Genealogy Research at the Library

Using The Public Library To Research Family History And Genealogy

Genealogy and researching family history are quickly becoming one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. With information at our fingertips, researching family names, and plotting the geographic timelines or locations of the various branches of family trees has never been more convenient.

But where do you start?

Back in the Stone Age, when computers were expensive and not available for public use, genealogy was a massive undertaking, and involved going through dusty tomes, writing letters to relatives, and spending hours in city and county archives in various states. This amounted to a ton of time consumed by travel and waiting.

Now that we have the Internet, and most public libraries are interconnected, you can do your research from one computer at your local library – and in some cases, you can even browse archives from the convenience of your home computer or laptop.

It used to be that families stayed in a very small radius for generations at a time. This was due to a strong sense of community, the high cost of traveling, and basic technology kept jobs local. It wasn’t uncommon to find streets named after families who had existed in towns and cities for a very long time. People would be born in a small town, go to school and marry their classroom sweethearts, and then take a local job and the cycle would continue.

These days, families disperse at a much faster rate, and often the availability of employment is the driving factor. With many people going off to college and then getting a job in their respective field, it isn’t out of the ordinary to find a family that used to exist in one town for many decades to suddenly have the latest generation hopping from state to state or growing roots of their own everywhere across the country.

If you have a last name go start with, you can ask your parents or close relatives about other maiden names and where those relatives lived before moving to their current locations. From there, you can get a genral sense of where your relative have lived, and maybe even their countries of origin before settling in the United States.

Even with this cursory knowledge, you can go to your local public library and begin to search the history archives regarding those relative. From there, you can spider out and look at other geographic locations where your family has lived.

If you find out that your more distant relatives have lived elsewhere in the country, you can make a request from your public library to another one in a different town or even state to browse their archives, resident registries, and other documentation that you can print out at home or right there at the library for your personal use. In no time, through the use of the information at your public library, you will become an expert on your family history. Genealogy has never been easier than by sitting down at a computer in your public library and plugging in a few names and dates.

Names and dates are simple database queries that will help you make a good working list of family members, but what about the details that aren’t just simple searches? What about marriage records, police reports, or outstanding achievements of relatives that were mentioned in old newspapers?

Many of you who grew up in a time before the Internet may remember looking things up on microfiche and filling out inter-library loan forms to get information to use in your reports that wasn’t immediately available in your location. Well, public libraries have taken this to the next step. By scanning old newspaper articles, the local obituary index, and registry books into electronic files (many of them with searchable text), you can now get access to the documents you need for your genealogy project with just a few clicks, rather than waiting for weeks and sometimes months for the family history information you need. Now you have names, dates, photos, and locations at your disposal, so you can begin charting that family tree of yours like no one has been able to do before.

Communications technology has come a long way from where it was just a decade ago. The public library has always been the place to go for most types of research, and it still is. Between the connectivity between public libraries and the availability of public documents and records – in addition to the ease of locating and sharing such information, it’s no wonder that genealogy is skyrocketing. Youcan even find organizations at your public library to share family history. What was once perceived as an impossible hobby, with the options at your local library, is now bringing us together much like the family communnity of yore. There’s nothing keeping you from researching your own family history. Genealogy is a fascinating hobby, so get over to your public library and start researching today!

You may be surprised by who you’re related to.

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