In my last article, I mentioned FamilySearch.org as a fantastic free source of information, so thought I’d include another great resource to use to dig up some information. As you first begin genealogy, the many free resources available online are a great place to start before you invest.
One of the best resources I’ve found has been Archive.org. This site describes itself as a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. From a genealogy perspective, it pulls from a plethora of available historical online resources that have been digitized, indexed and are searchable. While this is something you may wait to utilize until you’re a bit further in your research, it can be fun to browse and see what you can find. I personally enjoyed searching public school yearbooks from decades ago and seeing older relatives as teenagers (and in many cases, putting a face to a name). Since my maternal grandparents both went to private school, I found my great uncle Thomas Ronayne in one of the many digitized public school and got a sense of who he was through the many mentions of him within his class yearbook. There was even a class will included (which he served as the “attorney” signing it) that gave me a good laugh!
When you go to archive.org, you can search for items such as Vital Records, family history books, town yearbooks and more. One area of the Archive.org that is a great place to start is their genealogy section: https://archive.org/details/genealogy. For example, when I search for Braintree, Massachusetts Vital Records (where many of my ancestors are from), up pops up vital records (as well as other relevant genealogy resources) from the town.
Once you click on the book that you’d like to explore, there are several options to peruse and save your findings.
Downloadable: You’re able to download any document directly to your computer in various formats so you can look at it offline or print it out.
Favorites: If you create an account on Archive.org, you’re able to “favorite” any books (or collections) that you’d like to favorite which is great for organizing all of the books you’re using for your research.
The “search inside this book” feature allows you to search for terms and see where each term is listed within the book. At the bottom, there are several identified pin-pointed locations within the book; complete with a preview of what you’d find on each page with the search mention which saves time.
If you search for yearbooks through the normal search functionality, it doesn’t quite come up, so there are different ways to search for different types of documents. I find it to be a little wonky. For example, you can use this obscure URL to search for yearbooks: https://archive.org/search.php?query=yearbooks&&and=subject%3A%22yearbooks%22
When I searched “Canton Massachusetts High School” within that URL, it pulled up many years of yearbooks for the school, as well as newsletters dating back to 1902.
I know that I haven’t even used Archive.org to its full potential and am still learning my way around it but wanted to share it as a resource to browse and explore. In addition to this resource, you can also try Google Books which works similarly for text/book-based resources online. Happy exploring!
Question: Have you used Archive.org? If so, what great information have you found?