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The fourth part of this series discussed how to make use of the finding guides. This time, we’re covering online collections and how to find the records you’re after. Let’s get started!
Tip 5. Check digital collections
An increasing number of state archives have digital collections you can access online. Digital collections vary from one state to another, but may include vital, land, military or court records. In addition, online collections often contain things that can add historical, social, and cultural context to your family history. From photographs and postcards to maps and memorabilia, digital collections can enhance your understanding of your ancestors’ lives.
Starting your search
Typically, you’ll find a link to digital collections on the state archives’ home page. Look for keywords such as online collections, memory or history. Virginia Memory, and Wisconsin History, both have impressive digital collections. At Seeking Michigan, you’ll find death records, state censuses and Civil War service records, as well as letters, diaries, postcards and oral histories. The North Carolina Digital Collections offers 50 well-organized subjects, ranging from Family Records to Travel and Tourism Photos.
Many states also offer online databases that make it possible to order copies of certain records, such as birth or death records, for a small fee. Some archives will even do limited research for you in specified collections. You can request copies either by using an online form or mailing in a form with payment.
Online records request forms
The New Jersey State Archives has a Searchable Databases and Records Request Forms page. The site allows you to search a number of databases by ancestor’s name, including vital records, land records, court and probate records, military records and photographs. If you find a result for your ancestor in these databases, just order it. Alternatively, you can submit a records request form to have the archivists do a search (for a fee) in assorted other collections of vital, probate, naturalization and military records.
NARA’s new catalog, Online Public Access, makes it easier to find documents that could shed light on your ancestors lives. Learn tricks for tracking down the records you need in a single search. Become an expert today!