Category Archives: DPLA Digital Public Library of Americ

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Digital Maine

Have you checked out the Digital Public Library of America?

DPLA isn’t a site where you are likely to find specific mention about your ancestor unless he or she was notable – a public official, etc. because most of the collections to be found here are historic in nature, not genealogical.

However, if your goal is to learn the social context of the times in which your family lived or perhaps to locate historic images of buildings or parks or town documents, DPLA is a resource to be checked.

Recently, they added Digital Maine. Given that I have some deep Maine roots, I was excited to visit that particular collection.

I located two gems, pages from the 1881 Atlas of Washington County, Maine, showing the villages of Charlotte and Meddybemps. Where my Stewart and Carlisle ancestors resided is marked on the maps:

My Family

C. Stewart was my 2X great grandfather, Charles, and H. Stewart was his son, Harry. I’m descended from Harry’s baby sister, Annie Maude.

One of the Maine censuses showed Charles to be living in Charlotte, but a later census placed him in Meddybemps. I wonder if the town lines were exactly known or if he really moved because his property is literally sitting on the town lines.

I loved this find!

Oklahoma, Maryland and Illinois also joined DPLA this year and each of those states represent ancestral homes on Dave’s side of the family tree. I think I have quite a bit of browsing to do!

Like Chronicling America, Digital Public Library of America is a constantly growing collection so it is essential to check back frequently to see what’s new.


New GeneaGem: DPLA & Family History Research

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. 🙂