Last updated on October 4th, 2022 at 12:43 pm
Wouldn’t it be awesome to find old photographs of your house? See what your neighborhood used to look like? Old photos of your home can tell you what color your house used to be, how the porch used to be decorated, or what it looked like before additions were built. Here’s 12 free places to find old photos of your home.
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I’m an average homeowner with an old house. But I have a greater-than-average curiosity about my house and its history. It started with figuring my home’s architecture type (American Foursquare), evolved into wondering who used to live here, and finally cumulated into writing about my experience in a Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the History of Your Home.
And one of my favorite parts of researching the history of my old house was looking through old photographs. I will admit right up front that I haven’t actually found any photos of my old house (at least not yet….).
BUT going through old photos of my neighborhood brought me a greater connection and appreciation with my community. And quite frankly, as a self-proclaimed nerd, learning about my town’s history was fun!
I am just an average homeowner with a desire to learn about my home and help other homeowners.
In a past life (as an environmental consultant) I did utilize some of these resources to research the history of commercial properties.
However, I am not a professional genealogist. If you need an exhaustive list of resources, contact a professional home genealogist.
Where Can You Find Old Photos of Your Home For Free?
Below are the 12 best places I discovered to find old photos of your home. Some of these sources are online, while some require you to put on some shoes and hit this sidewalk.
Good news – All of them are free, but some aspects may require a small cost (for example, a printed photo).
There’s no guarantee these resources include photos of your home, BUT it’s worth a shot. Good luck! And let me know if you find other sources….
1. Local Historical Society
Local historical societies are a treasure trove of old photographs. These organizations collect, organize and store historic documents, artwork, and items that are relevant to local history.
These items may either be purchased or donated through commercial and public agencies. Or even simply from a family who discovers a cache of old photographs and memoirs while cleaning out a deceased member’s attic.
And those photographs could include your house or its previous owners, like this photo from this active historical society in Downers Grove, a southwestern suburb of Chicago.
2. Local Historical Commission
While the local historical society is a non-profit, volunteer run organization, most towns also have a local historical commission created through the town’s bylaws.
These commissions are usually charged with protecting and preserving the town’s cultural character and assets, be they archaeological sites, historic buildings, open spaces, landscapes, or historic districts.
To identify which places fall under the commission’s jurisdictions, many towns have commissioned surveys.And these surveys usually contain photographs…
Note that many times a copy of the survey can also be found at your local library. Which brings us to…
3. Local Library
Most local libraries have a dedicated local history room or area. These archives usually contain collections of old books, newspapers, directories, maps, photographs.
Local history collections are diverse and can be difficult to navigate. Some resources might not even be indexes, like newspapers. This can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort if you don’t know what you’re doing. So be sure to connect with and rely on the expertise of the local librarian. They probably knows exactly where to look.
But the search could result in hitting gold. But example, digging through newspapers have a huge potential to finding a photograph of your house if you live near the town square or along a main road, or parade route.
Below is a photo I discovered on my local library’s digital archives of a house I regularly drive by. You never know what you’ll find online when given a few minutes!
While at first thought, it sounds a bit skeevy that a neighbor would have a photo of your house.
But think about it for a minute.
Maybe they have a photo from a neighborhood block party. Or maybe their little Jimmy was friends with Johnny who lived in your house – and there’s a fantastic photo of them in their Halloween costumes standing in front of your house.
Which of your neighbors probably has the oldest photos of your home? The retirees that have lived in your neighborhood for decades.
Growing a relationship with your neighbors not only can teach you about the history of your old house, but also help create a safer home from theft.
5. Previous Owners
The previous owners very likely have a plethora of old photos of your home. But how do you find them?
A few ways, including your neighbors – perhaps they are still friends have their contact information. Send a polite and non-intrusive letter to ask for information and if they have any old photos of your home. And if they can’t scan and send to you to print, offer to reimburse for copies.
