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Using Local and Family History Photographs to Tell the Stories of Your Ancestors


The following search strategies are to aide researchers to find books in the Library's collections that may include local and family history photographs or that will provide leads for locating such photographs.

If you are interested in books that will help you identify or date photographs, see the Photographic Evidence section of this guide and select the tab labeled Guides to Get You Focused.

If you know the title of the book you want to request, you can use the Browse Search in the Library of Congress Online Catalog by selecting the "Titles beginning with" search criteria.

Case Study: Images of America Series

Explore series such as the Images of America books by Arcadia publishing—these pictorial histories feature thousands of cities, towns, parks, unique locations, and major events across the United States. To view all books in that series:

  1. Select Browse Search in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.
  2. In the Titles beginning with (omit initial article) enter Images of America in the box.
  3. Browse Images of America in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

Since the books all carry the Images of America title, you can refine your search using Advanced Search:

  1. Select Advanced Search in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.
  2. In the first blank, enter Images of America. Select "as a phrase" within "Series (KSER)."
  3. In the next blank, enter your ancestor's hometown, county, or state. Set the criteria to Subject (Authorized), Keyword Anywhere, or Title.

The results will show you if such a book has been compiled for that community.

Selected Titles from the Images of America Series

The following selected titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Below are several Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) that will lead to more resources through the Browse Search option in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Select the "Subjects beginning with" search criteria to explore these topics and more.

Types of Photographs

The following subject searches will provide lists of related sub-headings that you can select to narrow the scope of your results and get to what you are looking for:

You can use very general terms, such as: Photographs | Photograph Albums

Or search more particularly for terms like: Daguerreotype | Ambrotype | Tintype | Carte-de-visite

Specific Locations

Enter town and state (Steubenville, Ohio) or county and state (Jefferson County, Ohio) name combinations to search for material from your ancestor's home.

States may be abbreviated differently. Inputting the wrong abbreviation may reduce your results. Try searching by town or county name, without including the state name, to see a list of subject headings for matching towns or counties in each state, then select yours from the list. This will prevent missed entries.

Specific People

Enter last name, first name combinations such as Lazear, Jesse.

To look by family, simply search for Lazear family. Watch for cross-references suggested in the catalog such as the one generated in this example to the Leasure family. When it comes to surname spellings, flexibility and openness is essential in genealogy. One family may have used numerous surname derivatives. If you do not search these broadly, you may miss important records.