Why Do People Love Old Photos?

Why do people love old photos? That was the question a vendor at a local outdoor market asked me.  Her question was in reply to my inquiry about the price of a photo on her table. She then told me that she’d recently been in someone’s house where there was an entire wall of old pictures.

“Why?” she asked again

If you’re reading this blog, then you already know why. They connect us with our past and show us our ancestry in visual terms.

If we don’t care, who will?  

I told her old photos were fun. She nodded, “I can see if you know who’s in the photos, but what if you don’t?”  That was the real question that got at the heart of the matter. She was a vendor, someone who picked up discarded bits of other people’s lives and sold them. Likely she’d seen many people like me buying images of folks we never met and didn’t know.

Why Indeed?

Some people want instant ancestors, a patina of oldness in their homes. Maybe they don’t own any photos of their ancestors and maybe they don’t know how to search for them.

If you know someone who wants family pictures here’s how they can start. Talking and searching are a good beginning.


Reach out to relatives. I bet that they have an image or two that they’d be willing to either giveaway or share a scan of.   The photographs are tools to start a conversation about family history. Dates are important to family history but so are the stories.

Every picture represents a story. Perhaps it’s just an answer to the why, in this case, why the picture was taken.

Why then?  What triggered that person or family to need a picture at that point in time?  The answer might surprise you and lead you down a path of family history discovery.


There are so many places to look for pictures, that I have several lectures on the topic. Let’s start with the big mega sites of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and MyHeritage.com. They are more than charts and data; there are also a lot of photos on these sites.

Watch my interview with Juliana Szucs of Ancestry.com and follow her search tips. I know I learned a few things and I’ve been using the site for decades.

Looking for Photos on FamilySearch will help you get started. Who knows? You might meet some new cousins.

In episode 11 of The Photo Detective podcast, Daniel Horowitz showed us how to make use of the discoveries feature on MyHeritage. Here’s something I learned the other night. MyHeritage images are indexed by Images.google.com.   During a live presentation, a member of the audience found a picture during one of my demos. Success!

If you don’t find anything the first time you search, try again. There are new images and data being added all the time.

So what did I buy from the woman who wondered why I wanted it.  A group of young women posed in a factory circa 1910.

A dollar. That’s what it cost for this photo. Now I have to find the story 🙂

Let me know what you discover when you’re searching for pictures.