Another way to contact previous owners for old photos of your home is through the next resource, Online Community Groups….
6. Online Community Groups
Search and join on online community groups such as Facebook for local history group for your area.
Scan through the posts to find photos of your neighborhood, read through memories shared by townfolk, or find ideas on additional resources to research your home’s history.
I actually found previous owners through a local Facebook group. Unfortunately they didn’t have any photos they were willing to share, but it was still refreshing to have a conversation about our home.
7. Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS]
In the mid-1930s during the Great Depression, the federal government authorized a nation-wide survey to document the nation’s architectural legacy.
This Historic American Building Survey put architects and photographers to work surveying historically significant homes across the country. And continues today.
There is a chance that your home or neighborhood is included in this database.
8. Vintage Postcards
In the early 1900s, cameras became commercially available to the general population.
And like most technology, it quickly grew popular. People would snap a photo of various places, including their homes, convert them into postcards to send to family and friends.
This postcard c1910 of a street in Little Falls, NY was discovered on eBay by a woman who currently lives in one of the house shown. Look at it closely. Honestly, I can’t tell if it’s a drawing or a true photo. Regardless, it shows amazing visual details of the neighborhood.
9. What Was There
The WhatWasThere project’s goal is to weave a photographic history of the world.
How does it work? It invites the average person to upload their old photos through a series of short easy steps. The photos are then linked to the geographic location on Google Maps for all to explore and learn.
In essence it’s a virtual time machine.
And its potential is pretty spectacular. (in my humble everyday person opinion…)
While I didn’t find any photos of my neighborhood on this site, I’ll admit I spent a huge amount of time having fun exploring familiar neighborhoods and browsing photos.
SepiaTown is another online repository whose goal is “to provide both a window to the past by merging photography, geography, and technology, as well as a forum for institutions and individuals to share and map historical images”.
Wow – that’s a mouthful. But you get the point.
Similar to What Was There, SepiaTown welcomes archival images from collections large and small to be uploaded and linked to a map for folks to explore.
Personally, I found more photos of commercial (versus residential) areas uploaded to this site, but there is still opportunity to come across a photo of a house.
As a warning, this is another website that you could easily go down the rabbit hole and emerge hours later…. I speak from personal experience! 😂
11. Genealogy Websites
Genealogy websites have databases brimming with old photos. For example, Ancestry.com has a U.S., Family Photo Collection, c. 1850-2000 database that is a collection of customer-submitted ancestral and relative photos. (Ancestry also had a postcard section).
Photos are primarily of individuals and families. BUT a lot of these photos were taken in or around their homes.
Note that these websites are more person than address driven, so you would need to know basic information (names, birthdate) of previous owners of your house to do a search on these types of websites.
Subscriptions are usually needed to explore genealogy websites like Ancestry. BUT check with your local library. My local library had a free subscription I could borrow.
12. Vintage Aerial Photos
While vintage aerials can’t provide a street-level detail about your home, aerial photos can provide a clear and straight-forward timeline to how your neighborhood was built.
Historic Aerials gives you access to the largest collection of historical aerials in the United States with decades of data. It’s technology allows for amazingly high-quality accuracy to help you pinpoint the location of your home fairly easily.
It’s free to browse their free viewer to find your home. Physical prints must be ordered.
Another resource, Vintage Aerials, focuses on historical aerials of rural communities and small farms.
They host a collection of over 18 million photographs that span the second half of the 20th century, documenting a time in American history when life revolved around rural communities and small farms.
Like Historical Aerials, free to browse, physical prints have a fee.
13. State and City Aerial Archives
Some larger cities have their own online historic maps that you can search by address. In just a few minutes I was able to find websites with a plethora of old photographs for New York City, Philadelphia, and Portland, OR.
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The following sites are great sources of copyright-free images: Getty Open Content: Public domain art images from Getty collections. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online: Images from the Library of Congress, now in the public domain.
- Search the registry of deeds. ...
