Obscure Archives & Databases You Need To Know About
by Diane L. Richard | Sep 8, 2011
With so many genealogists starting their search for records in the US or Canada and then often shifting to the UK, France, Germany, Poland or Russia, it is easy to get stuck in tunnel vision and not look beyond these countries which were the source of large emigrant populations.
If you don't look further, you are missing out on some great national archives and genealogy society databases and other online repositories that provide access to records for locales where there may only be a small percentage of people doing research. And yet, if you are one of those people, access to such information could be critical to your research.
Recognize that though some non-English speaking archives have interfaces in multiple languages (and sometimes English), many archives only have interfaces in the national language of their country (e.g. Portuguese for Brazil, Spanish for Chile, Ukrainian for the Ukraine, etc).
In some cases, your archives of interest might not yet have digital material online (e.g. National Archives of Pakistan, the National Archives of Korea, or the National Archives of Cuba). Do bookmark these web-sites and revisit them in the future. Just about every National Archive has an initiative in place to digitize historic documents and make them available via the internet. Even if they don't, you can still learn about the holdings of that archive and whether they offer remote research services.
Even if these National Archives and libraries are not doing digitization directly, do remember that FamilySearch is digitizing documents on a world-wide basis. In addition to records for the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe etc, there are records already available online for Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Argentina, Barbados, and many more countries from around the world.
Hopefully, after exploring this small selection of world-wide databases, you'll be ready and willing to flex your fingers and use your mouse and keyboard to start searching for "little known and maybe even obscure archives and databases" that would pertain to your own ancestors. Please do use the comment field at the end of the article to let us know about any others that you find and that we have not listed.
Now, in no particular order, are some of these little known and maybe even obscure archives and databases. At the end of the article, there is a discussion about where you might learn more about National Archives and Libraries and whether the one that interests you has a web presence.
St. Kitts-Nevis National Archives
The Web site displays images showing the changes in Basseterre over the years. There are many stored pictures from the St. Kitts collection, in addition to clippings from newspapers, and other items, including maps. The site is a work in progress, with information being uploaded on a consistent basis.
National Archives of Egypt
The site contains about one million records; documents in the Arabic language and their images. You can search or make use of the Subject Index - all of this is currently only available in Arabic. This means that if you don't have the Arabic language installed on your computer - you won't be able to browse or search the database
Moravian Provincial Archives in Brno
Has items from Brno, Plzni, Praze and St. P�lten. You will first need to register - the items with a * are required, they are first name, last name, e-mail, username, password and repeat of password.
The T?ebo? Regional Archive
Has a digital archive which has a very nice English-language interface. You identify what you would like to look at, e.g., Churchless/Civil Registers. Then choose a locale, e.g., Pisek, then choose which item (in this case the options are Book 1 or Book 2) and then you are taken to digitized images of the contents. There is also a great site-wide search engine (choose the tab at the top) where you can search across all the included archives or select one of particular interest.
National Library of Jamaica
Jamaicans can now access historical materials, including maps, photographs and plans, which are stored on the website of the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) via its digital portal. The digital collections now available include: Picture Dis, Jamaica Unshackled, dLOC (The Digital Library of the Caribbean) and the Slave Trade.
General State Archives, Greece
The digital archive collections area currently has three online archives: Award, Public Welfare Property Funds and an Engraving Collection. You can search in the digital archives using a basic or advanced search.
The information is taken directly from the Civil Register, the most important Dutch source for genealogical research covering the period since 1811. Eventually it will be an index to all marriages between 1811-1922 along with a lot of births and deaths.
6.9 million records which include marriage, birth, and death records from public and private records in archives in the province of Zeeland from the 16th century to 1811.
List Of Digital Resources For The Netherlands And Belgium
Archives of Haiti Genealogy Society
Currently, the online database contains 117869 records holding 603671 names for years 1776 to 1976 for select parishes. You can search on these records by inputting a surname or there is an advanced search (Recherche avanc�e), all in French, where you can also enter first name, type of event, the person's role (e.g. father, mother, etc), a year range and several other options.
Israel Genealogical Society
Some of the databases found on this web-site are: 1915 Census of Tel-Aviv, Change of Names in the Palestine Gazette (1921-1948) (List of 28,256 changes of names registered in the Palestine Gazette during the British Mandate over Palestine), British Mandate Census 1922 for Petah Tikva and Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, and Montefiore Censuses (1839-1876).
The Genealogical Society Of South Africa
eGSSA is the virtual branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa contains books, documents, family bibles, gravestones and a post card collection. The documents collection contains content derived mostly from the various South African archives. The archives currently represented are: Cape Town Archives (KAB), Free State Archives (VAB), National Archives (TAB - records of the former Transvaal Province and its predecessors), Pietermaritzburg Archives (NAB), etc.
Japan Center For Historical Records
JACAR is a digital database testifying to Japan's historical relations in Asia as well as elsewhere. This site provides access to official documents--dating from the Meiji era through 1945--of the Japanese Cabinet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Army and Navy. There is a beginner's guide about using the website.
The National Archives of Malta
Some of what can be found are: The indexes of the 'Original Acts' of the Magnia Curia Castellania (MCC A.O.), dated 1543 to 1798, the Malta Blue Books (statistical information) and you can download the Gibraltar Explorer which allows one to explore its history and search on select censuses.
World Wide Repositories
When researching for online digital material for those countries with smaller populations, don't forget to check out some of the available online "world-wide" repositories such as the World Digital Library and the Unesco, Memory of the World (look under "Registered Heritage" to see what documents are part of the online digital repository).
Obviously, this article only touched on some of the national archives, national libraries, genealogy societies and other research repositories that reside around the world. To learn more about which of these have an online presence, check out these helpful websites:
- National Libraries and Wikipedia list of National Libraries
- National Archives, Wikipedia list of National Archives and a list from the Netherlands (in English & has an excellent world-wide list of archives, organized by continent and country)
- World Repositories -- not all repositories are under the auspices of a national archive or library or genealogy society.
- European History Primary Sources -- an English-language index of scholarly websites that offer online access to digitized primary sources on the history of Europe which includes many of interest to family historians and genealogists.
- Central and South American Resources (Family Tree Article)
- Caribbean Resources
Just because your ancestors came from someplace off the beaten track of emigrants, this doesn't mean that you won't be able to gain access to digital materials. As you have seen, many types of materials, from around the world are able to be viewed with just a few clicks of your mouse and keyboard strokes.
Some archives have better English-language interfaces than others and as far as the documents themselves, using what's available online is no different than if you viewed the microfilm of these records or physically visited an archive and pored over original documents; these will always be in the original language in which they were created.
Worried about delving into a non-English website or documents, take advantage of the many online translators, such as Google Translate (over 50 languages), that can facilitate your navigation through a non-English search interface or your search into non-English documents. It's often not as hard as you think to get around these websites and odds are that someone just like you has already given it a try and would be more than willing to share some tips.
Given that the internet has provided us with un-imagined access to digitized original documents with which to research our ancestors - making it easier-than-ever to research our ancestors, regardless of their land of origin.
Find Records Now for Free
Start your free trial today to learn more about your ancestors using our powerful and intuitive search. Cancel any time, no strings attached.