The Internet has apparently taken over for genealogical research – and I say “apparently” because there are wonderful resources which can be overlooked by beginners building their family trees. The Internet helps with speedy correspondence, searching documents online, finding others researching the same ancestors, and more.
You, the taxpayer, pay for the resources which may be found at your local library, so go and explore what is available to area residents with a library card. Since genealogy (the study of family descent) is becoming a popular hobby, your library is likely to have a “fact sheet” about what is available in books, databases, articles, and more. However, here are a few specific ideas on how to use your local libraries for genealogy research.
Your Public Library:
– Databases. Many libraries have purchased at least one commercial database, such as Ancestry.com or HeritageQuest.com. These are particularly useful to help you as you begin to learn how to search online databases. What’s a database? A collection of documents which have been transcribed/scanned; the collection may be parish registers, state or country-wide census records, military draft card, grave locations and information, old histories of certain cities or places, and more.
– Books, books, and more books. Your library will likely have a variety of books to teach you how to search for ancestors, as well as how to cite your sources correctly. In addition, local history books may be available to add details to your ancestors’ lives. Never forget that your library can also request additional books from other libraries through an inter-library loan request – this is another excellent way for you to get a specific book from a library too far away for you to visit.
– Newspapers. Central libraries have likely made copies of newspapers (in a microfiche form) of your local area. This can be a wonderful source of information for genealogy research. For example, an obituary may confirm dates of birth/death, give residences in the past, affiliation with service organizations, military service, names of married daughters, names of all children and grandchildren, where buried, and much more. There may be society records of your ancestors, as old newspapers often listed who was visiting or travelling; particularly if your ancestors lived in a relatively small town.
– Librarians. Librarians love to research and find information for library patrons! That is why they went into the profession, after all. Remember that your librarian may be your best resource for how to do the next step, or find another book, or where a newspaper’s historical records are kept. Ask. Ask a librarian.
Your Local Genealogy Society:
– Libraries. That’s right – libraries. Most genealogy societies, particularly state/provincial ones, have libraries with books, maps, databases, articles, and so much more. Since the library may be staffed only by volunteers from the society, their hours may be limited, but it is very worth while to make visits to see if their resources are relevant to your ancestors history. Some societies will have their library offerings in a database that you can search online, or at the library itself. A membership in the society is money well-spent, and you will find many like-minded helpful researchers, including several professional genealogists as well!
– Society Publications. Many genealogy societies publish specific books or booklets on topics relevant to the area – or general topics of help to many researchers. Again, these publications can be immensely helpful to the beginner, and may be available at the library, or for purchase.
– Volunteers. There may be others in the library who are able to assist you in looking for specific or general information. If you are a beginner to family tree research, you may need to ask how to use the information that is available. Most people are very helpful and willing to assist your beginning research.
Family History Centres (FHC):
These are centres run by the local Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) for genealogy research. Their libraries and databases are available to everyone who wishes to use them, which makes them immensely helpful. The Central Library (Utah) is the world’s largest repository of genealogical research databases. If you wish a specific database record (e.g., parish registers in Scotland before 1850), the records can be brought in from the Central Library for a very small fee. NOTE: Records may also be requested from your public library for a small fee as well.
– Library. Each FHC has its own basic library of resources, books, files, microfiche records and more. They have limited hours of operations, but if you know generally what you are looking for, they can be very useful resources.
– Volunteers. As genealogy research is a basic skill needed for those of the Mormon faith, the volunteers at the FHC are likely to have good tips on researching with the available resources. Again, ask if you are confused.
There are many other Libraries which you may be able to access, such as local college/university libraries or local newspaper archives and more. However these three libraries will provide you with a great deal of high-quality documents and information about your ancestors and their lives.
For more information: RootsBasic may be your next step. Use a simple yet very practical booklet as your guide: RootsBasic, Genealogy for Beginners. Packed with tips and strategies, RootsBasic will help you be proud of your family tree research. The 16 handy forms included provide practical methods for you to keep track of your research, your specific ancestors, sources, correspondence, and more. Whether you are a first-time family tree researcher, or have been building your tree for some time, you will find information you can use immediately to help move your ancestor research forward.