- Check the National Registry of Historic Places. ...
- Ask your Realtor. ...
- Contact previous owners. ...
- Look up old census records. ...
- Subscribe to a genealogy website. ...
- Visit a local library, historical society or preservation foundation. ...
- Head to a nearby battlefield.
- AGSL Digital Photo Archive: South America. ...
- BYU Historical Photographs. ...
- British Library: Picturing Places. ...
- Calisphere. ...
- CARLI Digital Collections. ...
- Cincinnati Digital Library.
Open Google Maps. There's a shortcut to it in Chrome, or you can just search for it. Find your map by typing the complete address in the "Search Google Maps" box. A photo of the house will appear in the upper left.
Visit the county clerk's office in the county where your home resides. This may be called the county recorder or land registrar in some municipalities. Once there, request copies of the blueprints on file for the property.
Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all.
Except in unusual cases, Pinterest is not the copyright holder in the images that users pin on the site. Where necessary, you should get permission to use an image from its copyright owner.
To find free images or other files, limit your search to them with the main search bar on Depositphotos (select “Free” in the drop down menu before the keyword field), or go directly to the Free File search. Then, apply advanced filters from the menu on the left to save time.
Google Earth Pro
First, zoom into your area of interest. Click the time slider icon. Now, visit your neighborhood in the past. You'll know which years are available based on the thumbnails.
Next to the time it was taken, an option for "See more dates" should appear. Tap on it, and you'll be able to select different times when Google published a Street View photo — dating back to 2007. Google states it is now available on iOS and Android.
From the census records, you can learn:
- Relationships between residents.
- Birth years.
- Marital status.
- On your computer, open Google Maps.
- Type an address or name of a place.
- Press Enter or click Search . ...
- On the left, scroll down to the photos section and click on a 360 photo. ...
- To see more photos of this location, choose Photos.
- Open Google Earth.
- Find a location.
- Click View Historical Imagery or, above the 3D viewer, click Time .
- Scan Pictures. Digitizing old photos is a great option. ...
- Upload Images to the Cloud. ...
- Create a Collage. ...
- Make a Scrapbook. ...
- Create Your Family Tree. ...
- Recycle Negatives with GreenDisk. ...
- Transform Negatives Into Art. ...
- Digitize Negatives.
In order to watch the live feed, all you need to do is go to the Voyager section on any of the Google Earth-supported platforms such as a Web browser, Android app, PC app, etc.
- On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Earth app .
- Choose an action: To find a specific place: Tap Search. . Move around: Use one finger to touch and drag the screen. Zoom in and out: Pinch open to zoom in, pinch closed to zoom out.
Method 1 of 3:
Many city and county governments describe their policies regarding blueprints online. You can find this information by searching for the name of your locale along with the words “property records” or “home records”. The site will likely have a section about blueprints or building plans.
Residential drafting fees and blueprints cost $0.35 to $5.00 per square foot. Drafting services charge $30 to $120 per hour. Altering existing floor plans costs $150 to $2,500. The cost of getting extension plans drawn up is $1,200 to $5,000.
The best way to find blueprints is through the local public official's office. Most jurisdictions have an assessor's office or public records office.
The National Archives permits registered users to order and download a reasonable number of documents for free and has set a maximum order limit of 100 documents in a 30-day period.
Why can't I take photographs in the National Archives Museum? Historical documents are fragile and can fade when exposed to light. The National Archives must balance keeping documents available for visitors to view with our need to preserve them for future generations.
The National Archives offers the AAD database as a free public resource and it can be accessed from anywhere.
While there's no denying Pinterest offers great features for users who have an account, some people may just want to browse the platform without signing up. The easiest way to explore Pinterest without logging in is to go to the search bar in a web browser on a desktop and enter the address pinterest.com/ideas.
No one can know if you check out their Pinterest account. The only way for them to know is if, you like, repin, comment pins from their profile or follow that person.
