The Genealogy Center: Elevenses with Lisa Episode 31
If you’re looking for a wide array of free online genealogical records for your family history, look no further than then Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It’s the second largest genealogy library in the country. In addition to the in-house collection, the Genealogy Center offers a vast amount of free digitized resources through their website and partnerships with other websites.
I invited Allison Singleton, Senior Librarian at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana to the show. She is taking us on our tour of the website and sharing her tips and strategies for finding genealogy gems. Watch the video and follow along the highlights with the show notes below:
What is the Genealogy Center?
The Genealogy Center has one of the largest genealogy research collections available, incorporating records from around the world. The staff specializes in genealogy and is always available to help. Visit the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne Indiana.
About the Genealogy Center Brochure
What Does the Genealogy Center Website Offer?
There’s a lot to explore at the Genealogy Center website. Let’s start with the top-level menu on the Home page. Here we’ll find links to important resources such as:
- Genealogy Community
- Life StoriesPathfinders
Let’s take a closer look to a few in addition to other free resources available through the large colored buttons on the home page.
The Genealogy Community is the place to ask questions, sign up for their e-newsletter, and follow them on social media. They are extremely active on Facebook. You can also learn more about and get in touch with the staff of seasoned family history librarians.
PathFinders is a great place to start your family history search. It provides very small snapshots of what the Genealogy Center has in their collection for any given location or topic. Snapshot categories include:
- State Snapshots
- Subject Snapshots
- International Snapshots
Click on the logo from any page to return to the website’s Home page.
Free Databases at the Genealogy Center Website
The Genealogy Center does not interlibrary loan materials. Their collection is reference only. The website is the perfect place to plan your next visit. That being said, much of their invaluable collection has and is being scanned by Internet Archive and FamilySearch. If it is out of copyright, they work to get it online. So there’s plenty to find from the comfort of your own home.
You can find their Free Databases by clicking Resources on the home page and then Free Databases. These are all searchable and include digitized images that can be viewed from home.
In the Free Databases section you’ll find gateways to other specific areas including African-American and Native American. These provide an excellent place to start your research.
Family Bibles at the Genealogy Center Website
Navigation: Our Resources > Free Databases > Family Bibles
The Genealogy Center actively collects scans of family bible records pages.
Learn more about researching family Bibles for family history in Elevenses with Lisa episode 29.
You can donate more than just money to the Genealogy Center. They are also looking for research donations. Donating is a great way to make your genealogy research materials easily accessible to your family and other researchers. You’ll find Donations in the main menu on the Home page.
- Donated digitized materials are freely available online on their website.
- They are actively digitize records.
- You can even bring your materials into the library and they will digitize them. You can then keep the originals.
- You can also send in your own digitized scans.
Military Records at the Genealogy Center Website
Navigation: Our Resources > Free Databases > Our Military Heritage
They are actively collecting military information for inclusion in their collection. The collection includes many unique items donated by other family historians.
Copyright and Usage
The materials on their website are under copyright. You can view one page at a time. However, you can copy and print like you would if you were visiting the library. Include a source citation including the donor name. If in doubt about usage, contact the Genealogy Center.
Searching for Genealogy Center Content
The website is new (in 2020) so Google may not pick up everything in search. Use the website search field to search the entire collection.
Allison’s Catalog Search Tips:
- When search the Allen County Public Library catalog, don’t use common words such as county and city.
- Also, don’t use the plural form of words. For example, use directory not directories.
- After running the search, on the left side of the page under “I only want” filter your results to only the Genealogy Center by clicking Branch and then
- If an item is digitized, you will see a Web Link under More Info.
Lisa’s Search Tip: Use Control + F (PC) or Command +F (Mac) to quickly find words in a long list on a results page.
On-Site Databases at the Genealogy Center
You can only access on-site databases while in the library. No library card is required. The library does not offer an online subscription service.
Getting Help Online for Offline Resources
Navigation: On the homepage click Genealogy Community > Ask a Librarian. Here you can send brief questions and requests.
Family History Archives
Navigation: Click Family History Archives on the Home page and you’ll find links to other websites hosting Genealogy Center digitized content. Partners include:
- FamilySearch (Public Access)
- The Internet Archive (over 110,000 items)
City Directories at the Genealogy Center
City Directories are a wonderful way to fill in information between census years. The Genealogy Center has the largest collection of city directories in the country. They are in both book form and microfilm.
The city directory collection cover across North American and even includes some international directories.
Compiled Family Histories at the Genealogy Center
Compiled family histories help you stand on the shoulders of other accomplished researchers. They have approximately 70,000 physical books. There are also family histories digitized and on the website. Search for the surname and include the word family. On the results page, filter down to Branch > Genealogy.
Free Consultations and Paid Professional Services
Navigation: Home > Our Services > Consultations.
The Genealogy Center offers free (yes, you read that right!) 30-minute consultations with a Genealogy Center librarian. Consultations are held by Zoom, phone or email. You don’t even have to be a library card holder! Prepare well to get the most from your consultation.
You can also hire staff at the Genealogy Center to do more extensive research for you. Another option is to request a list of local professional researchers. Visit Our Services > Forms > Research Form
PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)
Navigation: Home > Our Resources > Onsite Databases > PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)
PERSI offers a very wide range of periodicals, some of which are very unique and niche. The PERSI index is hosted by Findmpast. Search the index for free from home at Findmypast. Some of the items require a subscription.
Allison provided some excellent insider strategies for searching PERSI:
- Articles are indexed by title.
- Don’t search by keyword or “Who”.
- Most people aren’t named in the article titles. Focus on location.
You can order the articles from the Genealogy Center. $7.50 for each form which includes up to six articles. Go to Our Services > Forms > Article Fulfillment.
Get My Free Genealogy Gems Newsletter – click here.
findmypast now has a Library Edition available within the United States. Patrons of subscribing libraries can now have access to their billions of records from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
Highlights of what you’ll find on findmypast Library Edition include:
- Largest online collection of U.K. parish records;
- Exclusive access to the new PERiodical Source Index (now with images);
- Most comprehensive Irish family history records in the world.
Findmypast’s version of PERSI, the Periodical Source Index, includes more than 2.5 million indexed entries from thousands of genealogical and local history publications–AND a growing number of digitized articles! Click here to read more about PERSI, which we love.
Here’s How You Can Use FindMyPast for Free
We asked Josh Taylor at FMP how subscribers and non-subscribers can use the Library Edition:
1) “FMP subscribers can login to their own accounts while at the library.”
2) “Also, library users who are not paid subscribers can create a free account that allows them to create a tree, store, and attach records they view while at the library. The free account works like a standard Findmypast account so can be used at home to access their tree (and even get automatic hints).”
We’ve blogged about the Hints feature here at Genealogy Gems.
- 5 Genealogy Resources to Look For at YOUR Public Library;
- A three-part series on visiting free local Family History Centers in our FREE Family History Made Easy podcast, episodes 17-19;
- This post on the MyHeritage Library Edition, now available at Family History Centers; and
- Use your iPad for Genealogy Research at the Family History Library.
Finally, here’s an important tip: let your voice be heard at your public library! They need to know how many people care about genealogy and family history. They need to know what databases you’re most interested in accessing. In an era of struggle for many public libraries, they have to prioritize their energies, so tell them what you want to learn!