Tag Archives: Native Americans

New GeneaGem: Edward E. Ayer Online Collection at the Newberry Library

I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois, but luckily, like many other libraries, creating digital collections is a priority in the 21st century.

Whenever visiting library collections online, a best practice is to look for Research Guides, sometimes called Lib Guides or Library Aids.

The first entry in the extensive Research Guides list for the Newberry is A Guide to American Indian and Indigenous Studies Collections.

This guide details the items in the 17,000 piece collection donated to the Newberry Library by Edward E. Ayer in 1911. Although it’s described as American Indian collection, it not only includes items from non-U.S. indigenous peoples, but it documents early contacts between Native Americans and Europeans in North America. It is said to be one of the best collections in the United States.

The Ayer Collection has a Browse the Collection button:

Items date from the early 1700s into the 20th century and cover many categories, ranging from photos to correspondence to language to culture to war to life in captivity and manuscripts.

It’s a fascinating collection to browse as it gives a glimpse into the American past. Here are a few examples:

1. A trip to the gold regions of the Rocky Mountains in the summer of 1860

2. Memoranda on French colonies in America, including Canada, Louisiana, and the Caribbean

3. A collection of sketches from the Santa Fe Trail

4. Map of Catholic missions in California and Sonora traced from a late eighteenth century Spanish manuscript

5. Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation newspaper clipping 1897 (Fort Sill, Oklahoma)

6. Genealogical inquiries to Christopher C. Augur, 1864, 1871 and 1890

7. An account of the Indians in Virginia

8. A list of the names of the men that go in pursute of the enemy from Deerfield [Massachusetts] may 10th 1748

9. Answers to interrogations concerning “laws, usages & customs” of the Creek tribe of Indians, Aug. 10, 1832

10. Sunday Andrew and Sampson Rogers photograph

Whether or not you have Native American heritage, you may well find interesting tidbits of Americana that pertain to ancestors who either interacted with Native Americans or who lived in areas near one or more tribes.

Much of the collection favors the middle and western portions of America, but I had ancestors who lived in Deerfield and loved finding item #8 in the list above.

Although this post has the Ayer collection as its focus, there are actually 356 digital collections in the CARLI Digital Collections, which includes not only the Newberry Library, but digital collections housed in other repositories. That is another list for another time, but do browse through it. There are many more fascinating items to view.