Historical photos and images can bring depth and understanding to genealogical findings. In the case of sharing your family history with others in your family who don’t share your passion for genealogy, they are an essential part of bringing family history to life.
One of the best free online resources for historical photos is the Creative Commons at Flickr.
Flickr is a popular photo, image and video hosting and sharing service. It’s a great platform for sharing your favorite photos with family and friends. It’s also an excellent place to find images that fit into your family history.
An important part of the Flickr world is Creative Commons, which describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.”
Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others through the Creative Commons. And when it comes to groups, the list of participants is impressive.
The British Library photostream features over a million images in its photostream! And a robust collection of historical photos and images can be found at the (U.S.) Library of Congress photostream, with over 34,000+ photos.
Searching the Creative Commons
When searching the Creative Commons, be sure to look for your favorite libraries and historical societies. If you don’t find them today, don’t worry. Check back regularly because new content is being added all the time.
Here’s another example of what you can find at the Creative Commons. The Netherlands Institute of Military History (Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie) has a photostream.
“Exercise Field Artillery Corps” album, image AKL092038, Netherlands Institute of Military History uploads at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nimhimages/16026248719/.
According to the Netherlands Institute of Military History blog, “The Institute exists to serve all those with an interest in the military past of the Netherlands. Its sphere of activities covers the Dutch armed forces on land, at sea and in the air, from the sixteenth century until now. The staff of the NIMH administer a unique military history collection containing approximately 2 million images, of which they will be uploading many to the site.”
Back in 2015 when we first wrote about their brand new photostream it only included a couple dozen images, like the one shown here. Today they have well over 3,300.
Tips for Finding and Using Historical Photos at the Creative Commons
Searching for Historical Photos: On a photostream home page, click the search icon (magnifying glass) just above the first row of photos in the upper right corner. A search box will pop up at the top of the page. Enter Keywords to search for images within that photostream. (Image below)
Location isn’t Everything: Just like with brick and mortar libraries, don’t let the location of the library or archive hosting the photostream fool you! Their collections are not limited to only items in their area. If you’re in search of something specific, try the Flickr Advanced Search page here.
Understanding Downloading and Copyright: Those who post images to Flickr Creative Commons offer different rights to those who want to download and use their images. Described here (and searchable here by the kinds of rights you want), those rights may include the ability to use a photo as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes and proper credit is given. Perfect for a responsible, source-citing genealogist!
10 Favorite Flickr Photostreams with Historical Focus
It would be impossible to list all of the potential photostreams at Flickr’s Creative Commons that feature historical photos, so I won’t even try. However, I’m happy to provide this list of favorites, which illustrates the breath and depth of possibilities. I hope it inspires you to search out your favorite library or archive at the Creative Commons.
(Organized by number of photos)
Internet Archive Book Images
Though not currently organized by Albums or Galleries, there is something here for absolutely everybody! Use the search feature to zero in on what you want. (See tips section below)
The British Library
A gloriously eclectic mix of images. Just one example: World War I: The Canadian Experience. This photo album covers 1895 and 1924, and contain depictions of Canadians’ experiences of the First World War. From the British Library: “Either produced by photographers on home soil or individuals in Europe employed by Lord Beaverbrook’s ‘Canadian War Records Office’ the photographs provide a wide ranging account of the many Canadians involved in and impacted by the war.”
The National Archives UK
the UK government’s official archive contains more than 1,000 years of history, so their photostream is not to be missed! Nicely organized into Albums focused on location, the images offer a sampling of their massive holdings.
The U.S. National Archives
Nicely organized into a vast array of albums, these photos represent only a small sampling of the photographs in their collection which totals more than 25 million photos and 20,000 graphic images. Early on they focused on uploading photos from the Women’s Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a few staff favorites. According to the National Archives, “These photographs, most taken by agents of Federal agencies over the years, cover a wide range of subjects and themes documented in the work of the United States government. Higher resolution versions of many of these images can be obtained from the U.S. National Archives by following the links located below each image.”
