Posted by Ancestry Team on December 1, 2017 in Guest Bloggers, Research

I talk to a lot of European World War I and World War II researchers who have adopted the graves of our American service members who are buried in American Battle Monument Commission (ABMC) Cemeteries. The number one thing each seeks is a photograph of their adopted soldier, sailor, or Marine. So, just where might one find photographs from World War I?

Whether you are searching, any other online newspaper collection, or looking through bound, crumbling copies of undigitized papers, chances are you will find photographs of those who died during the war. The Chicago Tribune from 15 September 1918 has a pictorial page of men who died, including my great-grand-uncle Michael Kokoska. I already knew his photograph would be there, but if you are not sure when you begin to search, try different search terms like only the surname, a year, a location. Expand the search to multiple years.

Tip: During World War I and World War II, the War Department notified families within a few weeks to on average three months, of wounds received, those taken prisoner, and those missing or killed in action. The information appeared in the newspapers as soon as the family was notified. In rare cases, or if the soldier was missing for a long period of time, it may be longer before he appears in the papers.

Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF)

Have you requested the OMPF from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis? In many cases, the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps files have photographs in them.

Explore WWI Panoramic Photographs to see if your soldier turns up in a search, or search for the unit in which he served.  You can also check the Memorial Pages on as many families have added photographs to these pages.

Local and State Historical Societies

With the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I this year and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I next year, a lot of towns, counties, and states are preparing for commemorations. They are seeking information and providing information on service men and women. Some organizations are erecting memorials or updating old memorials.

American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)

While the ABMC doesn’t always have photographs of service members, many cemeteries work with local groups in Europe who have grave adoption foundations. These foundations often research the service members buried in the ABMC cemeteries and seek photographs. Contacting the ABMC cemetery where your service member is buried and inquiring about local groups is an option.

Tip: Many Europeans are seeking contact with World War I and World War II service member’s families to share what they have learned about their adopted soldier and request more information, including photographs. You can learn more at Honoring Service Together.

Local Cemeteries

Recently I visited Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois with my fiancé. I was “introducing” him to my family members. Many of the graves in this cemetery contain photographs of the deceased. This cemetery also contains numerous statues of World War I service members with their photograph on the grave. If your soldier is buried in the U.S. and you have not visited and photographed the grave, consider doing so. You may find a photograph you didn’t know existed.

Ancestry Family Trees

Are you researching on Ancestry and exploring the family trees for photographs? You may be shaking your head saying, ‘Of course I am!’ I think some of us may not always look at other trees as we dive down one research hole and get lost in another. Or perhaps we have looked at other trees but it has been a while. People are constantly updating their tree so if you have not looked here in a while, take some time and see what you discover.

Talking to Family

Finally, as you move between online and offline research to locate photographs, ask yourself when the last time was you spoke to family members about these soldiers. After I posted some photos I took at Bohemian National Cemetery on Facebook, a family member messaged me about some old family photos she has. Turns out she has original copies of some I only have photo copies of AND she may have some “new” photos of my 2x great-grandparents! This family member was someone I’ve been in contact with for years. Never rule out a family member you have already spoken to about research. Things turn up. Memories surface. You never know what you’ll uncover if you go back down that path.

What resources have you used to locate World War I photographs for your family? What amazing discoveries did you make when you found them?


  1. Elizabeth Varadan

    I ordered 2 kits yesterday, canceled the order an hour later, have a cancelation order, RMA-34564, and just received an email that the order has shipped. It should not have been shipped. I was assured it was cancelled and that I would get a full refund. Your site leaves no other way to contact you by email except this. It took me an hour yesterday to get through by phone, and apparently you only offer phone contact. I have to wonder at your business ethics.

  2. Elizabeth Varadan

    I tried your customer service as mentioned above. It has been disabled. Yesterday I first tried to cancel on line and found the page didn’t exist. Which is why I had to call. You offer means of communication, yet none of them are what you say. Very disappointing.

      • Deborah Trimble

        How can you get thru to 1-800-ancestry?

        Pho e numbers only have 7 numbers in them, so what number did you call?

  3. Madeleine

    I don’t understand why gripes about Ancestry (I’ve had a few myself) are being made here because the title of this article is Locating World War I Photographs. Perhaps the best place for this is in the AncestryDNA category of the blog.

  4. Tom Boyer

    User feedback: I’ve never had good luck finding records or information on any of my service member ancestors in Fold3. It returns info from all kinds of sources even if I ask only for WWI or Civil War. I have had better luck with Civil War documents. I cannot even find the info I entered for my father and uncle in Fold3.

  5. Tom Boyer

    One other resource is Facebook. Search for WWI USMC and WWI US Army and you will find at least two Facebook sites that have many, many photos of Marines and Doughboys. As well as other historic photos of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.

  6. This is an interesting post which i have seen in the recent time. There are lot of important points said here. Fortunately technology has been improved and mobile phone are rapidly using by humans.


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  8. Mirranda Hernandez

    I have been reading all these amazing stories and for the first time in my life I think that there is hope left my life has never had a dad or a name or a face would go to the fair and wonder is that my dad to make a long story short this place and stories have made me want to believe in a miracle and that’s what your work is a miracle hears the truth I just don’t have a way to pay for your service is there any links I could try to ask for help with the cost I am ashamed to even ask but the truth is I don’t want to leave this world some day and didn’t even try I have thick skin it’s ok if not thank you to who ever reads this for your time God bless

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