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Images of Our Ancestors: Digital collections

A guide to finding images of people online and at The New York Public Library.

Sources

James Burns, Captain 23rd Ill. Vols ; Patrick S. Carey, proprietor of the City Mansion Hotel which the Amrican Fenians principally resorted ; Thoams Copeland ; Thomas M. Holden, Recruiting Agent for the American Service.Was your ancestor a pioneering sports personality? A member of the Fenian Brotherhood? A celebrated librarian at The New York Public Library? Or a perhaps they were a stage or screen actor? Then, just possibly, you might find a photograph of them in amongst the 700,000 images accessible through NYPL Digital Collections.

Some examples...

The Thomas A. Larcom Photographs Collection consists of two volumes of photographs of over 400 prisoners (most named) confined in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, in August 1857 and November 1866. Prisoners were identified as felons and Fenian political prisoners, including some of the leaders of the Fenian Brotherhood and its Irish wing, the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood. 

Billy Rose Theatre Collection photograph file: Personalities. 32,787 photographs of actors from stage and screen, not everyone a household name. A fascinating collection to browse through, even if you have no ancestor amongst the images.

Above: James Burns, Captain 23rd Ill. Vols ; Patrick S. Carey, proprietor of the City Mansion Hotel which the Amrican Fenians principally resorted ; Thoams Copeland ; Thomas M. Holden, Recruiting Agent for the American Service. (NYPL Digital Collections)

Below is a selection of other digital collections that may contain an identifiable image of your ancestor. Check the online collections of museums, libraries, and archives near you for more images.

NYC Municipal Archives Collections: NYPD and criminal prosecution

New York Police Department Photographs, 1915-1940s. WARNING: THIS COLLECTION CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES OF HOMICIDE VICTIMS. Crime-scene photographs depict homicide victims, police officers, vehicles, horses, dogs, evidence, police equipment, mug shots, and fingerprints. See also the digitized copy of Professional criminals of America / Thomas Byrnes (1886), 204 mugshots of criminals in New York City.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) contains catalog records and digital images representing a rich cross-section of still pictures held by the Prints & Photographs Division and, in some cases, other units of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress offers broad public access to these materials as a contribution to education and scholarship.

Some notable collections that include photographs that identify some people by name include:

Other digital collections

[Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters] Library of Congress.

Accessing Research Collections at The New York Public Library