Laptop with Reverse Google Image search
Genealogy Research,  Old Family Photos

Using a Reverse Google Image Search on Your Family Photos

Use a reverse Google image search to find and identify your old family photos! Unlock secrets hidden in your old family photographs.

In the digital age, our genealogical quests often lead us to the vast realm of the internet. We “Google” everything, from historical records to ancestral stories, but have you ever considered harnessing the power of the Google Image Search and the reverse Google Image Search for your family history research?

It’s a treasure trove waiting to be explored, offering a unique way to connect with long-lost relatives and discover forgotten family photographs. Let’s explore how it can help you unlock the secrets hidden in your old family photographs.

Black and white photo of boy and girl. Black text on tan background reading How to Use a Google Image Search

The Potential of Google Image Searching AND the Reverse Google Image Search

Imagine this…

Your ancestors’ photographs could be featured on another genealogist’s blog dedicated to their own family history.

But, how would you know?!

Through Google Image Search, you have the opportunity to find and identify your ancestors in these photographs or collaborate with fellow researchers who might have your ancestors in their  family photo collections.

I often share unidentified photographs on this blog, hoping other researchers will find and recognize them!

Yes, this does happen, and I’ve had several old photographs recognized this way.

Using a Google Image Search: A Step-by-Step Guide

Before we dive into the fascinating world of Google Image Search, let’s explore the differences between using  a Google Image Search, a reverse image search and Google Lens for your genealogical research.

Google Image Search

A Google Image Search is designed to search for images instead of just articles, blog posts, etc. It gives you the opportunity to find identical or similar images on the web. It’s particularly useful for locating instances where your family photos have been shared or published online, making it a valuable resource for you as a  genealogy researcher. 

Google Image Search Homepage with search bar

To search Google for an image:

  1. Go to the Google Image Search homepage.
  2. Type your ancestor’s name in the search box. In this example, we will search for photographs of my great grandmother Esther Lee Richardson.
Google Image Search bar with Esther Lee Richardson in the search bar

3. Assess the search results. Repeat the search using alternate name spellings and/or name variations as needed.

Search results for the image search on Esther Lee Richardson. Three matches found

You’ll notice 3 matches for Esther Lee Richardson!

**Note that Google will not search images on private platforms like, Flickr, or private family member sites. Those types of websites are searchable only when you are a member.

A Reverse Image Search

A reverse image search on Google allows the user to upload a photograph and search the web for other instances of that photograph or similar photographs with the same individuals.

Currently, Google defaults to Google Lens for this type of reverse image search. Google Lens is also an excellent tool for identifying objects, including landmarks, plants, and animals. [Tip: Keep it on your smart phone for quick non-genealogy look-ups.]

Truthfully, finding family photos and/or identifying individuals an old family photo can be hit or miss, but it is always worth looking. I personally never want to miss out on a potential find just because I think something “might” not  be there.

To perform a research image search:

1. Visit

Begin by navigating to Google’s dedicated image search page.

2. Click the camera icon which opens up Google Lens.

On the right side of the search box, you’ll find a camera icon. Click on it to initiate the image search process.

Google Image search homepage with icons

3. Select “Upload an Image.”

Choose the option to upload an image from your computer or device. 

Google Image Search with photo upload box open

4. Highlight and upload your image.

Select the image you wish to search for, and then click “Open” to upload it to Google.

1924 photo of 2 young women with an older woman standing behind them.

5. Assess your search results.

Reverse Image search results.

Clicking through your results will take you to the sites where that photograph lies.

It is possible to narrow down search results to just one person in that photo by narrowing down the frame of view.

REverse Google Image search  Image narrowed down to just one person in the photo.

Unfortunately, the search results on just this one woman did not yield any positive results.

Have you ever used Google Image Search to search images (i.e. photos, postcards, etc.) in your genealogical research?

The Excitement of Discovery

In my own research, I once uploaded a photograph of Esther Lee Richardson, taken in the late 1910s, to Google Image Search. The search results revealed that the photograph was featured exclusively on my own website (a bit disappointing, but a great opportunity to share this resource with others).

However, I continue to use Google Image Search regularly for a set of “unknown” photographs in my collection.

The world of genealogy is dynamic, with new blogs, posts, and genealogists joining the community every day. The hope is that these “unknown” photographs will one day be identified, and that fellow researchers researching the same families will cross paths with my blog.

Have you ever used Google Image Search to search images (i.e. photos, postcards, etc.) in your genealogical research?

Share your experiences and discoveries in the comments below.

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