Sunday, July 31, 2011

Homestead National Monument of America

One evening during the conference, we had dinner at the Homestead National Monument.  The food was unremarkable, but the monument is kinda cool. I hadn't heard of it, but it's actually dedicated to a piece of legislation, the Homestead Act of 1862, which offered free land to anyone who could tame 160 acres of raw wilderness with a house, cultivated crops, and five years of residence.

There are two especially interesting things about the monument.  First, they have a dramatic new building with very well done displays and an interpretive film.  If you go in the evening, you may see a spectacular sunset framed in the windows.

Second, they have teamed with Family Search, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and to digitize and index all the homestead application records at NARA.  Considering that they think that something like 70 million people today descend from homesteaders, and that homestead records can contain genealogically valuable information, I think that's great news!

I also think it's great to see how the National Park Service is trying to reach out to more than just tourists and schoolchildren.  Linking the National Archives' historical records with the NPS historical interpretation resources has a lot of potential to make genealogy a lot more fun.

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