How to Find Original Manuscripts with ArchiveGrid

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.

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 The difference is that ArchiveGrid focuses not on published items but (generally-speaking) on unpublished ones.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

ArchiveGrid website

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.

 

Afghanistan and Iraq Casualty Databases Now at Fold3

white_ribbon_candle_flicker_300_clr_1014There’s a saying that “past is present,” and nowhere is that truth more apparent than family history. Sometimes we get very stark reminders that the same things that affected our ancestors–war, poverty, conflict and the like–affect us today.

Fold 3 has added new databases with “names and related personal and service information for over six thousand men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.”  These databases are:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Casualties “Operation Enduring Freedom” (OEF) is the operational codename given by the United States government to the War in Afghanistan which began in 2001 and is currently an ongoing conflict.
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Casualties “Operation Iraqi Freedom” (OIF) is the operational codename given by the United States government to the conflict in Iraq from 2003-2010.
  • Operation New Dawn (OND) Casualties “Operation New Dawn” (OND) is the operational codename given by the United States government for U.S. involvement in Iraq after Operation Iraqi Freedom ended on August 31, 2010.

According to the press report, “Every casualty links to a Memorial Page with a summary and personal details including full name, branch of service, pay grade and rank, unit, casualty location, date of death, age, residence, and more. In addition to searching for a name, you can also search on other details such as unit number, rank, date of death, or city of residence.”

These databases aren’t just posted here for distant descendants to come learn about their fallen relatives, but for us today to memorialize their lives. Anyone who creates a free Basic Fold3 registration can add to a Memorial Page by clicking the “Add” or “Edit” buttons within any of the sections: Pictures & Records, Personal Details, and Stories. On the final “About” page, you can connect to other pages on Fold3 and describe your relationship to the service member. You can also share these memorial pages with others by email, via a website link, or on Twitter, Facebook, and dozens of other social networking sites.

If you lost someone who is mentioned in these data-sets, here’s an opportunity to take some time to honor them online by adding to their Memorial page.

5 Steps to Finding Marriage Records

Show Notes: Marriage records are essential to building your family tree. Here are the 5 steps you need to in order to find an ancestor’s marriage record. 

Watch the Video

5 Steps to Finding Marriage Records for Genealogy

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes Marriage Records Worksheet for Premium Members

A really good Spring cleaning task is to look through your family tree, starting with yourself and working backwards, and just checking to see if you have all the vital records for everyone. Vital records include birth, marriage and death records. Civil marriage records are typically some of the oldest vital records, and offer valuable information. 

Step 1:  Determine the time and place.

Time and place are critical to marriage record searches. Records like census records can help you get within 10 years of a marriage, and can also help you narrow in on the location of the wedding. Thankfully, all U.S. Federal Census records are free and online at FamilySearch.

Marriage records are typically filed at the county level. However, they can sometimes be found at the town level, particularly in New England. 

It’s very important to identify the correct county at the time of the estimated marriage. You can do that using the Newberry Library’s Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. Click on the state and then select the time frame. 

Step 2: Use a genealogy guidance website

Genealogy “guidance” websites pull together information from a variety of sources to aid you in your research in a particular area. Here are two of my favorites:

The FamilySearch Wiki 

Click on North America > United States > State. Scroll down the state page and click on the county. Use Alt + F to quickly search for the word marriage.

The wiki will likely also provide you with links and clues as to where to find the records. Remember, it’s not always a comprehensive list, but it’s a great place to start.

Learn more about the Wiki with these videos:

If civil marriage records had not yet started when your ancestors married, look for church marriage records. Learn more with my video: How to Use Church Records for Genealogy (Premium)

US GenWeb

  • All-volunteer website
  • Organized by state and then county.
  • Great place to tap into the collective brain trust of genealogists interested in the same area.
  • Provides information such as when records started, how to access them, or if they are no longer available.
  • Provides links to online records.

Step 3: Genealogy Records Websites

If those leads don’t pan out, next turn to major genealogy websites. Start with the free FamilySearch, then if you have subscriptions to sites like Ancestry or MyHeritage, use those. (Note: These are affiliate links and we are compensated if you make a purhcase.) Only a fraction of these website’s record collections are included in their hints and suggestions. This means that the card catalog is essential if you want to scour all the records. 

