Historical materials, whether found in person at a state library or archive, at a historical society, a religious repository or in a local library are vastly underused resources for painting a picture and telling the story of our ancestors’ lives.
Our families are more than vital records – births, marriages and deaths. Sadly, some of our ancestors left little more than tiny crumbs on the bread trail, but that shouldn’t stop us from sharing the stories of their daily lives.
This is possible when we apply a historical context to our stories. Besides having a basic knowledge of local and national history, we need to remember that one picture, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words.
Digital online collections provided resources to help us tell each story and the best thing is that every state has now established some type of digital collection online, available for free to the general public AND the online collections are growing almost by the day.
What kinds of things will you find in these collections? Well, the subject matter varies from place to place, but I will say upfront that, unless your family member was famous in some way, it isn’t likely that you will encounter family-specific items in these collections.
Instead, collections might contain early photos of an area, posters denoting public events, along with biographical and historical details about notable persons.
Colorado Virtual Library has built a biographical collection, including photos, of famous and infamous Colorado citizens.
Iowa Heritage Digital Collections showcases a variety of categories – Events, Industry and Commerce, People, Places, Publications, Societies and War/Conflict.
Rhode Island has some limited virtual exhibits, along with vintage photographs.
Texas Digital Archive shares many historical images from early Texas history.
Some state collections are much more robust than others, but the important word here to remember is “growing.” Therefore, if your state of interest doesn’t have much to offer right now, you still need to make it a habit to check for updates every few months. Also, please remember that these collections are NOT indicative of vital record databases, etc., that might also be available in the state of interest. These are historical images and documents. Eventually, every state collection will be a true “GeneaGem.”
Here are links to the U.S. state collections:
Alaska’s Digital Archives
Arizona Memory Project
Arkansas History Commission (AHC)
Online Archive of California
Colorado Virtual Library
Connecticut Digital Collections
State of Delaware – Digital Archives
Georgia’s Virtual Vault
Hawaii State Archives Digital Collections
Idaho State Archives
Illinois Digital Archives
Indiana Digital Archives
Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
Kentucky Digital Library
Louisiana Digital Library
Maine Memory Network
Archives of Maryland Online
Massachusetts State Archives
Minnesota Digital Library
Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH Digital Archives)
Missouri Digital Heritage
Montana Memory Project
Nebraska State Historical Society
Nevada State Library, Archives and Public Records Digital Collections
New Hampshire Historical Society
New Jersey Digital Highway
New Mexico’s Digital Collections
New York State Archives’ Digital Collections
North Carolina Digital Collections
State Historical Society of North Dakota
Oklahoma Digital Prairie
Oregon State Archives
Pennsylvania State Archives
Rhode Island State Archives – Digital Library
South Carolina Digital Library
South Dakota State Library
Tennessee Virtual Archive
Texas Digital Archive
Vermont State Archives
Library of Virginia
Washington State Digital Archives
Wisconsin Historical Society
Wyoming State Archives