When my sister and I were traveling through Nebraska, we stopped at the North Platte Valley Museum in Gering. The museum is a short distance from Scotts Bluff—a major stopping place along the Oregon Trail.
The museum itself, although small, was one of the best I’ve ever seen for displaying local history. The main building was filled with artifacts that reflected the pioneers and farmer who settled there—along with the thousands who passed by on their way to Oregon.
Last fall, I had the chance to visit another small museum, the St. Joseph Museum in St. Joseph, Mo. The museum, housed in the Wyeth/Tootle Mansion, is a three-story Gothic style building with walnut woodwork and stained glass windows. As a kid, I loved visiting the museum and looking at its collection of arrowheads and other Native American artifacts.
So, what do these museums have to do with genealogy? Both are filled with displays of early life in the area, and can be a wonderful resource for anyone researching a specific place where ancestors lived. You’ll find plenty of exhibits at the St. Joseph Museum, for example, that chronicle the city’s colorful history.
The next time you visit an ancestral town, be sure to seek out local museums. Many of the smaller ones still allow flash photography, so you may even be able to get a few photos to add to your family album. In my experience, the museum docents love sharing stories of their town’s history, and will go out of their way to make your visit a memorable one.
• Museums in the USA
• United States Museums by States
• United States Museums Directory