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How do I find a family member’s picture?

How do I find a family member’s picture?

Finding an old picture of a family member can seem daunting, but with the right approach it is often possible to track down that nostalgic photo. Here are some tips on where to look and how to increase your chances of success when trying to locate a family member’s picture.

Check with other family members

The first step is always to ask around within your immediate and extended family. Let everyone know you are on the hunt for a specific photo and see if anyone has a copy or knows where to find one. Your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are good places to start. Even distant relatives may surprise you with a long-forgotten photo stashed away somewhere.

When inquiring with family, be as specific as possible about the photo you are looking for. Provide details like who was in the picture, where it was taken, approximately what year, and what event or life stage was captured. The more contextual clues you can give, the better chance someone will be able to pinpoint the exact image you have in mind.

Look through old family photo albums and boxes

One of the best ways to find old family photos is to sift through existing collections of printed photos. Make an effort to physically look through any family photo albums, loose printed photos stored in boxes or drawers, and even old slides and negatives if they are available.

This process takes time and patience, but is often fruitful if there are family archives to dig through. Ask your family members if you can have temporary custody of their printed photo collections to maximize your search. You may stumble upon that special photo tucked between the pages of an album or in a stack of unorganized pictures.

Browse social media accounts

Social media has become a popular place for families to post and share photos online. Even older family photos often get scanned or photographed and uploaded to places like Facebook, Instagram, and Google Photos by relatives looking to preserve them digitally.

Do a deep scroll through the timelines and albums of family members’ accounts on various social platforms. If you have specific enough criteria for the photo you are after, you may get lucky with an online search. Social media provides a quick and easy way to access a wide array of family photos.

Check with family photographers

If your family worked with professional photographers for portraits, weddings, graduations, or other events, see if those photographers still have archives of old prints or negatives. Many photographers retain images for decades in case customers want copies of photos from past sessions.

Track down contact information for any photographers you know your family used. Provide the year or timeframe and details about the types of photos you are searching for. Photographers may be able to locate your family member’s picture in their studio archives.

Look through digitized family history records

Along with immediate family, consider reaching out to any genealogists or relatives who actively research your family history. They may have come across the photo you are looking for while compiling digitized family records, obituaries, personal documents, and photos.

Online services like also provide access to millions of digitized genealogical records submitted by family history researchers over the years. Search collections on Ancestry and other sites on the off chance your family photo was digitized and published by another user.

Search Google and social media

You can also try searching for the photo online using keywords in Google or social media search bars. On Google, use descriptive phrases like “John Smith graduation photo 1986” and see if the image appears in search results or on public sites.

Similarly, search relevant terms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, and other sites where users often post photos. If someone in your extended family has uploaded the picture you want, a targeted search may help you track it down.

Consult genealogical societies and libraries

Local genealogical societies, family history libraries, and community archives are additional sources that may have lineage-related documents and photos. The choirs, clubs, community centers, and places of worship your family belonged to could also potentially have old photos tucked away.

Get in touch with organizations your family has ties to and ask if they would let you look through any photograph collections they may have. The older the group has been around, the better chance historical family photos may have found their way into archives.

Use newspaper resources

Dig through newspaper archives online or at libraries to uncover family photos printed alongside announcements, stories, and obituaries over the years. Sites like let you search keywords and date ranges within thousands of newspaper pages that may mention or picture your ancestors.

Photos are commonly included next to birth announcements, wedding announcements, articles mentioning exceptional achievements, and obituaries. Find papers local to where your family lived for the best results.

Hire a professional photo researcher

If all else fails, consider hiring a professional genealogical researcher who specializes in tracking down family photos and documents. They have access to paid archives, expertise with advanced search methods, and the time needed to dedicate to the search.

Online services like Legacy Tree Genealogists offer specialized photo finding for a fee. Depending on how challenging the case, a professional may succeed where you’ve struggled finding that cherished family photo.

Take steps to preserve and organize family photos

Going through this search process provides a perfect opportunity to preserve your family’s photographs for the future. As you come across printed photos, take steps to digitize and organize them so they are not lost again.

Scan or take high quality photos of loose printed pictures and upload to services like, MyHeritage, Google Photos, or Flickr. Organize by date, location, and family members pictured. Future generations will thank you for compiling and preserving your family history.


Finding an old family member photo takes effort, but many creative avenues exist for tracking pictures down. Tap into the collective knowledge of your extended family, scour family archives and heirlooms, and take advantage of public records available online and locally. With persistence and the right search skills, you can often unearth nostalgic family photos.