On Day 30 of Family History Month, use the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) for genealogy searches. It’s free, regardless of where you live, and has more than 45 million items coming from over 2,000 institutions. DPLA doesn’t host the original collections but it helps you find collections and then points you to the hosting institution.

 DPLA OnGenealogy


At DPLA, you type a query in the “Search the Library” window, then look through the results page and select which item you wish to view and you’ll be taken to the hosting institution.

It’s an easy way to search multiple institutions at once and have the best chance of returning a “hit.”

DPLA for genealogy searches

You can filter your searches in many ways. Here I searched for “City Directories” and I’ll have the option to refine my search.

DPLA search city directories

DPLA found more than 120,000 City Directories (a pretty broad search) and on the left column some ways to refine this search include:

  • Subject

  • Location (City Directories from New York for example)

  • Language

  • Contributing Institution

  • Partner (this filter searches by which partner accessed and shared the collection)

  • Type (text, image, etc)

  • Date (helpful to specify the date range that interests you)

Here I’ve refined my search by location (Brooklyn, New York, NY) and date (1750-1800) and now DPLA shows 313 results (and the results all came from one partnering institution, The New York Public Libary, in case I suspect other institutions should have these directories and I want to go to their websites and do a thorough review).

DPLA Refined search


You might also enjoy the free digital exhibitions created by DPLA staff using collections from institutions across the United States.

DPLA exhibitions

Visit their App Library to learn about apps currently available using DPLA or how to become an app developer. And be sure to follow the Digital Public Library of America on Facebook and Twitter. Happy Family History Month and best in your searches!

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