So, the big news in the archives community is the recent release of the 1940 census. A treasure trove of information, the census is kept confidential for 72 years (per the government’s rule of keeping the citizen’s right to privacy). More importantly, this is the first public census release that wasn’t premiered on microfilm. Rather, a person can access the data straight away from his or her personal computer. Isn’t the digital age amazing?
So, how does this relate to Boston? Well, Boston, with its wealth of universities and museums, has a lot of records accessible online. With the flurry of genealogists (both seasoned and new), Boston’s records are sure to become even more popular. So where do you start?
The City of Boston Archives has information about Boston schools, mayoral records, and various government organizations.
On a slightly less granular level, the Massachusetts State Archives contains information pertaining to the entire state. Also digitized are passenger lists of immigrants who arrived in Boston beginning in 1848 and lasting until 1891. You can also find land deeds and other records dating back to 1690.
For those whose interests lie less in genealogy and more in Boston history in general, the Boston Public Library has an amazing Flickr stream that highlights both Boston history and historical events.
For those who are not sure where to start, Digital Commonwealth is a collaborative effort that ties together collections from universities, historical societies, libraries, and museums. Allowing for more serendipitous searching, Digital Commonwealth allows the user to wander around archives from the comfort of his or her couch.
There are also countless university libraries, each with their own unique collections. For example, The Schlessinger Library at Harvard has a large Culinary Collection, in addition to information and records about the now defunct Radcliffe College. Boston University has an extensive Civil Rights Collection, including the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston College has records pertaining to several members of Congress who are also alumna/e of the College and/or Law School.
The list continues on, but I am sure you have census records to pour through and family trees to edit, or at the very least, the curiosity to find out who exactly was Great-Aunt Mildred’s first husband.