One way to make a family history book more interesting involves adding images and pictures. But, what happens when you didn't inherit any family photos? Royalty-free and public domain photos may be your answer.
When I wrote about my 3rd great-grandfather, Joseph Geiszler, I only had access to a handful of government-created documents. So how could I enhance an 80 page 6x9 manuscript without breaking copyright laws or attempting to sketch something other than a stick figure?
My fellow family history writers, that's where 'copy-right free' images fill the gap. While you won't have an exclusive right to these images, you can utilize visuals to help tell a better story.
↪️ Do you want to write a family history book?
Grab your copy of this FREE Writing Guide:
What's the Difference Between Royalty-Free and Public Domain Photos?
Depending on where you live and publish your genealogy book, the laws regarding copyright for images vary. However, one thing I have discovered is the value of the digitized images that are labeled as royalty-free or public domain photographs.
Public Domain and Copyright Free images legally have no copyright claims, and creators can use the photos in any family history projects.
By contrast, a royalty-free photo means someone does have a copyright claim on the photo but allows you to use the image without paying a royalty each time you use it. These stock images may be available for free or for a one-time fee.
In short, both allow you to use their images in your family history projects. However, the biggest difference involves attribution.
Writers should create a citation for public domain and copyright-free images but should not bother citing a royalty-free stock image.
Did I shock you with that statement?
While many genealogists will tell you to cite the source for every image you use, I find citations for stock images unnecessary and annoying.
Perhaps this feeling comes from my journalism and desktop publishing experience. Perhaps this is one time I prefer the APA style of formatting to Chicago style. The APA guidelines say, "If the license associated with clip art or a stock image states “no attribution required,” then do not provide an APA Style reference, in-text citation, or copyright attribution."
While you're the author and you are the ultimate decision-maker for your project, most of your readers will appreciate you not citing the picture of a cat with a ball of yarn from a site like Pixabay.
With all of that said, when you cite an image from one of the following public domain websites or sites with copy-right free images, use the following source citation template.
[Creator], "[Title of Image]," [date created], [Website Name], [URL] (accessed [date]).
To view an overview of two of the following resources, watch this video on Facebook.
Eight Royalty-Free Websites for Genealogy Books
Take advantage of royalty-free images from the following websites for your family history scrapbooks, videos, or bound books. This list includes free and fee images.
Negative Space - this UK based website has many British scenes
MorgueFile - a collection of unused photos, not photos of the deceased
Five Public Domain Websites for Family History Projects
There are a variety of websites with public domain or copyright-free images for your use. ALWAYS check the copyright licenses before using an image. Some have copyright-free licenses so long as the book is not sold commercially.
Should You Use Google Images?
While I've previously said you can find family history photos using Google Image Search, the question is can you use the image in your family history project.
I would highly recommend using the filters on your image search results. Start with the filter "free to use share or modify, even commercially."
While Google does its best only to return images that should be free to use in your projects, you still want to navigate to the original website for the images. Discover the copyright status of the image and the attribution requirements before inserting a photo into your project.
↪️ Would you like positive feedback and suggestions for your writing projects? Join the FHF Xtra Premium Membership to watch previous Writing Reviews or submit yours to a future live show.