
demonstrating their craft in a photo taken between 1840
and 1860, exactly the time period that the author’s
gggrandfather was in this trade. Library of Congress
in 1889, only a few years after the author’s ggrandfather
lived there. This illustration was found in the Maps
section of the American Memory website.
railroads around Ionia, Michigan in 1876, the exact
year the author’s
ggrandfather worked for the Detroit, Lansing and Lake
Michigan RR in that
city as a bookkeeper.
Library of Congress Map.
Using your imagination, a bit of time on the Internet and
in the library will not only allow you to spice up your family
history with illustrations but it can be a lot of fun. If
you have a scanner, you may find many relevant illustrations
in books or encyclopedias. An enormous selection which is
easy to search using your choice of keywords is available
if you have access to the web, and, in most cases, you will
not be infringing copyright. Scanning pictures from published
works for your family history is at least a technical breach
For other sources we assume you have a CD-ROM drive.
It would be relatively easy to show here a number of pretty
pictures in isolation but the reaction of many readers could
well be that this was all very well but how could it apply
to them? For this reason I am using personal examples from
my own family.
Illinois, just north of St. Louis, where the author’s
father was born in 1915. This is part of an enormous
panoramic photograph available on the American Memory
Indiana in 1869. This is about 17 years before the author’s
family was there but is still an attractive addition
to the family history. Both bridges were destroyed in
tornado in 1886. Today, the piers of the old bridges
are still there.
By far my favorite source, one that I have browsed for hours,
Library of Congress American Memory website: http://rs6.loc.gov/amhome.html.
This has an enormous collection of early photographs and maps
and the collection is constantly growing. All of the pictures
on this page were found there.
For most of us, the images available on the Internet are of
sufficient quality to use in a family history but quality
prints can be ordered from the Library of Congress for a very
reasonable cost; the details are on the website.
It is now possible to search the web for images based on keywords.
Use the Lycos search engine: www.lycos.com/picturethis/
and you may select from 18 million images. This is not as
good as it sounds. A picture or illustration is included and
indexed by computer and only works on the file name of the
originator. You may want to find pictures of a small town
but every image which has a file name mentioning that word
will be offered. This may include even the name of a local
Internet Service Provider (ISP) which will mean that every
image of every customer is offered to you; this makes image
selection almost impossible. Lycos has recently added 40,000
images in an area that they call their Now & Then Image
Gallery. It is easy to search and images are generally very
good but I found nothing to help me personally. These images
have also appeared on a couple of CD-ROM collections that
It is now possible to buy collections of 30,000, 80,000, even
150,000 images on CD collections for modest prices. These
may have what you want but the image resolution is are often
limited on the majority of pictures. If they do not call the
images High Resolution on the box, you can bet they are of
marginal quality, even for a limited print family history.
Francis Frith Collection
Lane, Lelant, Cornwall, 1892.
now in Oxfordshire, 1893.
Street, Bradford, Yorkshire, 1903.
Frith was a Victorian pioneer photographer. After
1860 he made it his life's work to capture for posterity
every British town and village. His photographs
were enthusiastically bought by Victorian holidaymakers
as souvenirs of rare days out. The company he founded
created an archive that is recognized today as being
of national importance, famed for the quality of
its images and as a record of British life and heritage
over the last 100 years. The Frith archive continued
taking and publishing photographs until 1969. By
this time it had accumulated an archive of over
330,000 photographs depicting some 6,000 British
towns and villages. The Archive provides a unique
record of British topography, created as it was
by one company, continuously, over a 110-year period.
The Frith Archive is now owned by Heritage Photographic
Resources Ltd. which specializes in publishing and
marketing products based on the Archive under the
trading name The Francis Frith Collection.
Six thousand of these images can be viewed at a
UK or US website: http://www.francisfrith.com/
The prints are not inexpensive but they are of excellent
quality. Two CD-ROMs containing 3,500 images each
(one of images of Britain, and the other with images
of churches from Cornwall) are available in North
America for $29.95 or $24.95 (or a compilation for
$39.95) from The Francis Frith Collection USA, 11447
Canterberry Lane, Parker, Colorado 80138 Tel: (303)
736 5909 or by visiting http://www.francisfrith.com/us/store/.
All images copyright Heritage Photographic Resources
Corel offers 80,000 images on the web — at a price.
These are excellent quality photos and you can view good sized
images over the web but their company logo is impressed over
the image, making the quality apparent but unusable. They
can be found at http://corel.digitalriver.com/ (this link
was not in service at the time this page was posted).
Corel can’t seem to make up its mind about a pricing
policy. They have increased prices and reduced choices in
the last year or so. The cost for a good resolution picture
is nearly $30 buying it on-line. However I was able to purchase
the complete CD with 100 images for the same price and I got
it the next day. When I asked about this 100:1 price differential,
Corel’s order-taking staff were as confused as I was.
This site is a superb resource but it is badly in need of
article originally appeared in the January/February 1999 issue
of Family Chronicle.