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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Resources to Look for at a University Library

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You may be seeking to expand your entire range of resources for genealogy research. It is easy to get in a rut and not know how to branch out to find resources to tell more of your ancestor's story. University libraries usually have an open door policy to the community, and they have much to offer you if you know what to seek out first. Here are things to look for while in search of your ancestor at a university library:

Research guides
Many university libraries have put together extensive research or genealogy guides to help you navigate through their specific collections to find what is most useful to your search. Most of the time these guides are available on the library's website or can be downloaded for free.

An example of a genealogy guide compiled by a university is Local History and Genealogical Research in the University Libraries (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia). It provides resources for beginning genealogy, resources on Virginia counties and their record keeping functions, indexes to buried genealogies and much more.

The University of Tennessee Libraries do not have a separate genealogical department or staff to assist you with research, but they have a online guide for getting started with finding resources through the library system or outside resources.

Rare books
Check out the rare book collections held in university libraries. Many of these collections preserved by the university library have great genealogical value. The Sam Woods Rare Book Collection at the University of Mississippi at Hattiesburg, Mississippi consists of many books published before 1800 and includes a 1731 Hollman Atlas.

The Mississipiana and Rare Books Collection contains vertical files in addition to books. It's newspaper clippings and pamphlets document people, events, social issues, institutions, cities and towns of Mississippi.

Manuscripts
Manuscript collections often include diaries, unpublished papers, letters, genealogies, plantation account books, and family papers. You should learn about the rules for handling and accessing items in these collections. Usually the details can be found on the university library website. Also, remember access to these resources may be limited due to staff availability and where the items are stored.

Some items may be available on the website digitally and others may require a library card to access offsite. The Library of Virginia has an online guide for accessing and discovering collections. Several helpful guides and finding aids are linked to the guide.

Microfilm
A variety of resources at a university library may be on microfilm. Review the online catalog, or ask the reference librarian on site if they have microfilm and what records are on microfilm. Many of the genealogical resources at Rutgers University Library are on microfilm. To see the huge variety of what they offer, see the downloadable PDF file, Genealogical Resources: Archibald S. Alexander Library, Rutgers, the State University, on this page.

Ethnic studies
Many university libraries have highlighted collections for conducting ethnic genealogy research. You may find special collections or guides to resources offline. The University of Pittsburgh Library System has linked library guides on their Family History Resources website. Among several interesting collections on that page are the Ethnic Fraternal Organization Oral History Project and the Recordings of the Southern Blacks' Migration to Pittsburgh Oral History Project.

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