Family history can be found in many places. Old photo albums. Grandma's attic. Stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. These heirlooms are treasured to be sure but if looking deeper for family history, look no further than the local public library. Surprised? If thought about logically it makes perfect sense. The library is a place of discovering the past, present and future. Along with that, there are trained librarians who know where to begin looking for the important information such as birth certificates, army records, census or maps of old neighborhoods.
One of the best places to dig deeper into family history is the public library. It is amazing what tools are available now to make the research easier and faster. One important fact to remember is that many older records and maps have not made it yet to digital form. It can be due to may factors, one of which is that the original copy is so old that it will not transfer well. No fear. If the document is in existence, it is either in the local history section of the library or is available through other forms such as interlibrary loan or document retrieval. It may be surprising to many, but librarians who specialize in genealogy research have training beyond the traditional Master's Degree. Some are Archivists, which is a specialty in itself. All genealogy librarians have the opportunity to go attending yearly workshops in Salt Lake City, Utah to brush up and learn of new tools that will help their patrons. It is a fascinating area of study when it comes to research and serving a specialized cliental at the library.
The library can offer more than just the books and electronic resources. They offer peer support. Many public libraries that offer genealogy research provide genealogy workshops to bring in speakers who will give tips on finding information for specific cultural groups, for example Italy or Ireland. This gives newbies who want to learn more a chance to ask the questions that will propel them in the right directions. It also is wonderful for peer to peer advice. Many of genealogy searches often trade their "secrets" with other liked minded searches in hopes that by helping each other they may find a missing clue to their family's past. Of the more interesting items to be found in some library collections are old maps of neighborhoods. Even if genealogy is not the tree for everyone to climb but finding a bit of history of the neighborhoods can be eye opening for many library patrons.
For those who wonder where to start and are a little timid to go to the library to begin asking questions, why not try searching the library's website. There links will be found that can direct inquiring minds to the best sites available. Two favorites. that appear on many library's sites are Anscestory.com (the library version), which is also available for private subscribers and usgenweb.org, a free government resources that is a valuable too to searching records from County Clerks office across the country. That is just the iceberg of what they can offer. If one "geeks: genealogy, it might be a considered a pilgrimage to the Library of Congress in D.C. There a novice or advanced genealogist will find tons of documents related to family research that local libraries dream about.
What many patterns often find fascinating is that quite often yearbooks from the local high schools are donated to the local library as part of the local history section. It is not uncommon for someone visiting the area where grandma grew up to stop by the library to see if they can find the long forgotten high school photo of their loved one. It is a treat to see the smiles when the long sought after picture is found.
Libraires are not just about books. They are about history and the preservation of the stories that need to be shared from one generation to the next. The next time someone says, "who needs a library?" the answer could be those who are looking for their past. There is something for everyone.