National Portrait Gallery collection free to view on Ancestry


02 February 2022
Explore 125,000 iconic portraits via the National Portrait Gallery collection newly available on Ancestry. Plus enter your family picture, for the chance for it to be exhibited at NPG in 2023...

Discover five centuries of National Portrait Gallery images free on Ancestry

Ancestry have partnered with the National Portrait Gallery and are proud to make their world-class collection of 125,000 portraits of people from the past (and some very current too!) (1547-2018), available to family history researchers today. This collection contains portraits in a variety of mediums, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, drawings, and prints. The National Portrait Gallery is unique in that it captures British history and culture through portraits of everyday people, and not just the nobility or the famous. 

“The saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is particularly relevant when researching your family history. Portraits can reveal how our ancestors once looked, how they lived and certain personality traits,’’ says Simon Pearce, Family History expert at Ancestry. “That’s why we’re excited to be working with the National Portrait Gallery to provide wider access to some of its captivating and historically rich collection. Hosting these portraits online at Ancestry means more people can explore nearly 500 years of British life – and some might even discover a family member in the collection!”

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How to explore the NPG collection free on Ancestry

You need to register with Ancestry, but you don't need to subscribe. That done, you can then enjoy exploring the collection of 125,000 portraits of people of the past. To explore, click here.

How to order a print

Dr Alison Smith, Chief Curator at National Portrait Gallery said: "The National Portrait Gallery is home to the largest collection of portraits in the world, and while many are familiar with our most famous faces, we are proud to also hold numerous portraits of men, women and children from all walks of life."

As well as searching the images on Ancestry, people will be able to buy custom prints from the NPG collection. To order a print, click here.

To celebrate the importance of images of people of the past and Ancestry's partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, the Nation's Family Album competition has been launched. The end result will be special display at the National Portrait Gallery called The Nation’s Family Album and it will include family photos submitted by members of the public.

How to enter your family picture to the Nation's Family Album competition

To find the entry requirements and form, please click here.


Images copyright the National Portrait Gallery: William Shakespeare, Stephen Hawking, Mala Yousafzai, Mary Jane Seacole