Archivists working in the Reference Department of the American Heritage Center are often asked about resources that can help genealogists track their family’s history. Sometimes that’s an easy question–we might actually have the personal family papers of that researcher’s forebears. What a gold mine for that lucky researcher!
But in other cases, research materials can be harder to find. Should you be interested in conducting genealogical research here at the AHC, we’ve created a brief list of starting points which may help you in your search.
University of Wyoming Yearbooks (located within the Ralph McWhinnie papers) are wonderful resources if you know (or even suspect) that your relative attended the University. You’ll learn about the types of activities in which they were involved, which in turn, may give you more clues about where else you might look, such as UW departmental records or photographic files.
Scrapbooks might be a possible resource, particularly if your relative was a prominent athlete or otherwise well-known on the University of Wyoming campus. Since scrapbooks are often assembled topically, it can be hard to know what they contain. Working with an archivist may help you to uncover these resources, so don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help.
Ludwig-Svenson Photograph Collection contains much documentation of everyday life and events in Laramie. For many years, the Ludwig-Svenson Studio was THE place to have your photograph taken. The collection covers the years 1868-1985, but most photographs are from the years 1913 until 1967. If a major life event occurred–a marriage, a confirmation, a graduation–Ludwig-Svenson Studio probably documented it on film. If you are interested in viewing a photo from this collection, do allow us a day to retrieve it from cold storage. Since these are negatives, we need to let the film gradually warm up to room temperature.
We also have Biography and Photo Files, old-fashioned card catalogs which help us find cross-references to your relative or other materials that might not be including in our online catalog. Generally, biography files contain secondary sources such as newspaper stories, UW alumni notes, and obituaries. These materials might help to confirm a fact or two, or may give you some additional pieces of information. The Photo Files might provide a reference to one of our archival collections, or they might list an individual file under your relative’s name.
And then of course, there are more generalized resources to which we can direct you. Most public libraries subscribe to databases such as Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest where you’ll find census data and other information of public record, such as death certificates and marriage licenses. If you don’t have access to these subscription databases, you’ll find similar information at the free FamilySearch.org, a database managed and administered by the LDS Church. You might also be interested in using some city directories to find out when your relatives may have lived at a certain address. Many of the older directories will list the individual’s occupation and their spouse. The UW Libraries Special Collections’ Hebard Collection (located on the third floor of Coe Library in the Chisum Reading Room) has a good selection of city directories for Laramie and wider Albany county, as well as some other areas of Wyoming.
You might also want to try the Wyoming Newspaper Project, a searchable, browsable database of Wyoming newspapers from 1849 until 1922. Though not all newspapers are available for every date, this resource can provide you with access to a great many pages of newsprint–previously available only on microfilm or in crumbling bound volumes. Who knows, some of these newspapers might even provide some of the missing details for your search!
As always, the Reference Department at the AHC will be happy to assist you in your search. Just send us a request!
–Rachael Dreyer, Reference Archivist