Libraries are so much more than books these days. Libraries are culture centers and one group of culture seekers that frequent libraries (particularly public libraries) are family genealogists. These people are often seeking help and information in both digital and personal forms. This is how a library can help a amateur genealogist or family historian.
So Librarians are professionally trained to help you find all kinds of information. This goes beyond finding the latest Faye Kellerman novel. Librarians are usually specialists who hold a bachelors degree in something. The most common bachelor’s degrees I have come across are English, History and other social sciences majors. The background in a social science (regardless of type) allows us to help conduct research and find relevant information. I myself have a degree in History from Western University.
When combining the social sciences background with a Library sciences background we begin to compound our knowledge. Librarians are specialists in navigating the internet. Some of the classes I took in Library school can be of great assistance when looking for family history or genealogical files. I have taken classes on Government Information, Database Searching, and Archival studies. What all this means is a librarian is very well equipped to help guide you in your search. This does not only apply to me but all librarians.
The Library – Physical
Many libraries have genealogical sections in their library. This will sometimes include archival records, books and guides on the how to of genealogy or local history books. At the Point Alexander branch of the Laurentian Hills Library I have taken it upon myself to rebuild our genealogical section of books. Most the titles we had had been neglected for a few years and I am in the process of restoring that section of the library. Currently there are 3 titles in the genealogical section. One is a Beginner’s Guide to Online Genealogy. This is a great resource for those just delving into online resources and whom are unsure what is available and where to find good information. Another resource is Family Photo Detective by Maureen Taylor. This is a newer book that also looks at how to find genealogical clues in old photographs. The third book is an older book from 2004 that has been kept for its staying relevance – “Digitizing your Family History” a guide to maintaining family heirlooms and other relevant documents so that future genealogists may enjoy them.
We also carry a good selection of local history books. These local history books can be a general guide to finding more about the places your family has been and can sometimes give insight into the person you are looking at in your family tree. We carry several local history books/series and magazines including: Carol Bennett’s series of books about the Ottawa Valley which includes Peter Robinson’s Settlers, The Lanark Society Settler’s, and Eganville. We also have Renfrew County People and Places, as well as Tamarack Magazine: a history of the Valley and Your Genealogy magazine a monthly publication that is a great guide for genealogists.
These are just current offerings. On back order for the new year I plan on expanding the Genealogical offering’s including: Online Genealogy for Dummies, Genealogy Ontario: Searching the Records and Who Do You Think You Are: The Genealogy Handbook.
The Library – Digital:
So now for the good stuff. Most of the offerings in the library are the how, I’m going to talk about resources. Many people are under the assumption that everything is online now. This is an incorrect assumption. Only %2 of human knowledge is available online. In the case of genealogy it may be slightly higher. Online genealogy makes it easier for the family genealogist to just sit at home in front of a computer and do genealogical research. Like everything online there are good places and bad places to look…I’m going to focus on the good resources.
Ancestry.com/.ca/library edition – The Laurentian Hills public Library subscribes to Ancestry.com library edition. It is a collection of most of the best parts of Ancestry.com/.ca without you having to shell out money to use it. All you need is a library card. Ancestry.com as off June 2014, reported having access to approximately 16 billion historical records. User-submissions included more than 70 million family trees and subscribers have added more than 200 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories.
Family Search – Family Search.org is a free to use genealogical resource. Familysearch.org is the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). It is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history.
Library & Archives Canada – Library & Archives Canada is Canada’s Archive. It has many records recently uploaded online and freely available including Birth records, death records, immigration and military records. All of this is available through the Genealogy and Family history section of the site. You can also peruse the site by type of record your looking for such as Home Children and Old Census Records.
Canadagenweb.org – this is a volunteer database of Cemeteries across Canada. You can find records for over 18,000 cemeteries. It is a great resource if you are looking for a family plot. It includes gravestone pictures, and markings.
Torontopubliclibrary.com – The Toronto Public Library has a great resource of information on genealogy and local history. They have a section called digital archive. In here you can find a vast resource of documents under the genealogy and family history link. In this section you can find a guide to Census records, as well as local Toronto Local history collection as well as guides to Aboriginal genealogy, Irish and British Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy, Immigration Records, Adoption Records, Land Records and more. This is not just for Toronto many of these records are Canada wide inclusive.
Libraries are places of knowledge and community and can serve the genealogical community quite well. There is so much that can be done with this aspect of librarianship that I believe every library should have something ready for when the local family historian steps into the library. be it a small up to date physical collection or large databases and knowledge for the family historian to access. We are guardians of history and knowledge, we should be prepared not only to preserve it, but distribute it to our respected communities.