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Play Ball! Finding Your Baseball Ancestors

Play Ball! Finding Your Baseball Ancestors

 

Baseball has long been thought of as America's "national pastime." From the sandlots to the major leagues, chances are good that the game influenced your ancestor's life in some way.

Here are a few resources to help you find your baseball-playing ancestors.

General Resources

The National Baseball Hall of Fame offers an amazing digital collection of oral histories, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, cartoons, and images of 3D artifacts. The Giamatti Research Center in Cooperstown, New York, is the library and research facility for the organization. You can visit the library in person by appointment or request research assistance from a staff librarian. You may wish to consult ABNER (American Baseball Network for Electronic Research) for a partial list of holdings before your visit.

Ancestry.com ($) offers two databases specific to the research of baseball-playing ancestors. "U.S., Professional Baseball Player Profiles, 1876–2004" is an index to over 15,000 professional baseball players who played between 1876 (the year the National League was founded) and 2004. Available information includes birth/death dates and locations, nicknames, college attended, physical characteristics, and game statistics. The second database, "U.S., Professional Baseball Player Photos and Illustrations, 1876–2004," provides nearly identical information, but also may include a photograph or a baseball card for players who played between 1887 and 1938.

The Society for American Baseball Research offers many useful resources, including the Baseball Biography Project. All biographies in the project are written and peer-reviewed by SABR members with the goal of publishing a biography for every major league player in history. Also available are links to players' professional career statistics, a bibliography of research citations from The Baseball Index, as well as interviews, photographs and much more. Additionally, the project is creating pages for ages for ballparks, broadcasters, executives, games, managers, scouts, spouses, and umpires, so be sure to check those out if your ancestor could have been connected to other aspects of the game.

Baseball Almanac has dedicated itself to "preserving the history of our national pastime" with an interactive website containing 500,000+ pages of baseball history, facts, original research, and statistics not found anywhere else online. The website is privately-held and welcomes contributions and suggestions from the public. Research services are available by request.

LA84 Foundation's Sport History Library is a growing digital collection of more than 70,000 documents on Olympic and general sports history. Included in this collection are images of Baseball Magazine from 1908–1920. The LA84 Foundation supports a library in Los Angeles, California, housing a collection of thousands of books, periodicals, other publications, and photos. A staff librarian is available to do research by request.

Specific Resources

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of African-American Baseball. The website offers an eMuseum of resources, including a historical timeline, personal and team profiles, and "Diamond Cuts," which are narratives taken from the history of African-American baseball. The Research Library contains a multimedia archive of oral histories, selections from the Museum's photo archive, and a resource bibliography for further research.

Negro League Baseball offers a trove of historical information, including details about the League, a timeline of events, team profiles, and player biographies. A Frequently Asked Questions section provides answers to inquiries from students, educators, and baseball fans.

If your ancestor played ball as a youngster, be sure to visit Little League® Baseball and Softball. This site offers a unique timeline of the League from its founding in 1939 to its 75th Anniversary in 2014. Various historical articles can be found in the Newsletter, such as this one on "The 18 Girls Who Have Made Little League Baseball® World Series History." The Little League Baseball World Series History Book (which appears to be a forgotten section of the main site) is a browseable database of game scores, team rosters, and tournament brackets for over 50 years of Little League® World Series history.

Did your ancestor play in the College World Series? Then you'll want to check out College World Series History hosted by Omaha.com and the Omaha World-Herald. This site features historical information for each year of the CWS, dating back to 1947. There is a page for every school that has played in the CWS, some with photos, statistics, and players' names. Baseball Reference also has a section of information about the CWS, so be sure to check that one, as well.

 If your ancestor was one of the athletes who inspired the film A League of Their Own, you will want to visit The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association. This site is a "virtual scrapbook…filled with articles, photographs, interviews, and statistics that give you an up-close-and-personal look at the pioneering women who played professional baseball from 1943 through 1954." The site features player biographies, interviews, and obituaries, league history, and you can even read a section of the players' "charm school guide."

Finally, baseball isn't only popular in America. If your ancestor played ball in Cuba, Japan, or Korea, check out Baseball Reference. This comprehensive site contains team and player information for Japanese and Nippon Pro Baseball, the Korean Baseball Organization, the Cuban National Series, as well as American Major and Minor Leagues and the Negro Leagues.

 
Elizabeth O’Neal is a freelance writer, educator, and web developer. An avid genealogist for three decades, Elizabeth writes the blog My Descendant’s Ancestors, where she shares family stories, technology and methodology tips, and hosts the monthly "Genealogy Blog Party."

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