The local historical society in your ancestors’ hometown can be a treasure trove. For hundreds of years, historical societies have been where photographs, artifacts, and other documents from town residents—by donation or following their deaths—ended up.

Have you ever visited your town’s historical society? You won’t regret going, even if you don’t have family roots where you live. They maintain incredible artifacts from your town’s history, including pictures that will amaze you.

New York City, taken from the top of the Chrysler Building in 1948

Here is an example of what you could find at your ancestor’s town historical society. 

Like me, you might have relatively recent ancestors you have no heirlooms from or know very little about. I asked my grandmother if she had a photograph of her grandfather, John B.M. Lovejoy, who died 20 years before she was born. She said no—she had never seen what her grandfather looked like.

For ten years, I kept my hopes up that someday I would find a photo of him, but with each passing year, my hope slowly diminished. That was until I stumbled across the Farmington—where John lived—Historical Society Facebook page. I scrolled through dozens of photos with little hope, so my heart almost jumped out of my chest when this picture came onto the screen:

There he is! John B.M. “JBM” Lovejoy, pictured in 1894 when he was only 35. It has been a year since I stumbled across it, but I still can’t look at it without smiling.

There’s a chance that your ancestor’s town has a historical society that could have invaluable family artifacts from your family that you don’t even know exist, too. Go find out! 

Jack Palmer has done genealogy research since he was ten years old and loves writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy research stories and advice. He graduated from Duke University in May 2023, majoring in History and Psychology, and is the author of Helen & Frank: A Biography, a biography about his great-grandparents.

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