Genealogist Tourists and the Digital Community History Archive | Select
Vacations can take people to all kinds of new and interesting places.
Some people aim to visit all 50 states and try to visit a new one every year or two. Some people have a list of ballparks they want to see or national parks they want to visit. I even know someone who likes to visit the historic libraries built by Andrew Carnegie, and he goes to see them all over the country.
Some people are “genealogy tourists” and visit places where they can do family research. They can visit the cemeteries of their ancestors and make headstone stampings. They can travel hundreds of miles to scroll through microfilm in a small town newspaper. They can also visit a library to look into city directories, directories and other archives.
The Norfolk Public Library often hosts these traveling family scholars. Genealogists from as far away as Washington and Arizona have scoured the library’s records, looking for birth announcements, addresses and obituaries to complete their family trees.
Several years ago, the library worked with the Norfolk Daily News to obtain all of the newspaper’s archives in an easily searchable digital format. The new digital archive was available in the library and greatly reduced research time. Instead of scrolling through rolls of microfilm, the researcher only had to type in a name and narrow down the date to get a number of relevant results.
Since this digital archive was only accessible in the library building, we repeatedly received requests from genealogists to make it available on the Internet. Earlier this year, by continuing to work with the Norfolk Daily News, we were able to meet this request.
Researchers of all kinds, near and far, can now access the Norfolk Daily News digital archive from 1887 to 2020 online, wherever they are.
Another partnership, this time with the Elkhorn Valley Museum, adds even more to this digital archive. Researchers can now view The Milestone, Norfolk Senior High yearbook from 1889 to 2016 in this archive. The opening message of the inaugural 1889 issue of The Milestone states: “On careful examination the reader will notice that the name of this publication is The Milestone, and that it is the first issue of the same. It is a book of Class, published by the Class of 1989, and contains articles which we believe may be of interest to us and our friends, now and in the future.”
I doubt they imagined people in 2022 going through their class speeches and stats on a computer screen over 130 years later, but they were right to say it’s still of great interest. Plans to add more resources to the digital archive are moving forward and they will soon contain historical maps, photographs and other interesting historical documents.
It will take some time for the digital archive to catch up with all the genealogical and historical information the library has in print form. We look forward to welcoming genealogist tourists to the library for some time. Anyone interested in viewing the community’s digital history archive can find it on the library’s website on the Digital Library page, under the Genealogy section.