Original manuscript records may reveal genealogical gems about your ancestors. Find these old records in archives around the country using this little-known, free online tool: ArchiveGrid.
Manuscript records such as old diaries, letters, vital record collections, military documents, church registers, store ledgers, school and even business records can be genealogical gems. But finding original manuscript collections in archives and libraries can be difficult. Which archive has it? What’s the collection called? How can you access it?
ArchiveGrid can help
A little-known free website can help you locate old documents and manuscript items available in over 1,500 different archival collections. It’s called ArchiveGrid, and it currently includes close to 5 million archival item entries!
ArchiveGrid is a companion website to WorldCat, the free online catalog of millions of library items from thousands of libraries. The difference is that ArchiveGrid focuses not on published items but (generally-speaking) on unpublished ones.
How to search ArchiveGrid
From the ArchiveGrid home page, you can do two types of searches:
Search for repositories in ArchiveGrid
Use the map view, shown above on the left side, to identify archival collections that are near your ancestors’ home. These archives may hold materials related to your ancestors’ communities. Hover over the red markers to see the names of institutions. Click on them to find contact information and search their collections.
Search for specific manuscript items in ArchiveGrid
1. In the search box in the upper right part of the ArchiveGrid home page, enter search terms related to the manuscript items you hope to find, such as berks county pennsylvania marriage records. Then click Search. You’ll see a list of search results, such as these:
2. Browse search results. If you need to narrow or broaden your results, you can scroll to the bottom of the search results page and click the options you want.
3. Click on items of interest to read more about them. Here’s what a typical ArchiveGrid catalog entry looks like:
The entry tells you more about the individual item. You may see when it was created, a physical description of it, who or what organization created it, and even brief historical background. You’ll see what repository holds it–and you can click under the name of that repository for its contact information. You may be able to order copies, visit to view the item in person, or hire a local researcher to do that for you.
As you can see, a sidebar to the right of this catalog entry says More Like This, with categories like people, places, groups, or topics. These links point to additional catalog items that are related in some way to the one you’re looking at—it’s something like browsing the stacks by topic at a library. (You can also sort all your search results this way from the main list of search results by clicking on Summary View.)
Now that the Family History Library is discontinuing its microfilm lending program, you may find yourself increasingly searching for original manuscript items that aren’t available online. And now that you know how to use ArchiveGrid, you may find yourself wanting to seek out these genealogical gems even more!
Learn More About Original Records
Learn more about finding and using original records from our new regular contributor on the Genealogy Gems podcasts: “The Archive Lady” Melissa Barker. Hear a full-length interview with her in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #205. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear even more from her on finding and using original records in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #149.
Photos used in the collage in this post are courtesy of Melissa Barker.
Millions of New England vital records are among newly-published genealogy records online. So are English parish records, Irish Easter Rising records, Italian civil registrations, South African church records, and records for Georgia WWI soldiers and Louisiana women.
New online this week are millions of new genealogy records from around the world! First, we’ll feature these (mostly) free vital records collections for New England states–but keep scrolling. We’ve got records to mention for other parts of the U.S., as well as England, Ireland, Italy, and South Africa.
New England Vital Records
New England vital records online got a BIG bump this week with the following additions:
Connecticut. More than 755,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection, Connecticut Marriages, 1640-1939. This hybrid index/image collection has this note: “We have legal rights to publish most of the images associated with these records; however, there are a few records that will not have an accompanying image available for view.”
Maine. FamilySearch.org has added nearly a half million indexed names to its collection of Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921. According to the site, the collection is comprised of a “name index and images of birth, marriage, and death returns acquired from the State Board of Health, Division of Vital Statistics and the state archives.”
Massachusetts: New images have been added to the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s collection for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, 1789-1900. The update includes the following volumes: Immaculate Conception (Salem), St. Mary (Salem), and Sacred Heart (Roslindale).
