Thursday, August 5, 2010

Follow Friday (a few hours early): The Nebraska State Historical Society

Nebraska State Historical Society
Lincoln, Nebraska
This week I am recognizing a valuable resource right here in my own home town, the Nebraska State Historical Society. Headquarters are located at 1500 R Street in Lincoln, adjacent to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. From the society entrance, there is a straight view down Centennial Mall to the Nebraska State Capitol building a few blocks away.

In addition to the headquarters and archives that are located in Lincoln, the Society also oversees the operation of other historic sites such as the Nebraska History Museum, Chimney Rock national historic site, Fort Robinson museums, Neligh Mills, and sites honoring John Neihardt, Willa Cather, Thomas Kennard, and others.

Rather than focusing on the facilities operated by NSHS, this post will feature some of the valuable information that the Society has made available online. There really is a lot to explore, and if you have Nebraska ancestors or connections, you may just find something to aid in your research.

I'll start with the Society's social network. The society has a presence on Facebook, as well as a blog that has some of the most entertaining and informative posts about the Society's collections. I encourage anyone with ties to Nebraska to visit both. Be sure to "Like" the Society on Facebook and add the blog to your favorite news reader.

The Society's web site address is: The site has an index of its major topics. This is really more like a browse feature, since the topics are alphabetical and cover several pages. But among the topics are: Bess Streeter Aldrich movie script, Arbor Day (which had its start in Nebraska), Atlases and Plat Books, the Solomon Butcher photograph collection, author Willa Cather, Made in Nebraska (bet you didn't know that Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings!), Quilts from the collection, among dozens of other Nebraska-related topics. Just browse the index and you can easily get lost for a couple hours.

The first stop for many genealogists on the site will be the Search page. This is broken down by different collections and databases. The search of the library and archives is one place to begin.

Search Result
Mary Kelly Fitzgerald

A search on my Kelly kin turned up this result on Mary Kelly (Mrs. John) Fitzgerald, who was the sister of my great grandfather, Dan Kelly.

Another search turned up a genealogy resource on some of the in-laws of my relatives who I am researching.

If you have some Nebraska connections, try a few searches, you may locate something.

The NSHS site also has some finding aids that may be of value to your research. Resources available in federal, state and municipal government records are included. And there's a page that features some of the more than 3,000 maps in the Society's collection.

The Society's manuscript collection can be searched for family and individual records. The manuscript holdings also include business, church, organization and political records.

The Society publishes Nebraska History magazine quarterly. Selected full-text articles from past issues are available on the site. Several of the articles have a tie-in with my family members or deal with a specific event or time period of stories that have been passed down. Browse through some of the article titles and I'm willing to wager that at least one or two will stir your interest.

Recently added to the Society's database are photographic images from the Society's William Jennings Bryan collection. I browsed through all 45 pages of images of campaign buttons, postcards, photographs and other types of paper ephemera. Bryan ran unsuccessfully for President three times. He was Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson. I'll write more about Bryan in a future blog post, as there are some family stories that indicate a connection to Bryan - I need to become a History Detective to either prove or disprove.

If you would like to receive Nebraska History magazine, as well as other benefits, consider a membership to help support the preservation of the state's history. One of the very special perks to members is the opportunity to reserve a reader/printer for research and print free copies! That's a pretty good selling point for those of us who have convenient access to the facilities.

I invite you and encourage you to explore the Society's web site. And if you find a connection to any of your Nebraska kin on the site, I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a comment below.

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