I’ve written many times about the value of joining state or county historical societies in the areas where your ancestors lived. And here I go again. Why? Because most historical societies serve as repositories for unique collections found nowhere else—collections that may or may not directly involve your ancestor, but certainly would include information about the time period in which your family lived.
Most society memberships cost less than $25 a year and include a magazine or newsletter along with current news about available collections. However, you don’t have to join to get the goods, as many collections have been digitized and are on the Web for all to enjoy. Of course, I encourage you to join if you can.
My recent newsletter from the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS), for example, brought welcome information that the Society was putting its collections online, available to anyone with Internet access. This includes thousands of items representing Kentucky from before it became a state in 1792 to the present.
The collections are searchable, and you can download images for personal or classroom use. Go to www.history.ky.gov and click on Digital Collections to search the Kentucky Cemetery Database; the Historical Marker Database; or the images, maps, documents, and oral histories in the KHS Digital Collections.
What can you find on other historical society Web sites? Who knows. Some, like the Vermont Historical Society have links to Vermont-related genealogy sites; others such as the Ohio Historical Society have several online image collections, including a fascinating look at fashions through the decades. (You can see what great-grandma wore.)
How can you find these collections? Go to your favorite search engine and type in the phrase iowa historical society or san diego historical society (or whatever location you’re researching).
Other excellent historical society links include:
• Local Historical Societies in Virginia
Follow links to dozens of Virginia county and local societies.
• Massachusetts Historical Society
It’s currently displaying an interesting exhibit on the Battle of Bunker Hill, including period biographies and maps.
• Indiana Historical Society
Check out the Lincoln items in the digital collection, including the famous Alexander Gardner photo of Lincoln taken 11 days before Honest Abe delivered the Gettysburg Address.
• Wisconsin Historical Society
Click on Genealogy Tools for a treasure trove of goodies.