Rhode Island. FamilySearch has added over a half million new indexed names and 30,000 digital images to its free collection, Rhode Island – Vital records. These are described as “Certificates and registers of births, 1846-1898, 1901-1903, marriages 1901-1903 and deaths, 1901-1953 acquired from the State Archives in Providence.”
Other new and updated records in the US include:
- Newspapers – Baltimore MD and Hartford CT. Newspapers.com has added issues for two major papers: the Baltimore Sun (1837-2017) and the Hartford Courant (1764–2017). (With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can access issues of these papers through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years and additional issues from 1923 onward.)
- Georgia. A memorial book for Georgia soldiers who served in World War I is being updated to include the names of African-Americans who served. “Due to the social and racial conditions of the time, this Memorial Book contains the information for only white soldiers,” explains the database landing page on the free United States World War I Centennial Commission website. “The current project is rectifying this by adding information for Georgia’s African-American personnel that also died in service. Further, we are adding names found on WWI monuments and plaques that are missing from the original Memorial Book….As missing names are determined and documented, they will be added” We learned about it in this press release from the University of North Georgia.
- Louisiana. A collection of digitized publications by the Louisiana United Methodist Women (and predecessor organizations) is now free to search at the Centenary College of Louisiana Archives & Special Collections web portal (scroll down to Digital Collections and click Louisiana United Methodist Women’s Publications). According to an announcement by the college, “The digitized material includes annual reports (1884-2014) and newsletters (1963-2006) – 12,000 pages in total. Researchers can access them online, page through each volume, download complete PDFs, and search the full text versions.” Published digitized material is easy to keyword-search for ancestors’ names and hometowns. Here’s a general tip for finding married women’s names in older documents: search on just her surname or her husband’s name, as she may appear as “Mrs. Alexander Reed.”
England: Newspapers and Parish Records
Subscription website TheGenealogist has published over 100,000 parish records and thousands of voter records. According to the announcement, polls books include “35 different registers of people who were entitled to vote in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and other constituencies situated in Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset and New Westminster in Canada….Electoral records are taken from the official lists produced to record who was entitled to vote in the various parliamentary elections.” Among new parish record collections are “100,000 new individuals added for the County of Worcestershire and additionally the Registers of the Parish Church of Rochdale in Lancashire that covers the period between 1642 and 1700.”
Findmypast.com has added 312,000 new records to its collection of Kent marriage records. New additions are for the parishes of Bapchild, Biddenden, Kilndown, Tenterden, and Wittersham. Additionally, over 18,000 new records have been added to Kent Baptisms (parishes of Bapchild, Brompton, Chatham, New Gillingham, Wingham and Wittersham); over 3,000 records have been added to Kent Banns (parishes of Bapchild, Biddenden, and Wittersham); and over 18,000 new records are in Kent Burials (parishes of Bapchild, Kilndown, Tenterden, and Wittersham).
The site has also added to its records for North West Kent, described as “areas within the London boroughs which were historically part of Kent.” Over 23,000 records have been added to the North West Kent Baptisms collection, and another 15,000 to North West Kent Burials.
Ireland – Easter Rising and Newspapers
Findmypast.com has added over 76,000 records to its collection, Easter Rising & Ireland Under Martial Law 1916-1921. According to the site, “These once classified records, digitized from original documents held by The National Archives in Kew, record the struggles of life under martial law in Ireland and contain the details of soldiers and civilians who participated in or were affected by the Easter Rising of April 1916.”
“Your ancestor may be found in the records if they were killed or wounded during the conflict, arrested and held in internment, or tried by court martial. Additionally, if their home or place of work was searched they may appear in the records as the collection shows the efforts of the military and police to discover arms, ammunition and seditious material through thousands of raids.”
Also, Findmypast.com has added over 401,089 new articles and one new title to its collection of historic Irish Newspapers. The Ballymena Weekly Telegraph is the latest publication to join the collection and currently covers the years 1904, 1906-1916, 1921-1929 and 1931-1957.
