Using Archive Grid For Treasure Hunting

Updated: Oct 18



If you have never used ArchiveGrid.com you could be missing out on some key information that could help you learn more about your ancestors. The free online tool has a database of over five million archival material descriptions. The database contains information about what the collections hold at thousands of libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. Including contact information of the organizations holding the collections.


The goal of Archive Grid is "bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family history, and much more." The website is great in helping researchers potentially locate primary sources of material that can aid in learning about their ancestors.


Information found on the website can bring you closer to locating collections dedicated to your ancestors or collections that can give you insight on events or people that had an impact on your ancestors' lives. These collections can hold personal accounts of events that took place and even help gain a better understanding of what happened. An example of a search I performed was to locate information about prisoners of Andersonville Prison during the Civil War. I wanted to learn from the personal experiences of Union Prisoners at Andersonville to gain a better understanding of what my 3rd great grandfather, Pvt Jasper Killion experienced during his imprisonment there. By reading the personal memoirs of fellow Union prisoners that were there while Jasper Killion was there, I was able to learn about some incidents that happened within the prison walls that he may have seen or experienced.


Just as we are currently experiencing the hardship of COVID-19, our ancestors went through a similar influenza pandemic in 1918. By search "1918 Influenza" you can find over two hundred links to newspaper clippings about the articles written in various newspapers around the world and personal first-hand accounts from people who went through the pandemic. In my search, I came across the Minnesota Home Guard collection at the Minnesota Historical Society that holds the Home Guard Records kept from 1917 to 1919. This collection would contain documentation about the pandemic to the residence of Minnesota. This would help in understanding what Minnesota ancestors went through during that time. You never know what names could be listed in those documents.


The simple search box allows for searches of the database that will help locate information. I recommend trying various searches with keywords. You should try searching by family surname, along with various spelling variations of the surname, locations they lived in, events they would have experienced during their life, and organizations that they may have been involved in. You can also lookup collections and repositories by clicking on locations underneath the map on the homepage.



The database can lead researchers to diaries, correspondences, records, local histories, old photos, as well as papers from some local governments, schools, businesses, churches, cemeteries, social clubs, and orphanages. These sources can contain key information that can help you bring your ancestors' story to life. You could be very surprised by what treasures you might discover by searching through ArchiveGrid.com.

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