How to find family photos when your family has none #familyhistory #genealogy #lisalisson

How to Find Family Photos When Your Family Has None

Photos enhance our family history, but what do you do when you don’t have any in your possession? Is it possible to find more pictures of your family?

Lisa Lisson, who has been a frequent guest contributor on the Family History Fanatics YouTube Channel (click HERE, HERE, and HERE), shared her favorite tips for finding old family photos when you don’t have any or when your family didn’t actually save any of them.

Finding Family Photos When No One Has Photos to Share - Interview with Lisa Lisson
Watch this video on YouTube.

Tip #1: Ask your family for old family photos

No eye rolls, please!

Don’t only ask immediate family because we assume you’ve already asked your mother, your parents, your grandparents, for family photos.

But have you gone deeper into that family tree?

Have you looked at your second cousins or third cousins? Ask what they might have.

You may have to actually do a little research to find those distant cousins, but ask them if they have family photos. They may have a completely different set or they may have copies of what your family just didn’t save.

In short, get off of your direct family line.

Side Topic: How Do You Get Distant Cousins to Share?

Sometimes people don’t want to give up those family photos. But with today’s technology, you can have the photos digitized and you can save them digitally.

I suggested using Legacy Box or Photos, Movies & More to digitize your distant cousin’s collection and splitting the cost, but Lisa has a more practical approach.

She takes a digital photograph with my phone. She says, “mabye it’s not the best image, but at least I’ve got it.”

Tip #2: Seek Out Church Directories for Family Photographs

A church directory is very similar to a yearbook, okay, that you might find and it’s from a school our high school or university.

Oftentimes, churches are a fabulous resource because they usually put in photographs of each of the church members or the families a church family. Lisa spoke of an experience where an elderly aunt pulled out a 20-page church directory from the Juniper Springs Baptist Church in Sanford, North Carolina containing a photograph of her great-great-great grandparents.

If you come across a name of a church, then contact that church or the family members. and ask for a church directory. If the church no longer exists, check with the historical societies or the local library for church directories.

Think outside the box of where you might find those. (Speaking of thinking outside the box, Lisa has a whole series of “Outside The Box” Genealogy Tips on her blog. Start with this post.)

Tip #3: Look at Orphaned Photo Sites

Orphaned photo websites online, such as or Ancient Faces, are where other researchers have unidentified photographs in their collections and they post on these websites in hopes of discovering who the unlabeled individuals are.

It’s a long shot, but long shots sactually work genealogy.

Follow these tips to find photos when you family did not pass any to you. Three resources for photo finds. #genealogy #ancestors #familytree

Your Turn: Where have you found photos when your family didn’t save them?

It’s your turn, what resources have you used to find family photos when your relatives didn’t save them (or they won’t share)?

More About Lisa Lisson

These tips from Lisa Lisson are fantastic. To learn more about Lisa, visit her blog, “Are You My Cousin?” or join her Facebook Group, called “Are You My Cousin?

Again, she has also appeared in these videos on our YouTube Channel, so go check them out!

Can You Research Offline Records Without Being There? - Lisa Lisson
Watch this video on YouTube.
Use Land Records to Research AROUND the 1890 Census in Genealogy
Watch this video on YouTube.

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.


  • Andrea

    Similar to church directories, county histories sometimes have pictures in them as well. Many of those are digitized on Never ever ever be afraid to ask for photos – I just asked my great-aunt’s best friend to share any photos of my great-grandfather she came across while going through her things after her passing. I was hoping for a photo of him in his later years since I had never seen a photo of him. A few weeks later she sent a photo of him when he was a teenager!!!! What a treasure! And it cost nothing for either of us as she took a photo and sent it through text messaging.

  • Linda

    This happened to me recently. I’ve become the collector of the family photos. Essentially, I promise to digitize everything in return for the precious originals. As a result, I have oh-so-many photos of folk I don’t really know. One of them was my grandfather’s little sister, who died well before I was born. He never spoke of her, and I never saw the photos of her while he was around. Her photos show her to be vivacious, popular, and very attractive. She had a wide circle of friends who inscribed hundreds of photos “To Dora – love from…” This little genealogical puzzle has been with me for 6 years.

    A week ago, a history buff and I were exchanging emails. It was like we were looking at two sides of the same puzzle. He eventually sent me a link from a Facebook group devoted to nostalgia in Victoria, BC. I connected with a brand new cousin, and he and I have been sharing photos. His mother was one of Dora’s circle. I can’t even describe to you how it feels to be able to share Dora’s pictures with my grandfather’s cousin, still alive at 98, of her much loved best friend Dora. She is suffering some short term memory loss these days, but her son assured me her memories of the past are sharp.

    So I’ll suggest: Facebook nostalgia groups. Social media can be amazing.

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