Italy – Civil Registration
FamilySearch.org has added to its free online collections of Italy’s civil registration records. Among them are:
- Trapani, 1906-1928; 1.1 million images added to an existing collection
- Brescia, 1797-1815, 1866-1943; 620,801 new browseable image
- Napoli, 1809-1865; 164,991 images added to an existing collection
- Benevento, 1810-1942, over a million images added to an existing collection
South Africa – Church records and civil death records
FamilySearch.org has added more than 61,000 digital record images and over 3,000 indexed names to its collection, South Africa, Dutch Reformed Church Records (Stellenbosch Archive), 1690-2011. Also updated at FamilySearch.org is South Africa, Cape Province, Civil Deaths, 1895-1972, with over 16,000 new names.
Keep up with genealogy news from around the world with Lisa Louise Cooke’s FREE Genealogy Gems weekly e-newsletter. You’ll get a free Google Research e-book as a thank-you gift when you do. From this page (or any other on this website), just enter your name where it says “Sign up for the free email newsletter” and click GO.
End 2016 on a high note with these new and updated genealogical record collections. Lisa soaked in Christmas tunes of Harlan County Kentucky’s pride and joy, Jordan Smith (winner of The Voice,) in a concert over the holidays. Harlan County can also be very proud of their incredible genealogical records. Today we are highlighting their county GenWeb page. This U.S. county GenWeb page has gone above and beyond in making Harlan County, Kentucky records accessible to the masses. Also this week, United Kingdom apprenticeship records, parish records, and Scotland mental health and prison records.
United States – Harlan County, Kentucky Records
This is not a new collection, though it may be new to you. Discovering the many U.S. GenWeb sites dedicated to genealogy is a great help to many. This week, we wanted to give a special hat’s off to the amazing work that Harlan County, Kentucky has done on their GenWeb page.
You will find digital images of people, places, schools, and newspaper clippings, but the best part is their extensive birth, marriage, and death indexes. The marriage records begin as early as 1818 and end about 1925. The birth record index begins in 1852 – 1940, though some years are missing. Lastly, the death records begin in 1852 – 1959, with a special collection on coal miners deaths.
In addition to these great findings, the Harlan County Kentucky GenWeb also has:
- Court records
- Tax records
- Military records
- Family files
United Kingdom – Gloucester – Apprenticeship Records
The Gloucester Apprentices 1595-1700 at Findmypast contain over 20,000 apprentices, masters, and their relatives who were listed in the Calendar of the Registers of Apprentices of the City of Gloucester 1595-1700. The calendar has been digitized with optical character recognition (OCR), which allows you to search images of text for your ancestor’s name or a keyword.
Each record will list the apprentices trade, residence, the name of their father, the name of their master, the name of their master’s wife, the length of their term and the amount they were paid at the end of their training.
These records will be particularly helpful for those unable to find civil or church records regarding their ancestors.
United Kingdom – Kent – Parish Records
Also at Findmypast this week, over 36,000 new additions have been made to the Kent Parish Records collection. Specifically:
· Over 14,000 additional baptisms
· Over 1,000 additional banns records
· Over 11,000 additional marriages
· Over 9,000 additional burials
These new records date as far back as 1538 and cover the parishes of Wrotham, Stansted, Wouldham, Southfleet, and Leybourne.
Scotland – Mental Health Records
The Scotland Mental Health Institutions Admissions 1857-1859 at Findmypast include over 1,000 records from over 50 mental health institutions including asylums and poorhouses. Though these records tell a sad story, they may help you to piece together the family story.
Each record includes a transcript of an original document and may provide your ancestors’ birth place, birth date, former residence, and the institution they were sent to and the date of their admission.
Scotland – Prison Registers
You can search over 17,000 transcripts of prison registers in the Findmypast collection titled Scotland Prison Registers Index 1828-1884.
