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Friday, December 25, 2009

Other Collections for Family Stories Online

The holidays really have me thinking about family stories. With relatives packing the house, there are bound to be a few memories stirred and shared, and these always leave me wanting more. So of course, I turn to the internet, and a few more websites that are making an effort to collect personal memories, and other family history treasures.

The Library of Congress’s American Memory project is another online large scale special collection of US ephemera. The collection includes texts, audio recordings, photographs and videos, maps and even sheet music that document American life.

It is very easy to search by using the “Search All Collections” bar at the upper right of the main page, or you can browse the individual collections. From the main page you can choose the option to “List All Collections”, which will give you an overview of what all is available on the site. The other option, “More Browse Options” will show you the collections organized by time periods, etc.

Just one of the collections is "California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900". These records consist of the full texts and illustrations of 190 works documenting the early years of California's history through eyewitness accounts, from the Gold Rush through the turn of the twentieth century.

No matter how you get into it, the American Memory site is a great place to find information on history at the time or place that your ancestors lived, or maybe even a story specific to one of your ancestors.


Its always a good idea to search the area, locale, that you are researching for libraries, and poke around their website to see if they have special collections. Universities especially tend to be repositories for items of historical interest.


One that covers much of the southern states is hosted by the University of North Carolina – Documenting the American South collection online, at

If you click on the Collections tab at the top, you will get a list of the different themes they have. Many of the collections are focused on North Carolina, but several deal with the South in general.

The state of South Carolina has an excellent Digital Library, that is a collaborative effort of South Carolina schools, libraries, archives, museums and other institutions, and is found at

From the main page, you will want to “Browse SCDL Collections.” This page will give you different browsing options, by type, time period, county, region, etc. Or again, you can just search using the Search box at the top.

Browsing by regions will bring up a map, showing the counties. There are some real treasures in these collections, for example the handwritten United Spanish War Veterans Ledger.

Their Own Words” is a digital collection of “books, pamphlets, letters and diaries” from the 1700-1900s that focuses on the history of the US is hosted by Dickinson College at

You can browse by author or by dates, or you can search the entire site by title, author, or keyword or phrase.

If you are don’t want just items available online, but actually want to find archives and manuscript collections, Columbia University has CLIO - a searchable database of Archives and Manuscript collections housed in national archives and libraries, college and university collections as well as historical societies, at

If you scroll down, you can see that this website also has links to many of the major archives, museum and libraries in the US, as well as other online Special Collections such as the American Heritage Project, co-sponsored by UC Berkeley, Stanford, Duke & the University of Virginia.

One collection that isn’t extremely huge, but encompasses works from the entire world, is called World Digital Library.

From the top right you can Browse by several different options - Place, Time, Topic, Type, or Institution. The TYPE of item browse feature will give you an idea of what is available, and the number of items. The INSTITUTIONS tab will give you an idea of all of the repositories in the world that the items are from. Its pretty fascinating to look at.

From the main home page, also, you can narrow the individual results showing on the map just by moving the slide bar thru the time periods underneath the map.

Finally, if you haven’t located resources in the areas you are researching by any of these means mentioned so far, just go to Google, and search using the words “Special Collections” along with the name of the state or location you are interested in. There are bound to be several options showing up in your results, including University websites, state, county and historical society collections.

Take your time to peruse the resources, and don’t forget to write down the full citation information for any tidbits you find. You will want to be able to properly cite your sources if you decide to share the information with others, and also make it easier to return to that same site again.

You can find these websites, and more as I locate them, on my Internet Genealogy toolbar, under the "In Print" tab, then Special Collections. Download and use the toolbar, completely free, from

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