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 The difference is that ArchiveGrid focuses not on published items but (generally-speaking) on unpublished ones.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.
Extra, extra! Thousands of pages of US and UK newspapers are newly online for your genealogy research. Also new this week are birth, marriage, death, and parish records for England and the United States, a large historic Irish photo collection and a unique family history research aid for Iceland.
Feature Photo: Newspapers
UK Newspapers, Parish Records and More
England: Parish records and newspapers
Ancestry.com got a big update recently to their English records! The following collections have been added for Derbyshire, England:
- Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812
- Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1916
- Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932
- Church of England Burials, 1813-1991
Originals of these documents come from Derbyshire Church of England Parish Registers, and dozens of parishes are included. You can narrow your results by parish by selecting from the drop-down menu in the Browse this Collection box (shown here) on the right side of the page.
Also brand new this week are several newspapers for England, hosted by the British Newspaper Archive:
Hampshire: Hants and Berks Gazette and Middlesex and Surrey Journal 1892-1902
Oxfordshire: Thame Gazette 1857-1928 (some gaps).
Durham: Darlington & Stockton Times, Ripon & Richmond Chronicle 1847-1894 (some gaps).
London: Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser, Upton Park and Dagenham Gazette 1889-1909
You can search the British Newspaper Archive for free, and they’ve recently created a brand new package: Save 31% with their 3 Month package for just £25.90! You’ll get access to over 22 million newspaper pages across Britain and Ireland, with more added every day.
Scotland: Parish records & newspapers
A new collection of Scottish parish records is now available at Ancestry.com: Extracted Parish Records, 1571-1997. The records in this collection include baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records. For copies of the originals, “the microfilm number of pertinent corroborating records can often be found on the LDS Church’s FamilySearch site (www.familysearch.org) in the Family History Library Catalog.”
Also new for Scotland, the Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette newspaper is available at the British Newspaper Archive. Years span 1875-1908 (except 1877) and it was published by Newsquest in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. 1,722 issues comprised of 14,000 pages are now available to view online.
Historic Irish photos & newspapers
More than 10,000 historic pictures from have been added to a folklore website, duchas.ie. A recent article announcing the launch stated that “the Collection contains photographs taken by professional photographers and by collectors working with the National Folklore Commission, amongst others, and are classified under 14 different topics including: festivals; holy wells; settlement; folklore collection; and games and pastimes.” A large number of the photographs date from the early 20th century.
The British Newspaper Archive has added a new newspaper title from Antrim, Northern Ireland: Carrickfergus Advertiser 1884-1895, 1897-1910. Nearly 1,400 issues and over 5,000 pages are included in this new digitized collection.
Iceland: New language resource
If you have ancestors from Iceland, this unique resource is for you! A new website has made Icelandic spelling, declension, and etymology dictionaries now free online. From Iceland Magazine: “In an effort to protect the Icelandic language in a time of smartphones and computers, The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies at the University of Iceland has opened a website which offers free access to the institute’s large catalogue of dictionaries, including etymology- and spelling dictionaries and the institute’s declension database for the Icelandic language.” Here’s a tip: The site is in Icelandic, but use Google Translate to navigate in English! Plus check out our favorite resources for pronunciation help.
United States: Vital records & more
California. County Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1849-1980 are new online at Ancestry.com. This collection contains records from various counties throughout California, and you can use the drop-down table to search by the county, record type, and year range of your ancestor’s life events.
Connecticut. New records are available online at Findmypast for Connecticut baptisms, church records, and burials from the 1600s-1800s. These records cover various towns and have been transcribed from public domain records.
Georgia. New from the Georgia Archives: Colonial Conveyances. This collection contains 11 volumes of property transactions between private citizens in the Colony of Georgia from 1750-1804. Each book contains a grantor index at the end of the volume.
Maryland. The University of Maryland Student Newspapers Database has recently launched. From the press release: “[This collection] provides keyword and date access to issues of The Diamondback and its seven predecessor newspapers from 1910 to October 1971. Users can search names and topics across all the issues, as well as focusing in on a particular day, month, or year of publication or publication title.”
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Does your local library, historical or genealogical society have a newspaper collection to share? Let the NEH help!
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is accepting proposals from institutions hoping to participate in the the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). This program creates “a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 in U.S. states and territories.” Guidelines for 2014 are now available and proposals must be submitted by January 15, 2014.
According to the press release, “Each award supports a 2-year project to digitally convert 100,000 newspaper pages from that state’s collections, primarily from microfilm negative. Titles may be printed in Danish, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish. The program provides access to this resource through the Chronicling America web site hosted by the Library of Congress. The site currently includes more than 6.6 million newspaper pages in English, French, German, and Spanish, from more than 1100 titles digitized by institutions in 30 states.”
I can’t say enough good things about this and other initiatives to support more digitized newspapers online. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers will provide you with more about using these awesome resources to flesh out your family’s story, a tried and true research process, and loads of resources. Check it out in paperback or pdf e-book!