The Allure of Libraries
With so much focus in genealogy on internet searches, it is important to remember that libraries can be very helpful in your search for ancestry. Some libraries are set up specifically for genealogy while others have a room or section dedicated to family history. While many libraries offer information online, there’s nothing quite like sitting down with a book of records or turning the crank of a microfilm reader as you look for the information you seek.
Books While this may seem obvious, books can serve as one of the best resources. Records, stories, ledgers, and histories can be found within the pages of books dedicated to a certain state, city, or county. Books with pictures showing the historical progression of a certain area can be illuminating – giving you a look into the past. These comprehensive histories can offer you much more detailed information than a few scanned pages on the internet.
Family Files Some libraries contain books written about specific family histories. Many smaller libraries encourage family members to contribute their genealogical findings to the library so that they can keep a file for future family genealogists to explore. These files may contain pages from family bibles, family trees, and pictures. Not only are these files good for posterity, they allow you to help other family members on their journey to know their past.
Maps If your ancestors owned land in their time, maps will show you exactly where and how much they possessed. Maps can also show you if county lines were redrawn or if their names changed over time. This could be helpful if you wanted to plan a trip to see your ancestral lands or just get an idea of where your people first settled.
Microfilm/Microfiche Microfilm and microfiche allow you to read the news and records of a particular time and place. Newspaper articles, baptism records, and tax rolls all can be found on microfilm/microfiche. These resources may offer you a more complete record rather than only finding an index online. Not only can you find out about your own family, but you can find out about the time they lived in and the happenings they lived through.
Librarians/Researchers City librarians and genealogical library researchers can be extremely knowledgeable about your area – they can help you learn more about the city/county, may be familiar with local families and their histories, and can give you advice or ideas to help you broaden or narrow down your search. Being able to actually speak with someone concerning your search can help you in ways that different internet search terms cannot. Hearing stories, learning one-on-one, and receiving counsel from a librarian/researcher can make genealogy an even more personal endeavor.
Online searches may make genealogy more accessible but not every file has been digitized and put on the internet. And not everyone has the right kind of membership that would allow them to get the information that they need. Libraries are free to use and contain a great deal of information that will prove quite useful to every family genealogist.