How to Find Hidden Genealogy Resources in Libraries and Archives

Remember the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when they’re storing the Ark of the Covenant? The camera pulls back and there is an endless array of shelving, boxes, and books… and you get the sense that they’ll never find the Ark again. In truth, libraries and archives have catalogs so things can be found. Knowing how to dig into an online catalog is one of the best skills you can have as a genealogist. Here’s how you can use them to find genealogy resources, including ones that like to hide. Continue reading

A Growing Source for Free Genealogy: Digital Public Library of America

What’s better than a website that gives access to more than 16 million digitized items? A website that does it for free. That’s just what the Digital Public Library of America does. DPLA is constantly growing and fast becoming a "must visit" website for free genealogy resources.

What Is the Digital Public Library of America?

Digital Public Library of America - DPLA

DPLA is a project involving more than 1,600 libraries, archives, and museums across the U.S. They range from the big ones, like the Smithsonian and the New York Public Library, all the way to the little ones, like the Starke County (Indiana) Historical society. Together, these libraries have contributed more than 16 million digitized items, such as photographs, newspapers, posters, and diaries.

Did I mention it's free?

DPLA doesn't have just an index of the items. It has links to where you can find the items online. If you find it on DPLA, there will be a link to the image. Just look for the "View Object" link and it will take you right to it.

Finding Hidden Gems

One of the neat things about DPLA is that you can find items in places that you wouldn't think to look. Would you think to look in the Tennessee State Library & Archives for a letter from someone in the 7th Ohio Cavalry? It wouldn't be my first place to look, that's for sure. But a simple search on DPLA turned up this gem.  

It also turns up items that you likely won't find in a regular Google search.

What to Look for

Look for things that you would look for in any library. Don't limit yourself to just searching for your ancestor's name. Think about:

  • Where your ancestor lived​
  • Events in his/her life
  • Organizations (fraternal, military, etc.)
  • Occupations
  • Religion

You never know what you'll find!

Here's a short video to introduce you to using DPLA:

DPLA is a site that you'll want to add to your list of "regular" websites for your genealogy. Give it a try and let me know what you discover!

Want more free genealogy resources? Download my guide "10 Essential Free Genealogy Resources":

digital-public-library-of-america

3 Things to Consider with the End of Family Tree Maker

3 Things to Remember with the End of Family Tree MakerAncestry recently announced that it would retire its Family Tree Maker genealogy software. They will cease sale of it 31 December 2015. However, they have pledged to support the program and its functionality (including TreeSync) through 1 January 2017. Not surprisingly, this news has been met with strong reactions. Here are 3 things you need to remember concerning the end of Family Tree Maker.

[Note: I do some contract writing and video production for Ancestry. However, I am not being compensated for expressing my views on this subject. These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Ancestry. Also, I don’t have any further information about the future of FTM or anything else Ancestry does.]

1. You Can Use Ancestry Without Family Tree Maker

Thousands of people every day use the databases on Ancestry without using Family Tree Maker. Their trees on their computer do not automatically sync with a tree they have on Ancestry.com, but they still do research.

People also put trees on Ancestry without using FTM. (You can do this using something called a GEDCOM file that your software program can export or you can create one manually.)

It isn’t an “all or nothing” situation.

2. Family Tree Maker Will Still Work on Your Desktop

Ancestry is supporting Family Tree Maker “at least through January 1, 2017,” per the announcement. In addition, as long as your computer’s operating system will allow it, it will keep running on your computer after that. (It just won’t sync your online tree or do other things that interface directly with Ancestry.)

3. Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe

Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe — the LOCKSS Principle — means just what it says. Having multiple copies raising the chance that at least one copy will survive. As I’ve advocated before, don’t put all of your genealogy eggs in one basket — real or virtual.

No matter what software you use or what cloud-based solution you have, don’t let that be your only copy of your tree. Make copies and have them in multiple locations. (Making a backup copy of something on your computer is great, but don’t have your computer and your backups all in the same place. What happens if your house gets broken into and all of your equipment is stolen? Or if a disaster destroys your house? If all of your backups are in the same place as your computer, you’ve still lost everything. Don’t let that happen to you.)

Software Recommendations

What genealogy software program do I recommend? The one that works for you. Seriously, just because your friend uses XYZ program doesn’t mean it’s the right program for you. If you try to force yourself to use a program that isn’t a good fit for your needs, you’re going to end up frustrated. Nobody needs that.

Whenever you’re in the market for new software, see if there is a trial version. Download it and put the program through its paces. See if it has the functionality you need and if it’s easy to use. If it is, that’s the right program for you.

As the saying goes:

Keep Calm and Genealogy On

3 Things to Consider with the End of Family Tree Maker