SMU Libraries Digital Collections
Southern Methodist University Digital Collections includes the digital libraries and online digital collections from the six SMU Libraries. You’ll find an emphasis on digital collections of Mexican photographs, locomotives, Texas history, art, and currency notes, and more.
National Library of Norway
These images either fall in the public domain or the copyright belongs to the library and has been wavered. You’ll find photos, postcards, stereograph cards and other ephemera depicting life in Norway. With all of the portraits you may just spot an ancestor!
National Library of Norway photostream
The New York Public Library
Considering how many Americans passed through New York, this photostream is definitely worth a visit.
National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Here you’ll find a range of items from the Ephemera Collections of the National Library of Ireland. They provide a snapshot of different periods in Ireland’s social, political, economic and cultural history. They’ve also added items from their Manuscript collections, Prints and Drawings, Exhibitions, as well as photos from Library Events.
UBC Library Digitization Centre
of the University of British Columbia
Just one of many Canadian library photostreams, the UBC Library shows off it’s diverse image collection in well organized albums. My personal odd-ball favorite is the Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection!
Library Company of Philadelphia
They’ve organized their current photo collection into more than 50 albums, making it easy to quickly spot the historical collections. Notable albums feature unique historical images from the Civil War era.
If there’s one thing we want to see coming online every single day, it’s new digitized genealogy records! A genealogical brick wall that has been sitting dormant for years can be broken down if just the right records becomes available. And we never know when that will happen.
This week I’m sharing some of the genealogy records that have come online in the last few weeks. These records comes from across the United States. They include wills and probate, police and mug shots, and cemetery records. Perhaps your ancestor’s record is among them.
Wills and Probate Records
Do you have ancestors’ from Maryland? Search this collection of Wills and Probates at Findmypast to find out the date of their Will.
As confirmed in the introduction of the publication, the Maryland Calendar of Wills was compiled in response to an already “long existent and steadily increasing need for such work, a need not only of genealogists, nor only for Marylanders now living in the State, but also for the large class of persons, whose ancestors are to be numbered among the men and women who took part in the nation-building as begun on Maryland shores, and whose descendants are now to be found in every State of the Union.”
Each record is available in a PDF format. Use the previous and next buttons at the top of the page to browse through the publication.
The General Index of Wills of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, 1633 to 1900 was compiled by Margaret Roberts Hodges from original indices, the collection of records were published by the Carter Braxton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
You can also Search this index to more than 107,000 probate records from Maryland between 1634 to 1777 for transcripts and images of both Prerogative Court and County records. The amount of information listed in each record will vary but looking at images is always recommended.
Preceding the implementation of the first Maryland State Constitution in 1777, two sets of probate records were maintained, probate business was conducted at the capital by the central agency which, for most of the Colonial period, was known as the Prerogative Court.
The Commissary General was the presiding officer of the court and a Deputy Commissary was then appointed for each county. The Deputy Commissary recorded each probate record that was brought into their office, periodically they would send the papers filed in their office to the Prerogative Court where they would be recorded again.
Mugs Shots and More Going Back 150 Years
Records from the Indianapolis Fire Department and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have been digitized and are available online.
Thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, The Central Library in Indianapolis recently unveiled the collection, which includes some items dating back 150-years.
The items have been added to an existing collection of from the Indianapolis Firefighters Museum and include:
- log books,
- dispatch recordings,
- personnel records,
- historical photos and
- prisoner mug shots
IMPD Deputy Chief Michael Spears said “The City of Indianapolis has a police department of which it can be extremely proud. This collection is the most complete and definitive collection of documents, photographs, videos and other exhibits ever compiled.”
“The Indianapolis Fire Department has a rich and proud 160-year history, and through our partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library, we are preserving that history for future generations,” said Tom Hanify, Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana President.
You can search this unique collection for free at http://www.digitalindy.org/ If you have family history rooted in the Indianapolis area, you’re in for a treat because the website include a wide range of historical content!
