The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library of books, texts, audio recordings, videos, images, web pages, and software programs. Currently, the Internet Archive has 20 million books or texts, 4.5 million audio recordings, 4 million videos, and 3 million images. It’s free and can be assessed by scholars, researchers, historians, and the general public. Computer-savvy genealogists can also utilize the rich genealogy collections on the Internet Archive for researching their family histories.
While the majority of materials are available to everyone at any time, there are some materials that need to be “checked out” to you as if you were at your local library. To check out these materials you can create a free account by clicking the “Sign In” button then the “Sign up for free” link on the resulting page. All you need is an email address. After you create the account you can download files to your computer and even borrow electronic genealogy books.
The genealogy collection is one of the featured digital resources on the Internet Archive. There are over 100,000 genealogical texts, books, manuscripts, and microfilms scanned by university and public library special collections and even independent researchers from all over the world within this collection. Some of the items include passenger lists, local histories, U.S. census records, 19th century family histories, newspapers, and church registers that are useful to genealogists. One can do a general search of the entire genealogical collection or search specially for materials relating to places, names, or record type as well as by ethnic group.
When I explored the collection, I found digital scans of books and manuscripts not held at the Clayton Library or any other Houston Public Library location. One of the most interesting digital collections I came across were journals published by the American Colonization Society that recounted the journeys of African American emigrants to Liberia in the 1840s. The names of ships, passengers, and where they came from were mentioned. All valuable details for genealogical researchers who may have connections to the colony of Liberia.
The evolution of technology and the increasing availability of digital archival collections online in the 21st century has changed the way genealogists do research. Going away are the days of genealogists having to travel to faraway archives and courthouses in order to research their family history. With a computer, access to the Internet, and the click of a mouse, millions of historical and genealogical records are available at your fingertips, with more going online every day.
The work of gathering family history is often the collection of names, dates and places. Most government documents give few details about the day-to-day lives our ancestors lived. An entry in the federal census may tell us about where and when our great-greats existed, but it gives precious little to hang a good story upon. That's where newspaper research shines. The lives, loves, triumphs, and tragedies of our ancestors are chronicled in the newspapers they read. A good local newspaper was a record of the times, but it was also a mirror of the community. It showed people who they wanted to be, and who they were.
The problem, though, is that newspapers are made to be read and tossed. The paper is cheaply made and prone to decaying rapidly. That has made preservation difficult. Part of the answer was to preserve photographic copies of our newspapers on microfilm. This allowed archives to exchange shelves stacked with mildewing and crumbling newsprint for neat cabinets lined with rolls of microfilm. Now, as we enter the computer age, microfilm is giving way to digital preservation. A newspaper's pages can be digitally photographed and made available to thousands of researchers at once. Searching the images through an online database means a researcher often doesn't have to travel to the archive where the newspaper is kept to view its preserved pages.
“Advantage Archives” is one of the solutions to the newspaper preservation problem. The company provides preservation and distribution solutions to libraries and historical societies. They are based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the largest portion of their preservation partners are in that state. A map of partners through the Directory Advantage Preservation Site Directory shows a concentration across the Midwest and down into Texas, but there's something in almost every state. Check them out as one source of the newspapers of your ancestors.
There are many sources for online newspaper research, some available for free to Houston Public Library customers to search from home with your HPL MyLink card, and some only available within the library buildings. The HPL collection includes past issues of The Houston Chronicle, as well as several national and international collections. To see what’s available to you, you can access the various HPL subscription databases on the Houston Public Library Newspapers Resources page.
Remember, newspapers are a great resource to help you fill in the gaps between the records of your ancestors’ lives. Have fun researching and reading historic newspapers.
Papenfuse, Edward, Editor.
Archives of Maryland. New Series. An Historical list of public officials of Maryland. Volume 1. Governors, Legislators, and other Principal Offers of Government, 1632 to 1990
Maryland State Archives: Annapolis, MD, 1990. Print. Clayton call number: A673 MD NEW SERIES V.1
Sometimes the most forgotten, boring books can turn into a small find. While scouring the shelves for a book to review, I stumbled unto this unassuming source. 539 pages of lists of political stuff with no great appeal for the average genealogists. Well I do concur with my afore mentioned conclusions, boring. There was a hidden value in using and pursuing a resource that we researchers might consider of lesser value. A list of not one, but four of my ancestors. Bingo! Now, I might be able to tell the three John Courts apart. You know the problem. John had a son named John, who named his son John, and he named his son John. In the Name Index I found: Courts, John, 1655-56-1702, then John, 1691/92-1747/48, and John Commiss Gen 1699. I also find Robert Hendly Courts, 1774 (son of John Courts) and William, ca. 1753-1792. This section is an index to the names of officeholders. A page number and section number are listed for those mentioned in the various sections of the book. If no page and section are listed, then the introduction tells you where to find the book that has the answers. Commis Gen means John Courts was listed as Commissaries General on page 5 1699-1700 for Charles County, Maryland. Well drat, no help there. Ask me later why.
Now let us explore the book. The user should read the introduction of the book for details on how the information is arranged and sources used to compile the book. Footnotes are used to add more detailed information about the state and what extra data is needed to understand the section being addressed. Abbreviations are included when necessary. The material is composed of numerous titled lists. For example, “Naval Officer of Patuxent” and “Naval Officers of Pocomoke” just to name two. The chapters or sections are outlined on the first two double sided pages before the Introduction. Resist skipping the introduction. It will be worth the read. Each major section has a paragraph or more of historical facts. Biographical shorts are given for the governors and politicos of note, including some genealogical family material if known by the compilers.
The benefit of this resource is learning about the governmental history of the State of Maryland and who was elected or appointed to a position in the state, county, district, or local government. The book shows changes in the state, county, and/or districts from 1632-1990. What family historian would not be interested in how the state evolved? The historical data included is priceless.
Well, now for the reveal in the John Courts brick wall. Great resource, but my problem is still not resolved to my satisfaction. John Courts 1655/56-1702 is the son of John, the immigrant with an indenture. John the son was born 1655. He could be listed with or as his father in this resource, because the father’s will was probated abt. 1701-2 and the son’s will in 1703. The third John’s will was probated in 1748, but he and his fathers’ career in politics could be mixed together as well. Oh well! I did find father-in-law Robert Henley. He is listed for the years 1617-1684. He was born in 1617 and died in 1684. Well, the note at the bottom directs me to the source: A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature. Which was one of the resources used to compile this book. Checked already. Well shucks!
I enjoyed reading and scanning this book. If you are not from Maryland, look in your home state for the same type of resource. Happy reading!