When I catalog new books received by the NEHGS library, my normal focus is, naturally, on the contents of the books themselves: the families and places described, the authors, the titles and publication information, and so on. But every now and then, the books we receive contain little “surprises” that go beyond the published words on the page. Over the years, we have found all kinds of objects left in books, from hand-drawn family trees to photographs and calling cards. Some of these items were clearly meant to supplement the books they were left in, and have definite genealogical import; others are only tangentially related to the book’s content. Still others are complete mysteries: we don’t know why they were left in the book, or if they were even left there on purpose. Continue reading Ex libris
For the past six months, I have been devoting much of my time as Metadata Librarian at NEHGS to making older genealogies from our Boston research library available online in the NEHGS Digital Library and Archive. These genealogies, most of them originally published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are rare or unique to NEHGS, and have not been previously available online.
By adding them to our Digital Library, we hope that we can not only increase access to these hard-to-find resources, but also better preserve the physical books themselves, which are often suffering from the effects of brittle, acidic paper and deteriorating bindings. We have added items ranging from short, privately printed pamphlets – such as the five-page Family and Antecedents of William Henry Rayner and Jeanie Ann Balmer – to longer, more comprehensive treatises, like Henry Stoddard Ruggles’s The Ruggles Family in England and America. Continue reading Old genealogies in the digital age
We recently implemented a new feature in the NEHGS library catalog that will make it easier to keep track of library resources that are relevant to your research. The function is called “My Lists,” and it allows you to save lists of titles to your NEHGS library account for as long as desired. The records will be available whenever and wherever you log into your account, and you can view, print, email, or save the list with your computer or mobile device at any time. Continue reading New “My Lists” in the NEHGS Library Catalog
As a librarian at NEHGS, I love stumbling across items in our research library collection that bring the past to life in an unexpected way. I recently had one such happy “stumbling” experience when we discovered a work called Art Work of Boston in our stacks. Part of a larger series of “view books” of American cities published by the W. H. Parish Publishing Company, Art Work of Boston was first published in 1891, in twelve parts. Each volume contains a series of high-quality photographs of buildings, streets, parks, and other public landmarks in the greater Boston area, accompanied by a brief historical text — all of which you can now view through our Digital Library and Archive. Continue reading A tour of Boston, circa 1891
In my role as a technical services librarian at NEHGS, one of my regular activities is selecting books from our research library for digitization, and in recent months I’ve been focusing on some of the nineteenth century city directories from our rare books collection. City directories can have great research value: in addition to pinpointing the exact years that an ancestor inhabited a particular place, they often provide data about occupation and employers, and can be an especially good resource for locating information about individuals who may have been renters or temporary residents. Continue reading More than just names and addresses
The NEHGS Digital Library and Archive has a growing collection of family histories, covering a wide range of subjects and surnames. Roughly three quarters of the 137 titles currently in the collection are older books from the stacks of the NEHGS Library – usually published before 1923, and now free from copyright restrictions – which have been digitized and put online. Examples of materials that have been digitized from our collection so far include: Continue reading Online family histories, old and new
In my role as a technical services librarian, I’ve recently been working on adding issues of the Social Register published between 1890 and 1923 to the NEHGS Digital Library. Started in 1886, this publication is a directory of names and addresses of prominent American families. At its inception, the Social Register was primarily populated by descendants of early Dutch and English settlers of New York, but the scope of the series quickly expanded, and by 1918 there were eighteen annual volumes representing twenty-three U.S. cities. The Social Register Association continued publishing separate volumes for different cities until 1976, when the listings were consolidated into a single publication. Continue reading Mining the Social Register, an unexpected resource