On Pinterest, people feel safe to explore new ideas and try new things. They're looking for inspiration—and they're looking for you. To get started, you'll need a Pinterest business account. It's free to sign up, and you'll get access to special content formats, custom analytics and more.
If you have an active Dreamstime account, you can go right ahead and download the free images on your computer! If you don't have a Dreamstime account already, take a few seconds to register here. Registration is free, you will only pay when you decide to buy premium photos, vector illustrations, video or audio files.
- Create a free account at 123rf now.
- Login at 123RF.
- Scroll down to their homepage to the section where it states: “Free Stock Images”
- Click on this “Free Stock Images” link.
- Search for the image you want.
- Download the image.
- Don't forget to check the license agreement.
1) How can I remove Dreamstime watermarks for free? You can download and install iMyFone MarkGo to enjoy the Dreamstime watermark removal for free. Then click on Remove Image Watermark and upload the image. After that, you can click on the selection tool.
24 Sites to Find Free Images You Would Actually Use for Your ...
9 Free Photo Apps You Need to Download
89 Sites with Free Images to Print ideas | vintage printables, vintage ...
It is possible to see old 'faded out' rightmove listings of houses. It happens when you go to the URL of the original (expired) listing. However, there is no way on Rightmove that you can search for/find those old listings.
- A Vision of Britain. Find out how your postcode has changed since 1801 using Ordnance Survey maps.
- Facebook. ...
- Flickr. ...
- Google Images. ...
- House History Hour. ...
- Leodis - Leeds Photographic Archive. ...
- London Picture Archive. ...
- Manchester Local Image Collection.
On your Android phone or tablet, open Google Photos . At the bottom, tap Library Find the folder under Photos on device. If available, open your device folders to find your missing item. If you want your device folder items to appear in your Photos tab, you can back them up automatically.
When in Street View mode, users can access the historical imagery by first tapping anywhere on the photo to see information about the location, and then selecting "see more dates" to access the current location's historical imagery.
July 24 2020. Historic listings are archived listings which have been provided to us by estate agents and then moved to the House prices section under the Property timeline heading on a Property Details Page. This happens once the live listing has been marked as Sold/Let by the marketing agent and archived.
For one thing, only estate agents can list properties for sale on Rightmove. That means you'll only see properties from estate agents who use Rightmove and you won't see any properties being sold privately.
What does 'cash buyers only' mean? If an estate agent advertises a house as 'cash buyers only', it means that the buyer does not want anyone to put in an offer if they would require a mortgage in order to complete the sale.
Census returns can give a wealth of information on the occupants of a house at a particular time, including names, ages, sex, marital status, birth locations, relationship to the head of the household, and occupation.
On your computer, open Google Maps. Search for a place that has indoor maps. To see the floor plan, zoom in to the map and click on a building or place. In the bottom right, choose among levels and floors.
Touch and hold the photo or video you want to restore. At the bottom, tap Restore. The photo or video will be back: In your phone's gallery app.
On your new Android phone, open Google Photos and log into the same account as your old phone. Click the Photos tab, you can view the synced photos from your old phone. To download photos to your new phone's Gallery: Select some photos > Click the menu on the top right corner > Tap on Save to the device.
- Connect the dead phone to your computer via USB cable.
- Open the software to enter its main interface.
- Choose the Recover from Phone module to continue.
- The software will identify the phone automatically and then show you the Device Ready to Scan.
To access old Street View photos, Google says all you have to do is tap the Street View image you're looking at, then tap “See more dates.” Sounds simple enough. Once you've done that, you can see what your neighborhood or office building looked like 10 years ago, if those images are available.
View a map over time
- Open Google Earth.
- Find a location.
- Click View Historical Imagery or, above the 3D viewer, click Time .
Google Earth Pro is a free desktop tool with advanced GIS and mapping features. It can be downloaded on PC, Mac, and Linux devices. With this tool, users can create maps, import and export GIS data, and access historical images. A mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices. ...