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Beginning Genealogy Lesson #7
Public & Private Library Sources

You have written inquiring about library resources, and oddly enough that is this week's scheduled topic for the Beginning Genealogy Lesson. Of course since the size and scope of collections vary from one library to another, you'll just have to review the library catalogs (hopefully online) to investigate the holdings of libraries in your region of country.

Find your local library's online catalog by going to: www.libdex.com.

As the federal government's goal of having every local public library "online" reaches farther into the hidden corners of our country, we're finding that library catalogs are easier to locate in advance of a research trip. Print out the items you know you'll want to review once you arrive. I'd recommend making handwritten notations right on that library catalog printout, about the name of the ancestor you expect to find when you look at the book in question.

Typically public libraries with some interest in genealogy will have something on these topics:

  • passenger list indexes
  • census indexes
  • military records indexes
  • printed family histories
  • local histories
  • local newspaper perhaps on microfilm
  • local cemetery listings
  • how-to books on genealogy & preservation
  • genealogy periodicals from commercial entities or genealogical societies
  • phone books and/or phone fiche (though "People Search" at www.yahoo.com is probably just as good.)
  • old city directories (before telephones list individuals by name, address, occupation, employer or as "widow of")
  • microfiche/microfilm
  • internet access
  • genealogy CD-ROMs
  • videos & tapes from local and regional genealogy seminars
  • meeting times and contact information of local genealogy & historical societies
  • vertical files or manuscripts collection (file folders by surname, topic or locality)

Be sure to look in the reference section, not just the genealogy department.

Our small library in Bradenton, Florida has the complete 1850 US Federal census on microfilm because the local genealogy society purchased it for the collection. The Orlando Public Library has ALL US Federal census microfilms, many census index books, but none of the Soundex microfilms because they take up more space than the census microfilms and there simply wasn't room!

You Never Know What You'll Find!
I have been quite fortunate as I've traveled with Audrey and Barbara to small southern libraries. Bartow, FL and Jonesborough, GA come to mind. Oddly enough, I've found things on my New York and Pennsylvania ancestors! I guess someone donated the books to the library? Or perhaps a group of transplanted northerners showed an interest in researching those states?

Case in Point - Florida Library has North Carolina & Baltimore, Maryland Info

A friend was just beginning to look at original documents to prove the family relationships his mother has collected and entered into PAF Personal Ancestral File (genealogy program).  Despite being in a Florida county library, we found information on his ancestors who are from:

Florida: Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough & Leon  counties
North Carolina - Caswell County
Maryland - early Baltimore County

We found that the reference librarian of the Eaton Florida Room of the Manatee Central Public Library had copied all Manatee County US Federal Census pages from microfilm, and placed them in binders on the shelf. We also found a typescript of local cemetery inscriptions, along with extensive details for the location and description of each cemetery. My friend now has about 23 previously unknown grave sites to visit and photograph to add to the family history.

We were delighted to find 2 index books for North Carolina wills, with several entries for his known ancestors, as well as others with the same unusual last name FOY. We photocopied all likely index entries, as well as the title page of the book for proper bibliographic citation. To learn more about the family relationships of the NC "possible" ancestors, we plan to order the microfilm of the original North Carolinawills thru the local LDS Family History Center.

At this Florida library we found "Baltimore County Families 1659-1759" by Robert W. Barnes. (Genealogical Publishing Company) had information on the POTEET/POTEE/POTEET family, including a man whose daughter was listed in his will as listed as Rebecca FOVY or FOYY.  Now the researcher's surname was FOY and that sounded pretty interesting. We have family bible info about the wife of our Thomas FOY who married a Rebecca PUTTEE who died in Trenton, Jones County, North Carolina in 1785, and was reputed to have been born in Baltimore circa 1705. This is a strong lead, owing to the unusual surnames, and the typical migration patterns we had discovered. Experienced researchers realize that spelling of names can vary, and these two are close enough to warrant further research!



