Genealogical collections exist at a variety of levels within the library community. Most main branches of public library systems offer some level of genealogical and/or local history research capability. Genealogical collections can also be found in many academic libraries. Most inter-library loan requests are often filled from the collections held by academic libraries.
Many genealogists overlook academic/university libraries as resources. These libraries can be very useful for special collections aimed at a specific locality, region, historical period, ethnic group, or families from people who became successful on a national and/or worldwide scope. Another advantage academic/university libraries offer is remote access to their holdings. When using academic libraries, please remember that the subject of genealogy tends to be listed under the heading of social history and statistics.
The types of resources available for research will vary from one library to another. The following list is a small representation of what may be included in genealogical collections:
Subscription databases such as Heritage Quest, Ancestry Library Edition, Family Search, Fold3, and Ethnic specific sites
Family Search Affiliate Libraries: An affiliate library cooperates with Family Search International to help patrons have access to the enhanced version of the Family Search database. A major benefit of being an affiliate library is access to additional digital records not available outside a family history center, an affiliate library, or from home using the regular www.familysearch.org site. These digital records include images and names indexes.
Historical editions of newspapers
Port of entry and/or ship passenger list indexes
Online indexes to local, regional, or national newspapers
Neighborhood, town, city, and county histories
Published family histories
Family history manuscript collections
Files compiled by local genealogists
Vertical files on local history miscellaneous items
Collections from the local and surrounding genealogical societies
Local business information (contemporary and historical)
County, city, church, or business directories
Yearbooks for area schools including colleges, trade schools, and private schools
Local organizations records (both current and historical)
Church records or abstracts of the records
Lists of area residents who served in the military
Cemetery records and/or tombstone inscriptions
Scrapbooks donated by local families
Maps and historical atlases
Local census records and indexes online and print
Research Tips When Using Libraries
Regardless of the type of library you are planning on visiting, preparation is the key to success. Unless you are independently wealthy, most people have limited time and travel budgets. The following research tips may help make you visit more profitable in terms of time and research success.
To begin your library search, select the family line that interests you the most.
Professional genealogists will always recommend selecting the branch or individual you know the most about.
Study the library website prior to your visit and look for the following features: a. Browse the library collection by author, title, subject, or locality b. Collection size and scope. c. Orientation video or collection brochure of services, fees, research options, etc. d. Collection tours and orientation upon arrival e. Policies concerning mail, fax, or e-mail queries f. Ask a Librarian feature for brief reference questions g. Hours of operation for the genealogy and local history collection h. Photocopy and digital camera use guidelines. i. Links to the local genealogical and/or historical society. j. Links to lodging facilities in the immediate vicinity of the facility.
Formulate a research plan for your pending visit.
For more information on this topic, feel free to contact me for a free scanned copy of my study guide Genealogical Research in Libraries 2021.
Bryan L. Mulcahy Reference/Genealogy Librarian Fort Myers Regional Library email@example.com 12/28/2021