It’s been five years since I named the Digital Public Library of America as a true Genea-Gem and I still believe it is a tremendously under-used resource by genealogists.
Therefore, it’s time to take a new look at what this Genea-Gem has to offer us.
DPLA is now eight years old and it has added millions of digital images from all over the United States to its collections. Many of those images are copyright free!
While it is unlikely that you will find a photo of a family member in the collection, you will find lots of historical images that provide vivid pictures of what life was like there back in the day.
I am always on the lookout for historical information about towns where my ancestors once lived.
I know from Calais, Maine census and other records that I have family members who lived on Germain Street, Main Street, Washington Street, Barker Street and Calais Avenue.
Calais’s heyday was toward the end of the 19th century when the population was growing and the economy booming, due to lumber and fish.
Look at this fun map dated 1889 I recently found on DPLA.
St. Stephen, Canada & Calais, Maine 1889
DPLA images can be downloaded and saved and are of sufficient quality to drag corners to enlarge so small details can be seen.
Calais is the town on the upper side of the river and St. Stephen is below. I can find all of the streets where my ancestors lived. Using census and land records, I have specific addresses with house numbers.
When I used Google maps to locate the homes today, I was able to count buildings up and down the streets to determine which houses on the 1889 map were homes to my family.
Next, I found an alien registration for Walter Hewitt, recorded at the start of World War II. He isn’t my relative, but if he was, I’d have an exact date of birth and birthplace and would know how long he had lived in the U.S.
Next, I tried my second favorite town, Passaic, New Jersey and found a map showing the enumeration districts for the 1950 U.S. census of Passaic County.
Next, I looked at Brookfield, Missouri, as Michael Stufflebean settled there in the late 1830s.
Courtesy of the Missouri State Archives
The Stufflebeans also have deep ties to Norman, Oklahoma and the university. The picture below is the university library.
Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society
The types of images found at DPLA cover a wide range of topics. There are many historical maps, photos of old buildings and streets, records like the alien registration example I’ve included above, and even some military records.
If you’d like to have fun being drawn in by a BSO (bright shiny object), spend some time browsing today’s Digital Public Library of America. You might be surprised at what you find.