This question comes up quite a bit in genealogy discussions.

“If you find a picture on Find A Grave and you live too far away to take your own picture, is it legal to copy the picture?”

As usual, there are statements like, “Why do they post the photo if they don’t want others to use it?” and, “Yes, its legal to copy the picture. I’ve put pictures on there so people can copy them.” A few mention copyright law but none seem clear on what is acceptable.

There’s one rule, above all others, that will keep you out of trouble in a case like this. Ask and you may receive![1. Hawkins, Sarah, “12 Most Picture Perfect Ways to Ensure You’re Legally Using Online Photos,”, 26 March 2013,] This is especially effective when dealing with genealogists, who are generally good people.

This is my Charles Francis Armstrong. In 2012 I found this picture on the internet.[2. Find A, digital images ( accessed 10 November 2012), photograph by Carol, gravestone for Charles Francis Gray (1936), Find A Grave Memorial #3519670, San Francisco, California.] I wanted it.


Armstrong, Charles Francis - Headstone photo by Carol Farrant w permission to use freely

Photo courtesy of Carol


What to do?

I sent a note to the person who made the entry, thanking her for taking the picture and saying, “I was hoping to write a blog post about him and wanted to know if it would be ok to include your photo if I credit you properly.”

A few hours later, I got an email back that said, “Go ahead and use the photo and there is no need to credit me.  But thank you for asking first. – Carol.”

I asked. She said yes. Easy peasy! I use the photo now and I don’t include her full name but I acknowledge that “Carol” created it. I wouldn’t want someone to mistakenly think that I had taken the photo.

For some more ideas how to keep yourself out of trouble, head over to and check out the post “12 Most Picture Perfect Ways to Ensure You’re Legally Using Online Photos.”[3. Hawkins, “12 Most Picture Perfect Ways to Ensure You’re Legally Using Online Photos.”]



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