Learn more about searching Ancestry’s card catalog: Ancestry Top Tips and Hot Keys (Premium)

Step 4: Contact the jurisdiction that originally created the records

If you don’t get the record that way, you’ll need to do it the old-fashioned way: contact the county or town clerk.

Early vital records are often moved to the state level. That contact information can likely be found on the FamilySearch Wiki page you found, or you can Google:
County name, state “marriage records”

Check the following repositories:

  • State Library
  • State Archive
  • State Historical Society
  • County Historical Society
  • Other: _________________________________________

Step 5: Google Search

If all else fails, turn to Google to see if there are any other repositories or online resources outside of the largest genealogy websites and archives. Use search operators to focus your search.

Example:  Randolph County Indiana “marriage records” 1880..1900

The quotation marks ensure that the exact phrase (Marriage records) is included on each web page result you get.

Two numbers separated by two periods is called a Numrange search. This instructs Google to also ensure that each web page result includes a number (in our case, a year) that falls within that range. It’s a great way to target marriage records from a particular time frame. 

Learn more about marriage record research with these two instructional videos:

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes Marriage Records Worksheet for Premium Members

 

Family History Never Tasted So Good!

We all have cookbooks in our kitchen, many of which were handed down to us by our mothers and grandmothers. In addition to be overflowing with delectable recipes, they are often brimming with family history. Today I’d like to share with you a recipe mystery that followed me for years, and the bit of genealogical serendipity that solved it. 

family history never tasted so good: cookie recipe

I once gave a presentation called Inspiring Ways to Capture the Interest of the Non-Genealogists in Your Family at a local genealogical society. (Genealogy Gems Premium Members can log in and watch this vide class as part of their membership here.)

In it, I gave an example of some items I had found on Ebay from my husband’s Larson family. If you listen to the Genealogy Gems Podcast then you have heard me mention the Larson family. They hailed from Winthrop Minnesota and owned a hardware store and lumber business there for many years.

LJ Larson Hardware store

LJ Larson Hardware store

While I was taking questions toward the end of the presentation a woman in the front raised her hand. Her name was Harriet, and she said she was sure that she had a cookbook from Winthrop, Minnesota in her collection of books at home. She offered to send it to me and I gladly gave her my email address so we could connect.

Considering that Winthrop is such a small town, it make her statement surprising indeed! To provide perspective: Winthrop is about 1 square mile and the population hovers somewhere around 1300. So, I was surprised indeed to have someone in Pleasanton, California telling me that she had a cookbook that dated back to the early 20th century from this little town.

As promised, Harriett followed up with me by email. She asked for my address and told me that the book “looks a little worn but all of the pages are there. I hope it can be of some use to you. My sister taught either first grade or kindergarten there during World War 2 and that’s how it came in to her possession.”

The Cookbook Filled with Family History

Harriett was a woman of her word because about a week later the 340 Home Tested Recipes cookbook compiled by members of The Ladies Aid of the First Lutheran Church of Winthrop, Minnesota was in my mailbox.

The Winthrop Cookbook

The Winthrop Cookbook

It continues to amaze and delight me how powerful just putting your family history “out there” is. By regularly mentioning real people and places in your own research, it so often leads to information and items that just seem to be waiting to be found. It’s what we call “genealogical serendipity” in genealogy circles. 

But the genealogical serendipity didn’t end there. Not only did my husband’s ancestors contribute recipes to this little community cookbook, which of course I was thrilled to find – but there was a recipe in there that I had been in search of for over 25 years.

The Great Cookie Mystery

You see, when Bill and I got married, he shared his fond memories of a sour cream cookie his grandmother used to make. I’m an avid baker, so I checked with his mom to see if she had the recipe. Sadly, she didn’t.
 
Over the years I have tried to find a recipe for sour cream cookies in an attempt to recreate them. Every time I found one, I whipped up a batch. Bill would take a bite and shake his head saying they’ were good, but they weren’t like grandma’s cookies.
 

