Wednesday, March 8, 2017

LIBRARIES and Genealogical Research

It will be no surprise to you that I LOVE libraries. Besides being a voracious reader, I have always turned to books when learning something new. Which is what I did when I started my family research all those years ago.

The small library in Caledonia, OH where I first caught
the reading bug.

And despite what you might have heard, libraries are alive and well and still a great place to start your genealogical research.

Libraries have local history materials specific to their area, basic genealogy resources, and genealogy databases that can be expensive to subscribe to privately. They also often offer genealogy classes along with the many other classes. And more and more, they are digitizing materials to make them even more accessible. 

AND, they have wonderful staff members just waiting to help you!  

Myself and Lisa Rienerth, Genealogy Specialists at the Medina Library.

Here are some helpful tips for getting the most out of genealogical research in libraries:

·        Employees of libraries are there to help you use the library’s resources, NOT to do your research for you.
·        Familiarize yourself with the library; its physical set-up, bathroom facilities, location of copiers and prices for copies, their policies, hours and restrictions. This information usually can be found on the library's web site. If it isn't, call and ask before you drive.
·        Just because something is in print, or on the Internet does not mean it is true! 
·        DO read "how to" books and learn the basics of genealogy research.
·        DO your homework before you go to the library. Fill out those pedigree charts and decide which person you're going to work on today.
·        DO have a specific goal in mind. Very specific, as in ONE piece of information on ONE individual who lived in ONE specific place at ONE specific time. 
·        DO bring your own pencils, paper, paper clips, change for the copiers and other supplies.
·        DO check the library's online catalog to know what resources to expect.
·        DO ask how to use the microfilm reader if you've never used it before.
·        DO thank the librarian for his/her help.
·        DON'T bring children with you when you research genealogy; they'll be bored and the other patrons may want to harm them. (This may apply to reluctant, take-along spouses, too.)
·        DON'T ask the librarian "Where's the book on my genealogy?" Chances are very good there's no such thing.
·        DON'T think you can do all your relatives in one day.
·        DON'T ask the librarian, "Can you make a copy of my genealogy for me?"
·        DON'T complain (if you're from out of town) because the library doesn't have "everything they have at home" or "everything they have in Salt Lake City." No library has unlimited funds.
·        DON'T put the books and microfilm away.

Types of Resources Available

General Reference contains genealogy “how-to” books, historical maps, guides on how to use the library and how to use the computers.

Indexes – many useful sources have been indexed and can point the way to the next step in your research.

Family Histories – While the chance of finding your own family in a printed family history is slim, if you do find your family, it can greatly assist your own research.  Use published family histories to provide direction for your own research. But remember that they can contain errors.  Often libraries have an index to all the family histories they own.

Regional Collections cover specific geographic areas, like a particular state county, or region.  Think "northeast Ohio".

Local Histories – can contain information on the formation and immigration into the area.  Often contain biographical sketches of early pioneers or leaders. Maps and atlases can help you locate your ancestors’ properties and learn who their neighbors were.

Military section lists all the different wars in which America has been involved.  Often, the indexes to the pension records are in this area.

Newspapers – Besides obituaries, birth and marriage notices, early papers often recount the social life of local inhabitants. Legal notices and real estate sales are reported in the paper.  It can be a time consuming but very rewarding search.

Magazines and newsletters – There are several national genealogical magazines, such as Ancestry and Your Genealogy. They contain excellent articles on the techniques and sources used in genealogy.  Nearly every genealogical or historical society published a newsletter which can contain local government records or family histories. PERSI is the most complete index to all of these newsletters and magazines.  It is produced by the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne Indiana

Databases - Most libraries subscribe to several genealogy databases, the most common ones being Ancestry Library Edition (the library version of, Heritage Quest, Newspaper Archives and Fold3.

Types of Libraries and Archives

Public Libraries – Small local libraries are good sources for general genealogy information and for local community history.  Larger public libraries can have quite extensive genealogy collections.  Even if your local public library does not have what you need, they may be able to obtain it for you through interlibrary loan (ILL.)  Most local history materials do not circulate and therefore aren’t available for ILL.  But if the book is indexed and if specific surnames are needed, most libraries will photocopy the necessary information.

Entrance to the Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library.
Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana is a prime example of a public library with an outstanding genealogy collection. It holds massive collections of censuses, city directories, family, state, county and town histories, passenger lists and one of the most complete collections of genealogical periodicals in the country.  Their staff has indexed these genealogical periodicals in the Periodical Source Index or PERSI.

Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
Family History Library and Family History Centers – Because of their belief in the eternal nature of families, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gathered genealogical records from all over the world to assist members in identifying their ancestors.  The main repository of these records is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The library’s collection contains microfilm, microfiche, books, serials and periodicals. Many of their microfilmed records result from their program of identifying and microfilming records of genealogical interest from all over the world.  Their Family History Centers provide local access to most of these materials through an interlibrary loan service.  You can search their records at their web site:

Historical and Genealogical Society Libraries – Local historical and genealogical societies can have very fine collections relating to their community.  State historical societies will have collections covering the entire state.  Some regional historical societies have national reputations for their excellence, i.e. New England Historic Genealogical Society , the Western Reserve Historical Society and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR.) 

The Ohio Genealogical Society Library in Bellville, Ohio.

Resources at the Ohio Genealogical Society

The DAR Library is one of the nation's premier genealogical research centers. In late 1998 the Library's book collection numbered some 150,000 volumes with approximately 5,000 new titles added to the Library each year.

State Archives and Libraries – Each state maintains a library or archive that houses the records that pertain to the state and its government. These holdings may include state censuses, state military, naturalization or passenger records. The material varies greatly from state to state. You can find which ones have a web site by consulting:

Library of Congress – The Library of Congress has one of
the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical
and local historical publications. The Library is rich in collections of manuscripts, microfilms, newspapers, photographs, maps, and published material.

The Library of Congress

National Archives – The National Archives is the repository of textual and microfilm records relating to genealogy, census, Revolutionary and Civil War Pensions, American Indians, pre-World War II military, the District of Columbia, the Federal courts, and Congress. The National Archives has 16 regional facilities that house the complete federal census and any unique records for the geographical area it serves. 

Have you been using libraries to their full potential??
Your library card- the passport to a wonderful world of genealogy research.


Renee Dunn said...

I love your photo with your beautiful smiles. It makes
one believe that searching for your family brings happiness!

Anonymous said... the children and husband notation!😊

Lisa said...

Love this blog! Great information, especially for beginners!