As promised I’m sharing key learning from my recent attendance at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While there, I learned of a site that I have found intriguing and interesting.
I mentioned in past blogs the importance of understand more about the places and events that occurred during your ancestors’ time. This knowledge is valuable when you try to figure out everything from where to look next for family records to understanding the motivation behind a family’s move. Imagine if you had digital access to local histories, historical data as well as a plethora of topics at your fingertips. The HathiTrust provides just that. According to their website, HathiTrust Digital Library is “a partnership of academic & research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.” You can access the site here.
Ah you say…that’s all very well but what does that really have to do with my family. I’m glad you’ve asked. I’ve spent some time exploring and here are fun examples.
Perhaps your ancestor lived in Chicago in 1893. If they did it is likely that they attended the World’s Fair in Chicago. A quick search of the Chicago World’s Fair gave me access to many documents and booklets (over 800). Here’s a small snippet of my search, courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library.
This is fun way to imagine what your ancestor might have seen at the fair and gives you an idea of what was activities were happening in Chicago at that time. The Chicago World’s Fair was attended by people from all walks of life and came from all over the United States.
Back to the records…once you have your search results, you can see that there is an option of Full View--by clicking on this, you can view the entire document or book plus search within those pages. And depending on the copyright of the publication, you may be able to download the entire book or a sampling. When your search results are bountiful, you can streamline them on the left-hand side bar, using selections such subject, publication type, language, author, date and even library location.
As always when sharing works of others, be sure to source these documents and the HathiTrust to give credit where credit is due. Plus, it helps others if they want to view your source material.
From a family research perspective, try plugging in a family name and see what you get. Or a small hometown might yield some interesting results. That’s the joy of this site. The books and documents run the gamut of topics and you never know what nugget you’ll find.
I plugged in “Kinchsular” which is a less common relative’s name and the Michigan state gazetteer and business directory ... 1897 came up in the search results. Looking within the directory, here is his information. You can see that his address plus his occupation is listed as “dairy”. This coincides with family stories that he was a “milkman” who delivered milk to homes—a job that is not common today.
I hope you enjoy exploring the HathiTrust Digital Library and have good luck in finding information about your family, where they lived and what was happening during their lives. These tidbits add color to your family story. The real treasure is in the memories and stories that your family has shared through the years. Write them down!
“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.”
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.