State and local archives and historical societies are way underused resources available to family history researchers. I’ve mentioned this fact many times before, but WorldCat might be trying to do something to change that.
Most of these repositories have not digitized the majority of their holdings. Many don’t have online catalogs to peruse in depth, either. WorldCat has created a new GeneaGem – a beta version of ArchiveGrid.
The home page quickly gives the feeling of Bing or Google map searches. Notice that you can choose a state, which opens a drop down menu of the sites already in the collection, or by using the search box just above the list, you can enter the zip code for the area in which you are interested.
I entered 85737 for Arizona. This brought up the area around Tucson, which I know has at least two potential sites to be found – the University of Arizona and the Arizona Historical Society.
There are actually five repositories, based on ArchiveGrid. There is the U.S. Department of the Interior Library, which I never even knew was in Tucson. Next is the U of A Center for Creative Photography. Just east of the center is the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library. Fourth is the Arizona Historical Society – Library and Archives and the fifth site is the general University of Arizona library collection.
I have wondered about the Arizona Historical Society so I decided to take a closer look at that. I have a friend who is a fifth generation Tucsonan through her mother’s Aguirre family.
The Arizona Historical Society catalog has 2,008 items listed in it. Next, I looked for “Aguirre,” since I knew that surname has been in this area at least since the mid-1800s. There are two entries for the Aguirre family.
The Aguirres were early ranchers in Tucson. The Aguirre papers include documents back to 1859. The second file is of family photographs beginning about 1889! The total holdings equal 3 1/4 feet of materials, all on this one family. What a treasure trove for their descendants!
Many of the items in these collections are of a general historical nature, so if you are aiming to fill out the vital statistics of your ancestor with details or photos showing what his/her daily life was like, you may find more information than you though possible. Notice, for example, the business details in the Aguirre family records. This would certainly help paint a picture of their lives.
These are great examples of what can be found in archives and historical societies.
On the right side of the home page, there are two additional boxes.
The bottom box has a list of “Recent Additions” to the collection.
The top box includes contact links for repositories that might want to have their collections added to ArchiveGrid. Here is a chance where you can help. If you know of a local historical society, library or archive that isn’t already listed in ArchiveGrid, contact them yourself and ask them to have their collections added.
The only down side to this is that you either need to visit the repository in person or have someone research for you.
However, I love this new GeneaGem and will be searching many collections myself.