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Genealogy in Unlikely Places Online

One of the aspects of the Internet I love the most is finding genealogically relevant information in places that are not genealogy related. When we limit our research to only genealogy websites we miss out on relevant information found on websites focused on art, history, geography, and other related topics.

A whole book could be written about these “unlikely sources” but for now let’s explore four websites and what they have to offer.

Getty Research Institute – Research Guides and Photographers

I love exploring California’s  Getty Museum in person but even better is their website, the Getty Research Institute. There is so much to look at here including catalogs and digital collections but let me just point out a few items a genealogist might be interested in. In the Research Guides and Photographers collection there is an article titled, A Nation Emerges: 65 Years of Photography in Mexico.  This article includes a bibliography, glossary, history, chronology, and even a list of photographers  with biographical information. Included in this list of photographers are those who had studios in El Paso, Texas but photographed Mexico and the people of Mexico. For fans of artist Frida Kahlo, her father Wilhelm Kahlo is listed.

Getty Research Institute Guides

Don’t forget to also explore their digital collections catalog as well. Follow The Getty on Facebook  to learn more about their collections and to watch Facebook Live presentations.

Digital Public Library of America

I’m always amazed at what I find on Digital Public Library of America. Remember that while it is a fabulous catalog of images, you can also limit your search to “text.” A recent search I did to find vintage Los Angeles postcards resulted in images for a Missing Person postcard and another regarding a group of men who broke out of jail in Missouri.


DPLA Missing Person

Looted Cultural Assets

During the Nazi period of 1933-1945, the Nazi’s not only looted art and heirlooms but they also stole books.

Looted Cultural Assets is a database of names found in those books, scattered throughout various libraries, and reunite them with the owner’s family. An online database allows you to browse by name, object type or collection. Browsing by name allows you to click on a name and see a digitized image of the book page with that name on it.

This German website can either be translated via an online translation tool like Google Translate or by selecting English at the top right-side of the website.


Looted assets
Looted assets

Sampler Archive

One of the points I always make when I present on researching female ancestors is that it’s important to search using the records they left behind. Women did leave behind material culture that has genealogical value such as quilts, cookbooks, and needlework samplers . One place to search for women’s name is the website Sampler Archive that documents the makers of needlework samplers. From the top right of the Sampler Archive website you can browse the collection by contributor, which currently includes the DAR museum, Rhode Island Historical Society, and the Winterthur Museum. You can then browse through the sampler results which include a thumbnail image. This is such an important collection of young girl’s and women’s names that would otherwise be lost.

Sampler Archive

Where have you found genealogically relevant materials online in unlikely places? Please share your favorite finds in the comments below.


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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Old church records & family and community histories abound at ARCHIVE.ORG (and you can download most files in any of several formats to work with them at your leisure).
Better yet, it's free (although they do appreciate donations).

And, don't forget the way back machine, part of the archives at many don't know of this archive done weekly.

What a great "issue" of Legacy News. There are so many research suggestions made that have never occurred to me until reading here. Many, many thanks.
My great-grandfather, John Grace, was born in 1849, sailed to America at the age of 12. His death has eluded me (brickwall). For a number of years he was General Superintendent of the Monterey-Mexican Gulf Railway. He seems to have disappeared at the end of his tenure.

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