One of my absolute favorite websites for helping with the task of locating items of interest to MY research project is ArchiveGrid.
You can read in detail about how ArchiveGrid works, its history, and so on, on the website. The summary from the website: “ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.”
It is like WorldCat is to libraries. It is an online catalog of holdings from libraries, manuscript collections, and archives from across the globe. Of course, they have to be participating with the OCLC system to be included, but so many are! And some of the participating collections are not your typical collection you might think about in terms of genealogy. Just reading through the “recent additions” I see Indiana University’s Latin American Music Center, United States Marine Band Library and Archives, the American Bookbinders Museum, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Museum of Flight Archives.
ArchiveGrid is very easy to use. It employs a simple keyword search and then a filter system is available when you click on “Summary View.” There are also more advanced ways to search. As always, read the help pages and “how to search” instructions for better results. For example, if you remember the leather pocketbook from the last post, it belonged to Thomas Jefferson Johnson. If you search ArchiveGrid for Thomas Jefferson Johnson you will get all kinds of hits for the president Thomas Jefferson. However, ArchiveGrid, like many databases, allows you to put the name in quotes. When I did that search, I found a collection of papers down at the Austin History Center that includes family correspondence dating back to 1853. It is very likely that some of those family papers complement the collection I viewed at Southwestern University’s Special Collection.
Access ArchiveGrid, enter some family names or topics relating to your research, and see what you find. You might be pleasantly surprised!
I have been working on a client project this week that took me into Buffalo, Erie County, New York, one of my favorite areas to research because of its vital role in the westward movement of the United States. Buffalo was in a prime location between the time of the Erie Canal and Lake Erie, shipping and passenger travel could occur from the east coast in New York all the way inland to the frontier via the Great Lakes, and even down the Mississippi River to areas to the south and west. The growth, opportunities, and migration through that location is amazing from an ancestral and historical point of view.
One of my favorite things to do when researching at a local public library is to examine pages named “digital collections” or something similar. Today, I happened upon a new collection at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library: ERIE COUNTY POOR HOUSE LEDGERS. This is a wonderful collection! The poor house books cover a range of years from 1851 to 1952. The pages have been beautifully digitized and the on-screen viewer is very easy to use. Zoom in to see very high-quality images.
I am always so excited when I find digitized records such as these. To be able to access high-quality digitized records from Buffalo, NY while sitting in my office in Austin, TX is truly a blessing.
I hope you are examining local public library websites when you are researching your ancestors, and I especially hope you like to poke around in their “digital collections.” You just never know what treasures you might find!
We moved to Texas about three and a half years ago now…my how time flies! Through learning the library systems in the state, which are very different to how they worked in Colorado, I discovered that as a Texas state resident, I am allowed a FREE library card to the Texas State Library, and in particular to their online digital collections! This means that I can access HeinOnline and other useful databases for FREE!
HeinOnline is quite expensive but so useful when doing any law research as it relates to your ancestors, which you should be doing! I also discovered on the Texas State Law Library website that all of the historical Texas statutes are nicely listed and available to anyone (library card or not).
If you live in Texas and would like to get your library card, it can be done online. Click here for instructions. If you live outside of Texas, ask your local librarian or do some online searching to see what offerings are available in your state. There are valuable resources available. Be sure not to miss them!