Exploring Family History with Nancy: Virtual Collections

Genealogists want to physically visit libraries and other institutions to find their ancestors, but did you know that you can visit many of these places virtually through their digital collections? These resources may contain a wide variety of materials you can use to find your ancestors or supplement your family history with some local history. You may find books, maps, documents, photographs, and artifacts, just to name a few. These collections are available on state, public, academic, and special library web sites as well as historical and genealogical society sites.

A Google search for digital collections

One good way to locate a digital library or collection is to Google search terms such as the state and/or locality and either “digital library” or “digital collections”. The first photo shows search results relating to Nebraska. We can see results from academic, public, and state libraries in just this short list. If we look at the digital collections of the Omaha Public Library (fourth item), we’ll find that one of them is a collection of digitized historical Nebraska maps and atlases. The Photo Collection Search at History Nebraska (last item) includes the Photograph and Artifact Collections Database, Prairie Settlement, Nebraska Memories, Omaha Indian Heritage, Plains Indian Ledger Art, and list of photograph collections in the holdings of History Nebraska. The second photo shows sample results for Mississippi digital collections as another example.

Another great free resource for genealogists is the Digital Public Library of America. It contains a family research guide that explains how to use DPLA to learn more about ancestral lives as well as ancestral names. The collection includes items such as family photographs, family bibles, maps, military records, and oral histories that have been contributed by various institutions. https://dp.la/guides/the-family-research-guide-to-dpla

Try a search for digital collections in your locality of interest and take some time to explore these great resources. You may find material that you can’t find elsewhere.

Happy hunting!

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