Thursday, January 7, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge 1

Challenge #1 in the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy is as follows: Go to your local public library branch. Make a note of the genealogy books in the collection that may help you gain research knowledge.

I chose a library branch that is local to me from my place of employment. The Colbern Road Branch is the library I visit most often when checking out books and is part of the Mid-Continent Library System. The Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri is the jewel of this system, in my humble opinion. While I do have access to such a superb facility (20 minute drive from work) I have only visited a handful of times since the opening in June of 2008. I do need to spend more time there, but real life always seems to get in the way. As many genealogists do not have such a facility within a close proximity, I chose to describe what is more generally thought of as a local public library.

I first went directly to the genealogy section and found 52 books directly relating to that subject. Many of these books are well known and easily recognizable: The Source, They Came In Ships and The Family Tree Guide Book. There is a good selection of books specific to an area of a country or heritage like My Confederate Kinfolk and Scott's, Clans & Tartans. The biography section is extensive and includes biographies on both famous and not-so-famous individuals.

I found cemetery transcription books from a local genealogical society as well as several town histories compiled by societies as well as by individuals. Additionally, historical newspaper headlines from throughout the county had been compiled and published by the county historical society. All of these great sources of information were in the regular stacks, I hadn't made it to the reference section yet.

While the reference section may not have held as many tools considered to be genealogy specific the value is there. Books detailing geography, atlas' and world, country and state history books are an essential resource for any genealogist and help to put our ancestors in proper context. After spending the time really looking at the offerings I realized how much I have missed in the way of source information. I must now take the time to explore further and open the covers of some of these books.

The library has a research area set up specifically for genealogists near the reference section. There were three computer workstations (providing access to genealogy and history related databases) and one microfilm reader (I must look at the microfilm options available). A bulletin board held newsletters from the Midwest Genealogy Center as well as from a local historical society. For the patrons use blank census and other research forms were provided.

This small branch library definitely provides a researcher with a quality selection of genealogical materials. I found the three computer workstations to be generous and the ability to view microfilm and huge plus!