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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Value of Special Collections

Almost every major university and college library in the United States has a section of the library dedicated to "Special Collections." I was recently working through a list of useful websites from my cousin, Van Celaya, who teaches at the Riverton FamilySearch Library in Riverton, Utah and sometimes at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. I ran across a website called "" The idea of this website is to removes the top one million (or fewer) websites from a Google search. I tried it out, using my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, as a search term.

I found that the results were very interesting and brought me to the subject of this post. Here are a few of the really interesting websites that the search found. I might add, that normally, when searching directly with Google, I do not see this kind of entry at all:
  • MSS SC 765; George S. Tanner Collection; 19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following citations: MSS SC 765, LTPSC.
  • George S. Tanner papers, Accn 1361, Box [ ]. Special Collections and Archives. University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott. Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • MSS 1565; Thomas Parkinson Family Collection; 19th Century Western and Mormon Americana; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
  • Tanner, George S. (compiler). George S. Tanner, 1876-1977 . George S. Tanner Collection, Northern Arizona University, Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives Department.
You should note that each of these major collections of documents and letters is in a university library's Special Collections section. 

First, I realized that it might be interesting to search for more about my ancestors with an added search term: special collections. I began to find a lot more items in the Special Collections libraries around the country. I added the following libraries to my list:
By making this one search and adding the term "special collections," I was off on a whole new level of discovery of documents, some of which were located downstairs from the BYU Family History Library, where I frequently serve.

Now, there are 629 public 4-year institutions in the United States, 1,845 private 4-year institutions, 1,070 public 2-year institutions and 596 private 2-year institutions. See Number of U.S. Colleges and Universities and Degrees ... When you consider the fact that the information about my ancestors, who lived in Utah and Arizona, was beginning to be archived all over the country and in distant locations in both states, it should illustrate the need to expand your searches for information about your ancestors. You may have never considered finding extensive historical information in a distant university or college, but my illustration above is a word to the wise. 

1 comment:

  1. Great tip, and thanks for the idea to use the Million Short site as a shortcut to speed through the forest of results.