New GeneaGem Discovered! Boston Public Library Online Resources

When it rains, it pours! Friends without New England ancestors were always envious of all the finds I made, having many colonial Massachusetts lines. None were on the Mayflower, but lots were on boats #2, #3, #4 and so on.

At first glance, one would think that the Boston Public Library, established in 1848, would be more of the same – lots of resources about early New England settlers. The answer to that is yes AND no.

First, we need to visit the Boston Public Library website.

Point the cursor along the brown tool bar and choose “Our Collections.”

The drop down menu includes “Online Collections” and that is the one you want to click on.

There are some terrific choices – Boston Public Library at Digital Commonwealth, Newspaper Directories, American Revolutionary War Manuscript Collection, Anti-Slavery Manuscript Collection and Boston at the Movies: First Films of the City 1901-1905.

First is the Digital Commonwealth. There are 21 different collections!

One of my favorites is the Carte de Visite collection that has 50 pages of photographs, many dating from the 1860’s.  Some photos only have first names inscribed on them. Many are of Civil War soldiers with a rank and surname given. Included in the collection are some Presidential photos like this one of Abraham Lincoln:

LincolnPhotoFront LincolnPhotoBack
Digital Images of Both Front and Back

Being able to see the back of the photo is important in case there is a photographers’ mark. In this case, there is none. If you double click on the image, an information box comes up.

Not only is there source information included about the photo, there is a permalink and statement about Terms of Use. Many of the items in the library collection are long out of copyright and have no restrictions. Other categories in this collection include American Trade Cards, Early Baseball Photos and Travel Posters. The one collection in Digital Commonwealth that is text instead of images is the Boston (Mass.) Overseers of the Poor Indentures, 1734-1805.

There are lots of beautiful, historic and fun images in the collection so check them out.

A second great collection is the American Revolutionary War Manuscript Collection, which does mostly relate to New England. Here is the muster roll of Gershom Nelson’s Company, which marched on 19 April 1775, the day the shot heard around the world was fired, to answer the alarm of the Battle of Lexington:

Muster Roll of Gershom Nelson’s Company
19 April 1775

 Last, but not least, there the Anti-Slavery Manuscript Collection, linked through Internet Archive.

Boston Public Library has earned a thumbs up for an easily accessible interesting online collection.

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