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My 5 Favorite Collections on Internet Archive

My 5 Favorite Collections on Internet Archive
I’m a huge fan of the online resource Internet Archive. Why? Internet Archive is where you can find important genealogy resources that span books, periodicals, and microfilms. Have you used Internet Archive for your genealogy? If you haven’t, you should search it as soon as possible because it’s just possible you’ll find what you need. Below are five collections on Internet Archive that are my favorites and I bet they will soon become yours as well. 

IA Genealogy


It's no surprise that I mentioned  the Genealogy collection first. How can you not love a collection of nearly 140,000 digitized materials from repositories like “Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Robarts Library at the University of Toronto; the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library; Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; the National Library of Scotland; the Indianapolis City Library's Indianapolis City Directory and Yearbooks Collection; The Leo Baeck Institute Archives of German-speaking Jewry;  and the Boston Public Library.” There’s bound to be something that interests you in this collection. Expect to find everything from family history surname books, to transcriptions, city directories, yearbooks and more.

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center - Microfilm 

I don’t know about you but I’d much rather peruse microfilm from the comfort of my home than sit at a microfilm machine. So I’m a fan of this microfilm collection from the ACPL Genealogy Center. This collection includes the US federal census, records from the confederate states, Freedmen’s Bureau, military records, and more. To see everything that is included in this collection, see  Topics & Subjects on the left side of the page. 

IA Allen Co


The journals collection has a simple description, “A collection of scholarly literature created by experts and professionals in their fields. Included are theses, books, abstracts and articles.” So what that means for you is genealogy-relevant content from journals such as The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, The Washington Historical Quarterly, and the William and Mary Quarterly. In the journals collection, search by the word genealogy, a surname, or a state to see what might be of use to you. One search I did on the keyword "women" brought up articles from the early 1900s discussing everything from teacher salaries to working hours of women in Chicago, and property rights of married women in Pennsylvania. Academic journals publish articles that can help us understand our understands life in context.

Smithsonian Libraries

There’s a couple different government libraries represented on Internet Archive but the Smithsonian is one new users may mistakenly overlook even though it’s full of materials with names that would be of interest to genealogists such as: Old Clocks and Watches & their Makers; American Indian Painters: A Biographical Dictionary ; and Makers of Early American Silver.


The last choice for my favorite collection on Internet Archive is the Cookbooks and Home Economics collection. Sure, you may think that’s nice that I like cookbooks but you're wondering how a cookbook collection helps your family history. Good question! Search through this collection of historic cookbooks to find community cookbooks for the places your ancestor lived, cookbooks that include that favorite old family recipe, or even better understand what great-grandpa ate in the Army with the Manual for Army Cooks (1916). Yes, this collection is probably my favorite because of all that you can learn about your ancestor through what they ate.

IA Manual for Army

Internet Archive is literally an archive available to you from your home. Sure, its Wayback Machine is an important tool for finding content on cached websites that have now disappeared and their image and video collections might also have something you’ll want to peruse. But for me, it’s the text and microfilm collections  that has the real hidden genealogical treasures.

Do yourself a favor and start browsing the Archive and see what it can offer you.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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Thank you so much for this post. The Internet Archive is truly a treasure!

I looked at this Internet Archive site at Passenger List. It was a whole bunch of names that were not
arrange in any type of grouping. Do you know how to search this mess

Gary, I'm not sure which resource you're looking at but once you choose an item to look at, click on it to open the item. Once opened, you'll find a search box just for that item. You can then search for the name you are interested in.

Now, in some cases that might not work so it would be a matter of looking at the item page by page.

Also, make sure that you aren't just looking at the text but the actual digitized images.--Gena

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