Family History Episode 34 – Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 1

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished June 3, 2014

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh34.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 34: Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 1

Did you know there is a gem of a genealogical resource right in your own backyard? Well, at least in your own neighborhood—and also in just about every neighborhood where your ancestors lived. The public library is one of the most underestimated sources of genealogical information around! It’s free. It has better hours than most government-run agencies. There are staff with research skills, knowledge of their locale and knowledge about their collections. I have invited Patricia Van Skaik, Manager of the History and Genealogy Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to join us here on the podcast.  In this episode she’s going to give us the inside scoop on the unique genealogical resources that are tucked away in public libraries just waiting to be discovered.

What’s at the library?

Each library has unique materials for its locale. Examples include:

  • City directories
  • Maps
  • Obituary indexes
  • Partnerships with local societies and clubs, and organizations (access to databases)
  • Unique library expertise

TIP: Check with the public libraries in each location where your ancestors lived TIP: Genealogy holdings vary, and often have to do with what local constituents want.

TIP: Get involved and make requests at your local library if you want more genealogy resources.

How to prepare for your visit

  • Determine your questions ahead of time and gather the appropriate ancestor information to take with you.
  • See if they have a genealogy area on the website. There are lots of things on the library website that are not in the catalogue (special exhibits, digitized images, and databases)  Don’t just jump straight to the catalogue.

Search the online catalog and identify the books and resources you want

  • Look for the geographic area, not the person’s surname (town, county, geographical area)
  • Use the Advanced search – “you don’t have to be an advanced researcher to use the advanced search!”
  • Don’t use the word “genealogy” in your search.  It’s pretty useless.

4 more tips from Lisa and Patricia

Email in advance – ask some questions ahead of time:

  • Is the website up to date?
  • Reconfirm hours of operation
  • Parking?
  • What’s the best time to come for more service?
  • Is wi-fi available?
  • Do you need change for copy machines?
  • Are there any special collections you should know about?
  • Do they offer orientations?

Plan a group visit: Some libraries will make special accommodations for a group visit. Ask if they will provide a tour geared to genealogy. And they may have a meeting room where you can have lunch or meet. It’s a small investment in time and money to make sure that you’re going to get the most of the time you’re going to spend there.

Get their expertise! Librarians don’t just know the collection, but they also know research strategy, collection contents, all the questions that have come before, and local area resources.

Phrase your questions for success: Pose questions in terms of a query. For example: “I’m trying to find evidence of someone’s death during this time frame. What materials do you have that may help?” (Don’t just ask specifically for obituaries or government death records—they may not have one but they may have other resources you’re not thinking of.)

Tune in next week to Episode 35 to learn more about researching at the public library, like tips for advance searching those online card catalogs, thinking like a librarian, unique collections at librarians and the types of questions you can ask your public library staff.

Europeana for Genealogy: WWI Digital Archive, Newspapers and More

Europeana digital archive WWIEuropeana is a digital doorway to European cultural heritage that everyone with European roots will find interesting and enlightening.

Funded by the European Commission and Ministries of Culture in 21 member states, the Europeana website is home to nearly: 19 million images; 13 million texts (including books, archival papers and newspapers); half a million each sound and video files and 16,000 3-D models of objects.

Europeana’s World War I Digital Archive

A major part of Europeana is its World War I digital archive. As the site describes, Europeana “has been running World War I family history roadshows around Europe, helping to digitize people’s stories, documents and memorabilia from 1914-1918. People can upload their own digitized items onto the Europeana1914-1918.eu site. In 2014, the centenary of WWI, 100,000 images and scans have already come into Europeana, creating a virtual memory bank that reflects all perspectives on the conflict.”

Europeana 1989 and the Fall of the Iron Curtain

A sister site, Europeana 1989, collects “stories, pictures, films relating to the events of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe.” You can upload your own materials or, as the site says, “let us take you on a journey through the Fall of the Iron Curtain, see it from all sides and draw your own conclusions.”

The top countries to supply images to Europeana are Germany, France and the Netherlands, each with more than 3.5 million items, and then Spain, Sweden, Italy and the U.K. The site attracted 4 million unique visitors last year. Click here to read a guide to using Europeana for genealogy and local history research.

Historical Newspapers at Europeana

Historical newspapers are another great source for genealogical and historical research. Europeana now includes the Europeana Newspapers collection which features hundreds of newspaper titles and millions of newspaper pages, spanning four centuries and 20 countries from across Europe. In addition to viewing digitized newspaper pages, many now support readable text files. These files allow you to keyword search within their contents. You can zero in on these files by using feature called ‘Search for records with full text’.

Europeana’s Newspaper Collection offers a variety of ways to access and use the content including:

It’s worth investing a few minutes in reviewing the historical newspapers guides at Europeana In order to get the most from the collection. The helpful guides explain how to navigate, search, find, and reuse Newspapers content.

More at Europeana

Other Europeana links to try:

  • The Europeana portal is the search engine for the digitised collections of museums, libraries, archives and galleries across Europe.
  • Our Virtual Exhibitions feature highlights from the collection.
  • Follow the Europeana blog to keep updated on the projects and progress of this rapidly-growing resource for European family history.

 

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