As family historians, we all have a powerful tool to use in our research efforts. It is called the internet, and it is in many ways a magic key to getting the information we need to help complete our genealogies. While we all know about the many paid sites for genealogical records, I am going to focus on a group of free sites that too many of us overlook. They are called libraries; digital libraries to be more precise. These are vast storehouses of information flow right to us via the internet and is always open 24 hours a day seven days a week.
I would like to talk about an excellent website called, 250 plus killer digital libraries and archives which lives up to its name and more. I will give you the link to this site toward the end of this post since I would like to tell you a little about what you will find. I believe that this is a gold mine for anyone doing serious family research. You may find pictures and write ups about your ancestors that will surprise you. You certainly will find photographs of places where they lived and of the events that they were involved in. Local histories are plentiful and will add color to your family’s story. You will find every state has at least one digital collection except Rhode Island. Even with this, you will find much information on Rhode Island in some of the multi-state collections. Also, many universities such as the University of Chicago, University of Colorado, Cornell University, Columbia University, and much more are represented here. The Ryhiner Map Collection and the National Library of Medicine, and the American Museum of Natural History are on this site. County archives, historical societies, genealogy groups, and of course state archives can be found. Links to the Library of Congress, National Archives, and the New York Public Library digital collection, are all so to be found. It would be too lengthy to list all of the more than 250 links so let me tell you about a few I tried out in my family history search.
The above is a photograph I found in the Florida Memory Project. I am doing some research on a branch of my Dakin family line that I find interesting. I knew that some people from this branch moved to Florida, so I just put the name Dakin in the search field and had many interesting items come up. I liked this picture so I thought I would share it.
My wife’s father’s family comes from Rockland County and the New York City area so I tried a few searches. I made some very nice discoveries and thought I would share a few. On a website called the Hudson River Valley Heritage, I made the following finds. In the 1990s my wife’s late Aunt Eunice Lyon gave an interview on growing up and her family life. While we knew of the interview (we have a CD copy) I was surprised to find it on this site and was able to listen to it. Pictured below is a photograph of a shoe factory located in the same town and at the same time period that my wife’s great grandmother, grandmother and at least one aunt work in a shoe factory. I have to do more research to see if this is the one. But even if is not it does let me look into their world a little bit better. I was also able to read a 1938 article about her 2nd great grandfather James Slinn, coming over from England in 1832 and start a file manufacturing factory. Also pictured below is the NY State training school for girls in Hudson NY. This place figured in an ongoing research project in my family and was pleased to obtain this photograph.
If you had ancestors that lived, married, died in the state of Washington you should visit the Washington State Digital Archives. You will find records of births, cemeteries, census, death, divorce, land records, military, naturalization, and much more. While many are just record numbers and or limited transcripts, it does give much information and a way to order exact copies. I have used this resource many times and have solved more than a few family mysteries by doing so.
In the Maine section of 250 plus killer digital libraries and archives, I found a bowl that was used by my 4th Great Grandmother Sarah Putnam Houlton. I also found a letter sent to her husband and my 4th Great Grandfather Joseph Houlton, complete with a transcript. I will have a lot of exploring to do in Maine for a large part of my family settled and lived there. The best part is I can do it while sitting at my desk anytime I wish to.
Tragedy visited my father’s family when he was just a youth. Something he would never speak of to me or with anyone else. The family was broken up, and brothers and sisters farmed out in all directions. The research on these events has been time-consuming and is still on -going. One of his brothers worked for a time as a child in a coal mine. I was able to find a photograph at The Library of Congress taken at about the right time frame. They say a picture is worth 1000 words and the picture below proves that saying.
If you have ancestors from Vermont who fought in the Civil War, you have to visit the site called Vermont in the Civil War. I found records of two of my relatives Peter Dakin and Peter Guyette. The information they cover would be a blog post by itself. I give you warning if you don’t have relatives from Vermont who fought in the Civil War after visiting this website you will wish you did.
All of the above sites are located under the one umbrella, 250 plus killer digital libraries and archives. But obviously what I wrote about is just a tiny example of what you can find here. In my bookmarks on my computer, I have a file named research. This is where I put places I find useful in my search for my family’s story. Under this one bookmark is over 250 first-rate libraries for me to use when I have the need. The best part it is free, all I have to do is put in the effort. Here is the link to 250 plus killer digital libraries and archives, but I warn you set aside some time because once you start, you won’t want to stop. Here is the link.
Please let me know if you make any discoveries.