DPLA, or the Digital Public Library of America is (1) underused by genealogists (2) expanding its collections and (3) a fabulous resource for both family history data and placing historical context in your ancestors’ lives.
If you haven’t ever taken a look at the DPLA collections, you need to! DPLA launched about 3 years ago. If you would like an introduction, Amy Johnson Crow and Tamika Maddox Strong presented a webinar that is available on YouTube.
DPLA’s home page notes several different methods of searching the site – the search box under “A Wealth of Knowledge” is a quick way to look for an item of interest. Note, though, that because many of the collections are historical in nature, a surname search probably won’t be very productive. Place names or subjects, rather than people (unless it’s someone famous) can take you to your ancestors’ neighborhoods.
I entered “Passaic” in the search box, as my paternal side of the family settled there.
There were 1,963 results contributed by 116 different institutions, which could be historical societies, universities, museums, etc. I think this list will be keeping me busy for a while!
Another choice for searching is the Exhibitions tab.
31 different collections came up in a very colorful list! Topics cover everything from the 1918 influenza pandemic to the shoe industry in Massachusetts to patriotic labor during World War I, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Mapping the Civil War.
However, DPLA is now highlighting collections of interest to family history researchers.
DPLA is making it easy for you to search for your own family, as the collection is expanding to include yearbooks, family Bibles, oral histories AND family history/genealogy books, among other items.
There are even links at the bottom of the page to be placed on their email list or to contact them directly.
The DPLA has grown so much that, although I’ve talked about it a bit in the past, it now deserves its own GeneaGem status. 🙂