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The Carpenter Collection

This week The Legal Genealogist is highlighting some of the image collections that are available to us as genealogists to use in our own work.

Photographs and illustrations that are free, or mostly free, of copyright restrictions, that we can freely use, can add a lot to our family histories and, fortunately for us in this 21st century, there’s quite a bit available to use.

Today, let’s take a look at a terrific collection for those of us whose forebears were footloose — those whose paths were not confined to the backroads of the United States.

Because there’s a great collection at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division of images from around the world.

It’s the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, and here’s how the Library of Congress describes it:

The Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection consists of photographs produced and gathered by Frank G. Carpenter (1855-1924) and his daughter Frances (1890-1972) to illustrate his writings on travel and world geography. Carpenter’s works helped popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the early years of the twentieth century. The portion of the collection that is cataloged online represents photographs for which copy negatives or digital files exist. This represents a small cross-section of the collection, which consists of an estimated 5,400 photographs in albums; 10,400 photographs not in albums; and 7,000 glass and film negatives.1

I don’t want to suggest there aren’t any U.S.-based images; to the contrary, if your family’s footprints ever led to Alaska, there are nearly 1000 images to choose from, like this one:


Frank H. Nowell, “Miners and Merchants Bank of Alaska, Nome, Alaska, Sept. 23rd – 19052

But the real depth of the collection is from around the world: Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America. One of my favorite images from this group:


(Bedouin holding a long tobacco pipe)3

Take a look. There may just be something there for you and your family’s history.


  1. About this Collection,” Carpenter Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog ( : accessed 17 June 2014).
  2. “Miners and Merchants Bank of Alaska, Nome, Alaska, Sept. 23rd – 1905”; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Carpenter Collection, ( : accessed 17 June 2014).
  3. “Native types of Africa (Bedouin holding a long tobacco pipe)”; Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Carpenter Collection ( : accessed 17 June 2014).
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