ChicagoAncestors.org: Relaunched and Revamped! | Newberry

ChicagoAncestors.org: Relaunched and Revamped!

Free online tool for genealogical and historical research provides users with enhanced features for their work.

“Michigan Avenue at Night,” 1948.

September 2016

The Newberry Library has relaunched ChicagoAncestors.org, a searchable map for historical and genealogical research. The website, free and accessible to the public, offers users a map linked to numerous data points for historical events, places, images, and stories that can be searched by keyword, address, collection, or neighborhood. In addition to these features from the original version of the site, the revamped site now includes a larger and more legible map, scholarly articles on history and genealogy, moderated user contributions, and an advanced search function. Additional resources include historical maps, city directories, street number conversion guides, and links to further research materials.

When the Newberry first launched ChicagoAncestors in 2007, the site invigorated genealogical research. It took geolocated data from the Newberry’s genealogy databases and made them searchable by address. Investigating the history of a neighborhood or the missing branches of a family tree, researchers could scan the resulting map for a variety of materials, including postcards depicting a specific intersection, records from a former Lutheran church, protest flyers issued by local unions, and archival photographs taken along Chicago railway routes.

In 2014, the site lost substantial functionality. But this year, with support from the Institute for Museum and Library Studies, the Newberry rebuilt the site not just to restore functionality but to improve and expand its capabilities.

“The latest version of ChicagoAncestors builds upon the original features of the site to provide researchers with greatly enhanced pathways to historical and genealogical discovery,” says Matt Rutherford, the Newberry’s Curator of Genealogy and Local History. “With a larger map containing more data, ChicagoAncestors 2.0 allows users to access historical artifacts and see how they relate to one another in a hyper local space over time. We’ve designed the site to accommodate a variety of user experiences. Whether you’re producing new scholarship on Chicago history, exploring your family roots, or just curious about the origins of Chicago, you can find something fascinating or unexpected.”

For users who would like to go beyond the website, ChicagoAncestors links to collection catalog records and finding aids, so they have the resources to continue their research with the primary documents in person.

Popular with genealogists and Chicago historians, the resource is free and encourages users to contribute the results of their own research to the growing fount of knowledge. The connections to primary documents and digital resources will help researchers dig deeper into the past, which in turn will help expand the collection of knowledge available to the next user of ChicagoAncestors.org.