Military ephemera outside of photographs are abundant and located at many research libraries and other facilities across the United States. Familiarizing yourself with historical collections and the finding aids online at many places can make all the difference in conducting a successful search for a military ancestor.
Military Minutes contributor Michael Strauss shares his recommendations for military ephemera sources to find genealogy treasures.
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress was created to serve the Congress of the United States. As explained last month in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #161, it serves as the national library of the United States. The library has millions of individual entries of photographs, film, letters, journals, diaries, and other primary material of interest to genealogists.
One research room also located in the James Madison building and open weekdays has more than 17 million books, maps, films, manuscripts, and photographs. The Prints and Photograph Division is located in the James Madison building and open weekdays and Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 5 PM. This room has in their custody more than 50,000 manuscripts available to the public. Searches in the online collection and finding aids can be found online at https://www.loc.gov/rr/mss/.
United States Army Heritage & Education Center
Another excellent source of other military ephemera located outside of Washington, DC can be found as part of the United States Army Heritage and Education Center. It is located in Carlisle, PA and has an online search catalog for manuscripts, journals, diaries, and letters covering multiple war periods. The center has an online finding aid catalog to aid researchers to find materials in their collections available at http://usawc.libguides.com/graduates_others.
Many historical societies and genealogical societies offer material that isn’t available anywhere else. Additionally, local State Archives and Libraries should be searched for ephemera in their own collections. Here are a few great resources for finding outside materials online:
Archive Grid This database of entries include more than 5 million records of archival materials, not only supplying the name of the repository, but the scope of the collections searched. Their material online can be searched at https://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid.
FamilySearch This is the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and formally part of the Genealogy Society of Utah. It is home to millions of genealogy records that are all available for free. Searches can be done online at http://www.familysearch.org.
Hathi Trust This is a collaborative effort of repositories and libraries that have digitized their books and manuscripts online. Begin searching at http://www.hathitrust.org.
World Cat The world’s largest library catalog of listings from tens of thousands of libraries located in multiple counties around the world. Visit http://www.worldcat.org.
NUCMC Also listed as the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. It is affiliated with the Library of Congress and promotes the access to the heritage of the United States. Searches can be done online: http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc.
Here are some examples of military ephemera treasures I’ve found:
Above left: Lt. Washington Brua- Courtesy of the Lebanon County Historical Society in Lebanon, PA. Above right: Pvt. John H. Waltz- Courtesy of the United States Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA. Images supplied by Michael Strauss.
Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls, 1860-1869 (Ancestry.com). Entry includes 2 pages; just the left side is shown here.
Any family historian knows that a little genealogical kindness goes a long way! We as researchers wouldn’t be able to discover these treasures if it weren’t for others sharing their finds and resources. Take a moment to share this article with anyone who may be searching for military ancestors and you just might make someone’s day!
Author: Michael Strauss, AG
Michael Strauss, AG is the principal owner ofGenealogy Research Networkand an Accredited Genealogist since 1995. He is a native of Pennsylvania and a resident of Utah and has been an avid genealogist for more than 30 years. Strauss holds a BA in History and is a United States Coast Guard veteran.
VIDEO: Exploring LOC.gov. This three-minute video highlights the Library’s online collections and provides searching techniques. If you haven’t searched the Library of Congress website for items relating to your U.S. family history, take a few minutes and try it now!
VIDEO: Analyzing a Primary Source. This two-minute video offers a a short primary source analysis activity. It’s meant for teachers but it’s a great reminder for family historians on how we look at old documents.
Women of President Taft’s New Official Family at Washington, New York Tribune, March 7, 1909. Cover, illustrated supplement. Library of Congress image, posted at Flickr. Click to visit webpage.
The Library of Congress has a Flickr album that’s front page news–literally! It’s a New York Tribune archive with newspaper covers dating back more than a century.
“This set of cover pages from the New York Tribune illustrated supplements begins with the year 1909,” explains the album. “The pages are derived from the Chronicling America newspaper resource at the Library of Congress. To read the small text letters, just click the persistent URL to reach a zoomable version of the page.”
“Daily newspapers began to feature pictorial sections in the late 1800s when they competed for readers by offering more investigative exposés, illustrations, and cartoons. In the 1890s, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer tapped into new photoengraving techniques to publish halftone photographs, and other newspapers soon adopted the practice. The heavily illustrated supplement sections became the most widely read sections of the papers and provided a great opportunity to attract new customers. The daily life, art, entertainment, politics, and world events displayed in their pages captured the imagination of a curious public.”
Available at http://genealogygems.com
We don’t often find our ancestors splashed across front-page news. But we can read over their shoulders, as it were, to see what was going on in their world and what others around them thought about these events. Newspaper articles and ads reveal fashions and fads, prices on everyday items, attitudes about social issues and more. Read all about using old newspapers for family history in How to Find Your Family History in Newspapersby Lisa Louise Cooke.
Do you love old maps? Then you might enjoy a new video presentation now online at the Library of Congress website on the history of mapmaking and some thoughts about cartography in the future.
According to the website, “From Terra to Terabytes” Map Symposium presents “a sweeping view of the field, as it went from traditional methods of surveying in early years to remote-sensing and computer cartography of more recent years. They also discussed the future of cartography.”
Four sessions are available online. Watch the first session below:
Are you a Genealogy Gems Premium member? If so, you can learn a lot more about how to use old maps in your genealogy research! Your low annual membership gets you access to five video classes, including 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. In this Premium Video you will learn which historical maps every genealogist should use; some of the best online resources for finding old maps; how to locate offline historical maps; how to create and save your own historical map collection and techniques for using old maps in your research.
I just love hearing about the growth of digital libraries! Here’s a recent post from the Library of Congress:
“The World Digital Library, a collaborative international project led by the Library of Congress, now includes more than 10,000 manuscripts, maps and atlases, books, prints and photographs, films, sound recordings, and other cultural treasures. The 10,000-item milestone was reached earlier today with the addition of a set of priceless manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore, Maryland, a WDL partner since 2010.
The latest contributions include an early 16th-century Gospel manuscript from Ethiopia, written in Amharic and in Geez, the ancient liturgical language of Ethiopia; a manuscript containing a richly illuminated Ottonian Gospel book fragment believed to have been made at the monastery of Corvey in western Germany during the mid-to-late 10th century; and a menologion, or church calendar, in Greek, created in Byzantium circa 1025-1041.
With the latest additions, the WDL includes 10,037 rare and unique items, comprising nearly 500,000 images. Content contributed by 102 institutions in 46 countries is on the WDL site, which can be accessed in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Proposed by the Librarian of Congress and launched in 2009, the World Digital Library makes significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world freely available. The principal financial supporters of the WDL are Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Qatar National Library of the Qatar Foundation, and the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress.”