4 Super Sites for Research Power©
By Dayna Jacobs, AG® www.ongrannystrail.com
(You are welcome to copy this for your own use, but please do not publish online or copy for distribution to others. Thank you!)
This class will explore the potential for serious research in the following websites: WorldCat, FamilySearch, the Library of Congress (LOC), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These databases can be utilized to lead a researcher to original records containing primary information, as well as useful compiled records.
An honorable mention goes to Google Books and Internet Archive, which will not be covered today, but are sources for digital images of books that may be found through WorldCat and FamilySearch.
WorldCat: “The world’s largest network of library content and services.”
WorldCat is basically the card catalog for the world, providing researchers with access to books, microfilms, videos, CDs, maps, manuscript collections, and digital sources from thousands of public and academic libraries. Search by keyword (locality or surname), title, author, or subject. Create and print personalized lists for different research topics. Borrow items through inter-library loan (ILL) at your public or university library, and link to their online catalogs.
FamilySearch: Digitized records, family trees, “how-to”, and free classes
FamilySearch is the free genealogy website sponsored by the LDS Church, and should be the first stop for any researcher – beginner to advanced. The “billions of names across hundreds of collections” should be reason enough, but there is so much more to the site. Besides the impressive collection of online digital images, one may access the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) – the guide to the holdings of the world’s largest genealogy library – to rent microfilm for viewing at Family History Centers such as the one here in Seaside. Microfilmed records include, among other things, images of original sources in courthouses, churches, passenger lists, family histories and military files. Items not available on microfilm can be found on WorldCat.org and acquired through interlibrary loan from other institutions. The FHLC has direct links to online images of films that have been digitized.
FamilySearch is also home to the Research Wiki and the Learning Center. The Research Wiki has “how-to” articles for localities and topics across the world. This is the first place to start for any research project. The Learning Center has free online genealogy courses for every skill level and hundreds of topics. View lessons from your own computer according to your own schedule at no charge!
Other resources on FamilySearch are online genealogies submitted by other users, a collection of digitized family history books, and the all new Family Tree where you can find, collaborate, and share information about your ancestors.
LOC: Library of Congress
While the Library of Congress is a power tool in itself, its online digital collection offers researchers access to maps, extensive downloadable photograph collections, digitized documents, sound, and video covering a range of topics in early American history. Some of these include railroad maps, slavery, folk culture, first person narratives, historic newspapers, and veterans’ history. In the American History and Culture section there are over 100 historical collections and 7.5 million digital items.
The Chronicling America feature has searchable digitized newspapers 1836-1922, along with a Newspaper Directory 1690-Present which is useful for identifying which newspapers were published in a given locality and finding existing copies.
Several collection feature first-person narratives; one focuses on the South 1860-1920, one from California 1849-1900, life histories and from the WPA Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1940, and audio interviews of former slaves, 1932-1975. The Veteran’s History Project provides transcripts and recordings of veteran interviews dating back to World War I.
NARA: National Archives and Records Administration
This is one of the most powerful and useful websites available today for the serious researcher in United States records. Using the Online Public Access (OPA), Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and electronic records from Access to Archival Databases (AAD), a researcher can locate federal records located in any of the Regional Archives of the National Archives, Presidential Libraries, or in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Search by keyword, document location, or digital image, or dive into a record group to see the amazing variety of records you never knew existed. There is also an ongoing effort to make searchable archival databases available, and millions of records have been put online. Using online order forms, researcher can order reproductions of original land, naturalization, pension, and other valuable primary sources.
The website offers a useful guide for searching, as well as in-depth, educational discussion of record groups. The educational aspect of the website is worth a visit alone.
It is notable that Fold3.com has partnered with NARA to digitize key federal record groups. Fold3 is available at no charge in LDS Family History Centers.