Monday, November 2, 2009

Finding the Artists in Your Family Tree


Given the importance that cultures throughout history have placed on art, artists and the process of artistic creation, you'd think there would be some giant database somewhere that lists a few bazilion artists.  You know...the type of lookup where you could poke around and search for any family members from generations past (or present) with an artistic streak of their own.

Well, think again.  I can find you datasets with millions of soldiers...or inventors...or immigrants...or gravesites.  But artists only seem to trickle out a few thousand at a time.  I'm not sure why this is, but don't despair.  There are still some good artists-as-family-history look-ups out there, starting with:

Drop what you're doing, go to Sienna, and see 
this Simone Martini fresco...it's glorious.

ULAN...the Union List of Artist Names.  This is the motherlode, with more than 375,000 names listed covering much of history, and much of the world, though there's certainly a preponderance of Western artists.  As a nice touch, you can narrow your search by nationality.  ULAN is part of the Getty Thesaurus collection (yes...that Getty!).  There's a lot of cool stuff at the Getty site, so you may want to have a look around.

Artprice is probably the web's largest source of art auction-house information.  It actually lists more artists than ULAN, but searching isn't as sophisticated and results (without subscribing to the site) are a bit limited.  Still, a terrific free resource, overall, for searching for painters, sculptors, photographers and other artists in your family history.  Another auction site, Find Art Info has another nice, big database to search on.

Two other sites have smaller listings, but might be worth a try:  Artnet  and, believe it or not,  All Posters.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

And don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.


NewspaperArchive.com

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