118,000+ New Cemetery Records Added
From Internment.com: Interment.net added 118,768 new cemetery records since our last report (January 2018), covering 49 cemeteries across 14 states.
Interment.net is one the oldest and largest archives of cemetery transcriptions, since 1997, and is still committed to serving genealogists at no cost.
Contained on our website are tens of millions of records, covering tens of thousands of cemeteries, from across the world.
Our records are obtained from databases direct from cemeteries, churches, libraries, and government offices, as well as from complete works of tombstone transcriptions.
Here’s the list of cemetery records published recently:
Brome County, Saint-Cajetan Cemetery, Mansonville, 722 records
Arthabaska County, Lorne Cemetery, Kingsley Station, 63 records
Arthabaska County, Trout Brook Cemetery, Tingwick, 127 records
Temiscouata, Cabano Cemetery, Temiscouata-sur-le-Lac, 2,117 records
Bruce County, Culross and Teeswater Cemetery, Teeswater, 2,268 records
County Wexford, Ballyhuskard Graveyard, Ballynastraw, 120 records
Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Bayview Cemetery, Ketchikan, 5,291 records
Apache County, St. Johns Cemetery, St. Johns, 1,400 records
Monterey County, Holy Trinity Cemetery, Greenfield, 500+ records
Monterey County, Oak Park Cemetery, Greenfield, 500+ records
Napa County, Pioneer Cemetery, Calistoga, 950 records
Los Angeles County, Fairmount Cemetery, Azusa, 250 records
Genesee County, Garden of Peace Cemetery, Swartz Creek, 56 records
Genesee County, Swartz Creek Cemetery, Swartz Creek, 261 records
Clinton County, Rose Cemetery, Bath Township, 1,442 records
Clinton County, Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Bath Township, 1,806 records
Carver County, Chanhassen Pioneer Cemetery, Chanhassen, 850 records
McLeod County, Oakland Cemetery, Hutchinson, 8,755 records
Anoka County, East Bethel Cemetery, East Bethel, 100 records
Anoka County, Old East Bethel Cemetery, East Bethel, 178 records
Anoka County, Oak Leaf Cemetery, East Bethel, 650 records
New Madrid County, Evergreen Cemetery, New Madrid, 2,500 records (approx)
New Madrid County, Davis Cemetery, Kewanee, 14 records
New Madrid County, East Side Cemetery, New Madrid, 128 records
New Madrid County, Cedar Grove Cemetery, New Madrid Township, 25 records
New Madrid County, A.C. LaForge Cemetery, New Madrid Township, 4 records
New Madrid County, Augustine Cemetery, New Madrid, 2 records
New Madrid County, Byrne-Howard Cemetery, New Madrid, 32 records
St. Louis County, Eberwein Family Cemetery, Chesterfield, 9 records
St. Louis County, Harugari Cemetery, Manchester, 21 records
St. Louis County, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Hazelwood, 1,071 records
St. Louis County, St. Monica Cemetery, Creve Coeur, 801 records
St. Louis County, St. Peter Cemetery, Kirkwood, 3,589 records
St. Louis County, St. Ferdinand Cemetery, Hazelwood, 3,426 records
St. Charles County, Ste. Philippine Cimetiere, St. Charles, 369 records
Jefferson County, St. Vincent Cemetery, Fenton, 33 records
Scotts Bluff County, East Lawn Cemetery, Mintare, 1,900 records
Allegany County, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Houghton, 724 records
Allegany County, Caneadea Cemetery, Caneadea, 430 records
Allegany County, East Caneadea Cemetery, Caneadea, 102 records
Nash County, Rocky Mount Memorial Park, Rocky Mount, 4,192 records
Montgomery County, Happy Corner Cemetery, Englewood, 600 records
Comanche County, Ft. Sill National Cemetery, Elgin, 6,093 records
Elk County, Denison Family Cemetery, Jay Township, 3 records
Anderson County, M. J. “Dolly” Cooper Veterans Cemetery, Anderson, 2,811 records
Richland County, Fort Jackson National Cemetery, Columbia, 5,548 records
Lawrence County, Richardson Cemetery, Centerpoint, 55 records
Swisher County, Rose Hill Cemetery, Tulia, 6,107 records
Hays County, San Marcos City Cemetery, 6,391 records
King County, St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Kent, 760 records
Cowlitz County, Longview Memorial Park, Longview, 17,335 records
Kittitas County, Cacciatori D’Africa Cemetery, Roslyn, 25 records
Klickitat County, Stonehenge WWI Memorial, Maryhill, 14 records
Marinette County, Forest Home Cemetery, Marinette, 22,800 records
Marinette County, Calvary Cemetery, Marinette, 48 records
Marinette County, Woodlawn Cemetery, Marinette, 2,400 records
Search these records at Interment.net.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and National Cemetery Administration has created a new platform that creates digital memorials for all veterans in national cemeteries.