Each record lists the prisoners age, birth year, birth place, occupation, former residence, offence and place of imprisonment.
Start the New Year off Right
Here’s a New Year bargain you can’t ignore – 10% off 12 month premium subscriptions to Findmypast. Today is the last day to save! They have over 2 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B!) records and more are added every day. Make 2017 a year full of fascinating family history discoveries by clicking on this image link below.
Genealogical records and research for your Denmark ancestors has just gotten a little easier! New and updated genealogical collections for Danish genealogy have been added to FamilySearch. Also new this week, new and updated records for Sweden, Hungary, Britain, and Ireland.
Denmark – Census
It was truly a Danish delight when we heard the 1916 Denmark Census is now available at FamilySearch. Danish genealogy is just a bit easier with the availability of this census, especially when paired with the already published 1911 Denmark Census, also at FamilySearch.
This is an every-name index to the 1916 census of Denmark. This index was created by MyHeritage from images provided by the National Archives of Denmark. The collection at FamilySearch includes an index or abstract version in English and a digital image of the original.
This census was taken for the countries of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Danish West Indies, however, only the records for Denmark are available at FamilySearch. The enumeration for Denmark was divided into three sections with a different form for each of the sections: Copenhagen city, other cities, and rural areas.
This census names each individual in the home and includes: sex, calculated birth date and year, marital status, relationship to head-of-household, and residence.
Other genealogy record collections for Denmark can be found on FamilySearch, too. See the entire list here.
Sweden – Church Records
FamilySearch has four Swedish church record collections that have recently been updated. Church records are especially helpful when civil records such as birth, marriage, and deaths, are not available. Check out these four updated collections and their titles below.
Hungary – Civil Registration
More records have been added to the Hungarian Civil Registration records at FamilySearch as well. This collection includes the years 1895-1980.
The records are bound volumes of pre-printed forms with event information recorded by hand. From 1895 through 1906, the forms are one page per event, but beginning in 1907 each event occupies one row in a printed table, so there are multiple events recorded per page. The records are in Hungarian.
Civil registrations include birth, marriage, and death records. You may be able to find the following information in each of these groups:
- Date and place of birth
- Name of child
- Gender and religion
- Parents’ names and mother’s age
- Parents’ religion
- Signature of informant
- Date and place of marriage
- Groom’s name, date and place of birth
- Groom’s religion and occupation
- Groom’s parents’ names
- Bride’s name, date and place of birth
- Bride’s religion and occupation
- Bride’s parents’ names
- Witnesses’ names and their residence
- Additional remarks
- Name and age of deceased
- Date, time, and place of death
- Deceased’s residence and occupation
- Deceased’s religion
- Spouse’s name
- Parents’ names
- Cause of death
- Signatures of informant
United Kingdom – 1939 Register
Like a census, the Register can tell you a lot about how your ancestors. You can find names, occupations, and more. The 1939 Register of more than 32.8 million records is now available at Findmypast.
The 1939 Register is pretty unique. It required people to explain exactly what they did. General terms, such as Foreman, Overseer, Doctor, Mill-hand, Porter or Farmer, were not acceptable. Instead, people were asked to be as specific as possible, giving details of the trade.
Additional information you will find on the Register includes:
- Full date of birth
- Marital status
Ireland – Directories
Also at Findmypast, the Ireland, 19th Century Directories allow you to search more than 120 volumes of directories that contain more than 74 thousand records. Listings may include your ancestor’s occupation, place of business, or home address.
These directories were published annually, which means that you can easily track your ancestor year to year.
You will want to be aware that most of the details in the directories were collected six months before publication; therefore, all the listings are six months old.
The records are presented as PDFs (portable digital files). This feature allows you to narrow your search by publication, year and page number. After selecting an image, you can read through the whole directory by using the previous and next buttons at the top of the image.
Learn more about Danish Genealogy
Read some great gems in our article Digitized Danish Records at MyHeritage!
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