Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Primary Sources by State at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is really big. But I think that the Library's online access to the collections pertinent to genealogy has not kept pace with other websites, particularly the commercial online genealogy database programs such as and and others. The map above shows the Library of Congress Primary Sources by State. The map is interactive and clicking on a state gives a short list with the instructions:
The extensive collections at the Library of Congress contain historic artifacts and cultural materials from across the U.S. The list below is just a sample of the many Arizona resources available for free on the Library's Web site.
Here is a screenshot showing what came up for my own state of Arizona:

This particular collection seems aimed at teachers in the classroom. But as usual, I see everything in terms of genealogy and find a lot of valuable information. The real question arising in this context is how much of the stuff they have is really available online and how do you find it?

I have mentioned about the Library of Congress' huge newspaper project many times before, but that is only a small part of the key project called "The American Memory Project." Consistent with many U.S. Government websites, the collections of the American Memory Project are understated and difficult to navigate. Here is the less than informative startup screen for the Project:

From this unimposing website startup page, you would never begin to guess the vast resources available in the Library. The trick here is to just keep clicking and investigating the resources. I can assure you, you will find a lot of surprising collections. For example, clicking on the link to Immigration, American Expansion, gives you the following list:

Choosing one of these that relates to my particular area of interest is the last one on the list: Utah and Western Migration -- Multiformat -- 1846 -1869.  Here is a screenshot of the results of clicking on the link:

The page says, "This collection is no longer updated in American Memory. Please visit the up to date presentation: Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846–1869"

Hmm. Well, I will follow the links. Here is the screenshot of the BYU page:

You could click on the image, but here is what it says:
Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846–1869 is a collection of the original writings of 49 voyagers on the Mormon, California, Oregon, and Montana trails who wrote while traveling on the trail. Some diarists speak with uncommon eloquence and others with maddening brevity, while telling their stories of persistence and pain, birth and death, God and gold, dust and debris, bugs and buffalo, love and laughter, and trail tedium. 
Accompanying the original diary images and their searchable transcripts are 43 contemporary maps; seven trail guides; 82 photographs, watercolors and art sketches; four essays on the Mormon and California trails, maps and trail guides; suggested readings for further discovery; and brief biographies of 45 of the 49 diarists.
I can follow the same kind of trail for each of the databases set forth in the Library of Congress catalog. Don't assume that they don't have what you are looking for, to the contrary, always assume they do have what you are looking for.

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