According to the website, the Veterans Legacy Memorial is “an online memorial space for Veterans managed by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). NCA manages 136 national cemeteries as shrine spaces to honor our Nation’s Veterans and extends memorialization of the 3.7 million Veterans interred in NCA cemeteries to this digital memorial space, providing a VLM profile page for each.
Visit and search the Veterans Legacy Memorial here.
More Genealogy Records Coming Next Week
We report on the newest genealogy records that have come online each week. Subscribe to the free Genealogy Gems newsletter here to get notification, and you’ll also received my free ebook on googling search strategies for genealogy.
What Has Replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? It’s a question on many family historians minds, include Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Richard who wrote in with this question:
“Many years ago Bridgett Schneider hosted the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website (RAOGK). This was one of the best sites to get assistance from people willing to give back at a free or very nominal cost (reimbursement). I know someone has attempted to create the same type of page using Wikia (RAOGK wiki) and I have just started working with it, but there are not many volunteers for this site yet.
I was a volunteer for the original RAOGK and will attempt to do the same with the wiki page, but I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for any other types of pages like this. I depend on others so much because my parents’ families are from all over the U.S. My father was career Navy, joining in Minnesota going to Colorado, where my parents met, then moving to Washington DC area, Florida and back to DC. My mom’s family are all from the Minnesota and Oregon areas, so traveling to find information is not always easy. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.”
Here’s the scoop on RAOGK:
You’re right, no other website has really taken hold to replace RAOGK. And that’s because Facebook has filled the bill. Genealogists are joining in droves, and many create Facebook accounts strictly for their genealogy efforts. You certainly don’t have to have personal information posted in order to take advantage of the “genealogical crowd sourcing” ability of Facebook.
By “friending” other genealogists you start to build a group of ‘genealogy friends’ you can turn to with questions. But when it comes to specific areas, I go to the Facebook search box and search for Facebook groups on the topic I’m interested in.
For example, I am researching the Munns, Bax and Dixon families of Margate, Kent, England. A search or “Margate History” brought up a fantastic group devoted to the history of Margate. They have amassed an unbelievable amount of shared info, photos, postcards and documents. Not everyone is a genealogist, but everyone is interested in the history of Margate. It’s the first place I would go to post a question or request for help, and inevitably someone will have the answer or be in a location where they can help me.
Although the Margate group is “history” focused, you can also search adding the word Genealogy to your location search for a group.And if you don’t see a group that meets your needs, create one! From your Facebook account:
1. on the left side of the page under GROUPS click “Find New Groups”
2. Here you can join groups (Facebook will likely recommend some based on your profile interests)
3. In the upper right corner click the green + CREATE GROUP button
4. Give your group a name and select whether it is public or private
5. Start posting content to your group page
6. Start promoting the page on your profile page while also friending other genealogists and soon you will likely have a vibrant group that can assist each other based on a shared interest.
Bottom line: Facebook is the new RAOGK. And the upside is that Facebook expands the resources to folks who may be in a position to help through a shared interest while not necessarily being a genealogist.
I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes, and thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Gems community.