Free Digital Collections: Illinois Harvest

The Advancing Genealogist loves to share great resources, and when those resources are free, that’s even better. Grab your beverage of choice, settle into a comfortable chair, and let’s explore Illinois Harvest.

Illinois Harvest is a University of Illinois project. The self-described “free public gateway combining search, aggregation, and discovery services” focuses on digitized and digital collections, mostly about Illinois, by Illinois scholars, or “cultural assets within the collections of the University of Illinois Library.” That said, Illinois Harvest has materials that are of interest to those who do not have Illinois ancestors!

The university is digitizing images, documents, and books, and placing them online. They have digitized items from their own collection, and from relevant collections around the country. Links to materials from all participants are included. Many of the 236 unique collections are of interest to genealogists. Let’s take a peek.

If you begin at the home/search page and refuse to explore beyond it, you will have squandered the opportunity to browse the virtual shelves. You did get that beverage of choice, right? Comfy chair? I thought so. By all means, use the search box. But promise that you will also explore beyond its confines. Many items, like maps, don’t show up in a personal name search. Sometimes you do not know what you need until you stumble upon it.

The search box allows searching by keyword, author or artist, and title words. Search any or all of the following: University of Illinois and UC, other Illinois libraries, or libraries elsewhere. After you give the search box a whirl, we will abandon that comfort zone (did I say limiting comfort zone?) and browse the collections.

Done searching? Well, knock it off for a bit and let’s explore. The Collections item on the sidebar is where we want to start. If you hover over it you have three options: Image Collections, Text Collections, and Digitized Books. Let’s peek at them.

Image Collections takes you to a variety of categorized collections. There are locality-specific images, topical images, maps, imaged catalogs, telephone directories, and more. Here are a few examples.

Bloomington-Normal Black History Project, Illinois Digital Archives. These 19th- and 20th-century collections focus on the African American community in the Bloomington and McLean County area.

Fort Sheridan, Illinois Digital Archives. Lake County Discovery Museum. Images from the 1890s through the 1980s. Fort Sheridan was located north of Chicago in Lake County, Illinois.

Great Lakes Digital Collection, Carli Digital Collections. Newberry Library. Maps and other images of the Great Lakes region. Early French exploration to the 20th century.

Historical Maps Online, University of Illinois. University Library. Northwest Territory and Illinois maps from the past 400 years.

The Oral History Collection of the University of Illinois at Springfield, Illinois Digital Archives.

Here are samplings from the Text Collections and Digitized Books Collections.

Argus, 2004- (Student and Alumni News Periodicals, Illinois Wesleyan University), 1870 to present, some gaps. Carli Digital Collection.

Chicago: A Collection of Digitized Books

Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey

Church and Congregational History in Illinois: A Collection of Digitized Books This collection is not limited to a denomination. It includes material on the early Mormon church.

County and Local Histories of Illinois: A Collection of Digitized Books

Early British Economic Pamphlets

East St. Louis City Directory This collection contains more than one directory.

Flora Digital Newspapers, Illinois Digital Archives.

Genealogy Resources: A Collection of Digitized Books. Includes Prairie Farmer directories.

Illinois and the Civil War – Documents, Illinois Digital Archives. Documents and books.

Illinois Blue Books, Illinois Digital Archives. Illinois State Library. The Illinois Blue Book is a reference for information on Illinois state government and much more. Some issues include biographies, photographs, etc.

Illinois Constitutions, 1818–Present, Illinois Digital Archives.

Illinois Historical County Atlases

Immigration and Emigration: A Collection of Digitized Books

Irish History: A Collection of Digitized Books

Oak Ridge Cemetery Interment Records, (Springfield), Illinois Digital Archives.

Slavic History, Culture, and Literature: A Collection of Digitized Books

Warbler Digitization Project — Eastern Illinois University (Yearbook), Illinois Digital Archives.

I will leave you alone with Illinois Harvest. Enjoy.

© 2015, Debbie Mieszala. All rights reserved.

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6 Responses to Free Digital Collections: Illinois Harvest

  1. Kendra Schmidt says:

    Thank you for the fantastic article and information. I do have Illinois ancestors and will check out the website today. I am currently working on a blog about an ancestor who moved from NY to Illinois in 1836.

    • debbiemieszala says:

      You are welcome! Enjoy browsing it. There are many wonderful collections there, far more than I could mention.

      I hope that you find something interesting. A number of New Yorkers headed to Illinois around the time that your ancestor arrived.

  2. Thank you for a gold mine! For my first sampling I checked out “Illinois and the Civil War” and found a PDF copy of “Illinois at Vicksburg” reprinted in 1908. I have an ancestor who died in the siege at Vicksburg. He was mustered in at Golconda, Ill. into the Illinois Volunteers, 120th Infantry, Company E. This will be a great reference for learning what part they played in the conflict.

    • debbiemieszala says:

      That is great! You’re welcome. It is so fun to share resources that are helpful to others. I hope that others will do the same, so that we are all aware of the wealth of information available to us. Good luck with your Civil War research.

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