What can the local library help you learn about your ancestor? Well, the records that are kept by the local library where your ancestor lived may help you locate a census or vital record. You may find information in the local history that connects you to a local church, school, or cemetery. Like many other libraries, the Joliet Public Library in Illinois has provided microfilm readers, and the local newspaper is available on microfilm for patrons to use.
Finding the library
If you know the town where your ancestor lived, check to make sure the county or parish is the same today. Then, go to Google to search the county or parish library. For example, if your ancestor lived in Atlanta, Georgia, you would search “Fulton County Library, Georgia.”
The first result that comes up is the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. See the results. Sometimes you may find several branches listed in the same county with a different website for each. In some areas, each branch shares the same website.
After you select the most appropriate website for your ancestor’s area, look for links that say “research” or “genealogy.” Sometimes these links are embedded deep within a site making them difficult to find. Some libraries may not have a section for researchers. Some may not even have a website. If you have difficulty, find the phone number to the library, and ask if there is a person who helps with genealogy questions. Prepare your questions ahead of time, and be sure you have handy important details about your ancestor as well as your research question.
If you choose to speak to a librarian in person, ask for an e-mail address so that you can explain your question without taking too much time on the phone. Ask for a list of resources that the library has on site that may provide the answer to your research question.
Many libraries today are making resources helpful to genealogists available online. Look at the website for Atlanta-Fulton Public Library. They have a link to genealogy resources. Some of the resources onsite include: city directories, Georgia newspapers on microfilm, and indexes to wills. See the complete list.
Connecting to more
Sometimes information gleaned from the local library can connect to other resources where you can learn more about your ancestor. For example, if you are unable to find an ancestor on a census, a city directory can help you know if the family was living in the city during the census year. Also, if you need an ancestor’s death date, ask the librarian if they have an obituary index or death index. This record type can help you locate an ancestor’s death certificate when you are not sure about the date of death.
Study the local historical resources which can point to important places and institutions in your ancestor’s life. You may discover information on the family or church cemetery, or you may find out how to access your ancestor’s school record. The library can be a very useful place for learning about your ancestors and the community where they lived.