Historical illustrations of ancestors

In the second half of the twentieth century it was relatively easy to find colour or black and white photographs in private collections. However, already after World War I and World War II photographs of ancestors became more difficult to find as they were either destroyed through the war or owing to people’s lack of money to have photographs made. In the nineteenth century taking photographs was a luxury good, one that not everyone could afford. Before the age of the photograph, painting was the common thing to do. Having a portrait made, however, was quite costly so that only the more wealthy part of the population could really afford it. And having portraits made did, in fact, make sense to them as this mirrored the sense of self-worth of the wealthy bourgeosie. Impoverished people neither had the money nor the wish to have themselves portrayed. As at that time the bulk of the population were peasants and, therfore, rather poor, painted portaits of ancestors are hard to find. If by chance somebody reached a somewhat higher position, either as a military officer, a clergyman, or a secular dignitary, we stand a much better chance to find illustrations of this person.

Thus the likelihood to find a painted portrait of ancestors depends on the knowledge of their social standing and geographically on their place of residence.

Service package 7


The IRgH offers to trace historical illustrations of ancestors.

As church registers and other documents will be consulted in order to define the geographical dimension of this type of research, the amount of additional work resulting from this cannot be easily foreseen. It is, moreover, depending on the customer’s definition of the period of research. Therefore, no clearly defined charges can be given. However, the IRgH will be pleased to offer overall charges that are acceptable to either side.

Costs: All-inclusive charges according to arrangement