Local Societies Can Play a Big Role
Most local genealogy societies have a team of members who act as volunteers at their local public library. The society may publish a special catalog of genealogy holdings, maintain an obit index for the local newspaper at the library, volunteer to resheve books or assist patrons in the genealogy section of the library, etc. Well-organized reference librarians will provide a map and handout describing the scope of the genealogy materials available. Society members will tend to know which libraries in the county or adjoining counties will have additional resources of interest to family historians.

Additionally, a public library may elect to belong to:

  • National Archives Microfilm Rental Program http://www.archives.gov/research/order/renting-microfilm.html which according to this website include:
    • Census Records
      • 1790-1930
    • Genealogical Revolutionary War Records
      • Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers, and the General Index to those records
      • Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files.
    • New Freedmen's Bureau Records

    Please call or write the Rental program to find which records are available

    You'd be able to order the microfilm through the public library, and view the film at the library once it arrives.

  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL) I heard of someone who was able to locate a priceless book published in the mid 1800s in Scotland, but he lived in Tampa, Florida. Because of the interlibrary loan process, this researcher was able to study the book without having to travel to Glasgow for the honor. Of course at the time he was the Director of Special Collections at the University of South Florida Library. Perhaps he was "trusted" more than the average library patron? Some ILL participating libraries will lend books to your local library on a "reference basis", meaning you will not be allowed to remove the ILL book from the library.

Locating books by title is merely a matter of using something called OCLC. www.OCLC.com  The OCLC is a computer database that assists you in finding books on genealogy, regimental histories and manuscripts through First Search, using the World Catalog of all participating libraries. This is often available at local public library, and through LUIS terminals at university libraries.

Our public library has library cards with bar codes. Because of that, our library has provided an online gateway, using that bar code, for access to OCLC. You can determine where a book on a desired topic is held, and and then discover if that library will loan you the book through interlibrary loan. You copy the information, and ask the reference librarian at your public library to process your interlibrary loan request. If your library doesn't provide OCLC access, use this link at the Library of Congress:  http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/oclcsearch.html

MHEP Historical LibrarySmall Private Libraries
During one research trip to Pennsylvania with Audrey & Barb, we visited the small private Mennonite Historical Library and Archives located at
565 Yoder Road, Harleysville, PA. Phone (215) 256-3020. Fax (215) 256-3023 info@mhep.org You can find out more by going to the website: http://www.mhep.org/library.html .

Since we were not members of the Mennonite Historical Society, we paid a few dollars each to use the library facilities. As always we took the time to take the orientation tour, and discovered to our delight a number of cemeteries had been "walked." That means that the tombstone transcriptions had been typed up, and filed in those .39 cent report covers like the kind we used in elementary school for our book reports. There were shelf after shelf of these little hand-typed report booklets, one for each cemetery in the county. It was a goldmine!

Vertical Files
When I go to a library, I make a point to check the vertical files first, since these folders contain unique letters, flyers, and photocopies of items not readily found elsewhere. These folders are housed in file cabinets by surname, locality or topic. These are things that aren't bound books, and are therefore not cataloged in the library's catalog of shelf holdings.

For instance, at the State Library of Pennsylvania, I found handwritten letters dating to the 1930s where individuals wrote detailing three or four generations back beyond their US Civil War ancestor. The author had asked that these letters would be included in the library's holdings. These are priceless first-hand reports of family relationships -- names, dates, localities. They simply would not have been available to me if I hadn't checked those vertical files. Just dive in and investigate!

There is a method for determining in advance what collections you'd expect to find a larger library's vertical files. You'll need to look at NUCMC - National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collection. http://lcweb.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/ "A free-of-charge cooperative cataloging program operated by the Library of Congress, the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) creates online records in the RLG Union Catalog on behalf of eligible archival repositories throughout the United States." Participating libraries merely catalog by author, title, description and notes (as short as 1 paragraph, or as long as three pages) each manuscript in their collection.

