It’s well known that there are archives for all the precious old documents that need to be looked after, but did you know there are photo archives?
These are great sources of information for genealogists and local historians. They can give a great insight into the history and how a place has changed overtime.
I may be biased as they show photos of the places I’ve known all my life but my favourites are Picture Sheffield (http://www.picturesheffield.com) and Picture the Past (http://www.picturethepast.org.uk). So let’s look at each in turn.
Picture Sheffield is run by Sheffield City Council and is part of Sheffield Archives. It holds a fantastic collection of old and modern photos of Sheffield and the surrounding area. It also has some photos of further afield which have been donated. You can search by area, subject and date. So if you find you ancestors lived in say Woodseats (where I lived) you can search for just this area. If you do there are 669 photos found. Some are of people, some of buildings and some are just general views. Most of these photos can be copied and used for private use, and all can be purchased for a fee.
Picture the Past
Picture the Past is run from Derbyshire Archives in Matlock in conjunction with Derby City Council, Derbyshire County Council, Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council. It holds a wealth of photos covering the 2 counties. Again you can search by place, county or date and view the images. Picture the past also allows you to purchase the images where copyright allows. If you search for Dronfield as an example 518 images are found, with a mix of general, people and buildings.
So why are photo archives so cool? Well, if you are looking for pictures of a place you used to live you can just type the name in and reminisce about the past. They are also invaluable for research. Over time family’s move about and children move further afield and thus you end up with ancestors being spread all over the country, if not the world. Using the photo archives you can see if there are any images of the places they lived or even of them (if you’re really, really lucky!). From here you can build up a picture of what they’re lives and conditions were like. So for example you can see what the area was like. Take for example, you find you ancestors came from Sheffield. Now if you know absolutely nothing about the city, and to be honest most people forget about Sheffield, even though it’s the 5th largest city in the UK, then the photo archive can give you an idea. You can read all the information you want on the city but the old adage is true, a picture really does paint a thousand words. You can see the buildings they knew and the places they visited. You may also be able to see the road they lived and the places they worked. My Great Great Grandparents lived on Bowling Green Street in Sheffield. On Picture Sheffield there are pictures of the Street. (I’m ashamed to say that despite living in Sheffield for 27 years I’ve never been).
The Photo archive can also add photos to family stories. Now I know my grandparents were in the Abbeydale Cinema in Sheffield on the night of the Blitz. There are photos of this building on Picture Sheffield and so if you didn’t know the building you can see a place they had been.
These archives along with the document archives (or document retirement homes as I like to think of them) are so important to anyone with an interest in genealogy or history. They give us the primary sources we need to prove connections and bring out ancestors and pasts to life. The work the archives do is vital and long may it continue.