Bill enjoying baked treats with his Grandma Helen (Larson) Mansfield.

 
So as you can imagine, the first thing I looked for when I received this cookbook from the town where Bill’s grandma was born, was a recipe for sour cream cookies. There were many yummy-sounding treats to comb through like Pecan Sticks, Victoria Cookies, Father and Son Favorite Cookies, and Sorghum Cookies. 
 
I got excited as I came across names I recognized from the family tree including Mrs. Sheldon S. Larson, the mother of a cousin we had the good fortune to finally meet two years ago when I presented a genealogy seminar in Minnesota at the Swedish Genealogical Society. 
 
But the real thrill came when I made my way to page 42. There I found a recipe for Sour Cream Drop Cookies:
 

Larson sour cream cookie recipe (1)

The infamous sour cream cookie recipe!

 
Surprisingly, the recipe wasn’t contributed by Bill’s grandma Helen (Larson) Mansfield or anyone named Larson. Instead it was submitted for inclusion in the cookbook by Mrs. Hulda Anderson. That fact didn’t deter me from trying it out. In a small town like Winthrop, recipes likely were regularly swapped and handed down through various families. 
 
I immediately baked a batch and served them up to Bill. I’ll never forget his eyes as they lit up in excitement! He took a bite, and was ecstatic to once again be tasting Grandma’s sour cream cookies!
 
It may sound like a small victory in the scheme of thing, but for me it was a thrilling one, none the less!
 
I emailed Harriet and told her the good news and thanked her profusely.
 
I got a reply from her husband George. He wrote:
 
“I thought I would add a little amusement to the coincidence of the Sour Cream cookies. My father, George Anderson, Sr., was a salesman for American Steel and Wire, subsidiary of U. S. Steel, from the 1920s to the 1960s, traveling to every hardware store and lumber yard in southern Minnesota to sell fence, posts, nails etc. I don’t have any record of it, but I’m sure he would have called on your family’s hardware store in Winthrop. He knew all of his customers by first name, no doubt your in-laws included.”
 
Genealogy Serendipity never tasted so good!
 

A Genealogical Look at the Cookbook

 
I looked through the book carefully for a publishing date but none was to be found. However, there were several clues including the name of the church and the pastors name:
 
First Lutheran Church
Lambert Engwall, Pastor
 
To put these clues to use, I headed to Google and searched the name of the church, the location and the name of the pastor:
first lutheran church winthrop minnesota lambert engwall, pastor
 

Googling the pastor

Googling the church, location and pastor

 
The first result was just what I needed. The link to me to a Wikipedia page about the church: 
 

researching the pastor

The church in Wikipedia

 
It was a fairly comprehensive page, and I was specifically looking for a list of pastors who had served at the church. To save time, I used Control + F (PC) to trigger a find on page search bar. I searched for “pastor” and was immediately take much further down the page to exactly what I wanted to know. 
 

previous pastors

A helpful list of previous pastors

 
I quickly learned that Lambert Engwall served at this church in Winthrop, Minnesota from 1944 to 1972. Given that Harriett through it hailed from the World War II era when her sister lived there, and from the condition and style of the book, I feel confident it was published closer to 1944. 
 
The next steps to learn more about the relationship between the Andersons and Larson include could include:

  • Reviewing the 1940 census for Winthrop, Sibley County, Minnesota, and mapping their homes in Google Earth.
  • conducting additional research into church and their available records include church meeting minutes.
  • A comprehensive search of the Winthrop News newspaper, with a particular eye on the social pages. 

Share Your Genealogical Serendipity and Cookbook Stories

Have you experienced glorious instances of genealogical serendipity in your own family history quest? Do you have a cookbook that has been handed down to you that you treasure? Please leave a comment below and share your story!  
 

Resources

  • Learn more powerful Google search techniques and ways to use Google Earth for genealogy in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louse Cooke (2020) available at the Genealogy Gems Store.
  • The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

    Book by the author

    Learn more here about how to access the 50+ video classes that are a part of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. 

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