As a genealogist, you'd look for ancestors by name or by the place where the ancestors once lived. Using NUCMC you're likely to find something that is unbound, meaning not printed as a book on the topic you desire. NUCMC is an index that tells you which library in the US has the manuscript. Without this manuscript collection catalog, you'd never know about these one-of-a-kind items which would otherwise remain closeted away in file cabinet drawers or acid-free vaults. Imagine all that information lost to future generations.

Author:        Gist, Christopher, d. 1759.
Title:         A journal : manuscript, 1750-1751.
Description:   1 v. (87 leaves).
Notes:         Manuscript copy of Gist's account of his journey
                  that "began from Col. Cresap's, at the old town on Potomack
                  river, Maryland, October 31, 1750, continued down the Ohio,
                  within 15 miles of the Falls thereof; and from thence to
                  Roanoak River in North Carolina, where he arrived May 19,
                  1751; undertaken on the account of the Ohio company, and by
                  the instruction of their committee."
Subjects:      Gist, Christopher, d. 1759.
               Frontier and pioneer life -- Ohio River Valley.
               Indians of North America -- Ohio River Valley.
               Ohio River Valley -- Description and travel --
                  Early works to 1800
Other authors: University of Chicago. Library. Manuscript.
                  Durrett Codex 76
               Reuben T. Durrett Collection on Kentucky and the
                  Ohio River Valley (University of Chicago. Library)
Location:      ICU SpCl Mss DurrettCdx 76
Control No.:   ILCGHZ4025567-A

From this we see that the University of Chicago Library has this in its manuscript collection. I'd need to go there to obtain a copy or hire a Chicago researcher to do the job for me.

" Please Note: The NUCMC cooperative cataloging project began in 1959. From 1959 to 1993, the NUCMC catalog was produced as printed volumes. In 1986, NUCMC staff began using the RLG Union Catalog to produce its published catalog -- from 1986 - 1993, NUCMC records are available both online through RLG and in the printed volumes. Beginning in 1993, records created by NUCMC catalogers are only available in the RLG Union Catalog -- some are also available via OCLC."

For Further Reading:
FEverton, Lee. The Handybook for Genealogists 10th Edition. http://www.everton.com Logan, Utah: 2002, Lists major libraries in each state. For the state of Kentucky there are three pages of small print listing the societies and repositories with addresses, phone numbers and web pages where available.

  • KY Department of Libraries & Archives,
    Public Records Division
    300 Coffee Tree Road
    PO Box 537
    Frankfort, Kentucky 40602-0537
  • Filson Club
    1310 South Third Street
    Louisville, Kentucky 40533-8113 http://www.filsonhistorical.org/

FMorgan, George G. "Care & Feeding of Genealogy Librarians." Along Those Lines... Genealogy Column. Originally published in the Genealogy Forum on AOL. http://www.ancestry.com/columns/george/01-23-98.htm

FMorgan, George G. "Using Interlibrary Loan for Genealogical Research." Along Those Lines... Genealogy Column. Originally published in the Genealogy Forum on AOL. http://www.ancestry.com/columns/george/08-21-98.htm "Every genealogist knows that not every library can have everything. Not even the venerable Library of Congress has a copy of every item we'd like to access for our family research. Fortunately, however, there's something called Interlibrary Loan. Through reciprocal agreements, libraries lend materials to one another, usually at the request of patrons. "

FSzucs, Loretto Dennis & Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Revised Edition. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Incorporated. 1997. See index p. 801 for numerous entries such as: Family History Library, genealogical societies, historical societies, Library of Congress, Newberry Library, other specific libraries and topics including: business directories, catalogs, census records, church records, city directories, city land records, court minutes and reports, credit reports, ethnic & religious group research, family record collection, foreign-language newspaper collections, guides for research, immigration records, land records, local urban research, map collections, Native American records, newspapers, research addresses, state university, church affiliated libraries, etc.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy

1995-2005 Pat Richley HOME | Ask | Blog | BookShelf | ContactLessons | Listen | Add to My Yahoo | PodCast media RSS feed | Read | Search | RSS feed
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