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The Local Library is a Genealogist's Friend

The Local Library

After I learned to read I became a voracious reader. I was always at the Bookmobile (a mobile library, for those of you too young to remember them) or at the public library to check out several books. So it was natural for me to want to see what my local library had to help me with my genealogy research.

I was fortunate that the Amarillo Public Library had a good genealogy section. While it was not as large as others I would visit later, it had plenty of resources that helped me advance my research.

From the beginning, I have always gone to the local library to see what information they have. Some places I have been to have no local library (something I consider quite sad.) Others have had large genealogy collections.

What I can always count on is that the local library will have a information on the local history and frequently have other unique resources that you cannot find anywhere else.

Ft. Smith, Arkansas

On my first genealogy research trip, my mother & I went to Ft. Smith, Arkansas to research her mother's family. In addition, to the visit to the courthouses (most Arkansas counties have 2) and the cemeteries, we visited the local public library.

The genealogy collection was a large room with books, microfilm, maps--all the things that I, as a researcher, get excited about finding. I want to see everything!

As I cruised through the stacks, a set of books caught my eye. There were three volumes of records from a local funeral home. On the inside book cover was a note explaining how the library acquired the records. A family bought a house and while cleaning the attic, they came across these three books. Rather than toss them like so many would do, they donated them to the public library.

I don't know how much they have helped others who have looked through those pages, but for me they were a treasure.

Anna Katherine (Schleicher) Kaiser

My gr-grandmother came to the United States with her parents, Henri Kaiser and Anna Katherine Schleicher in 1876, when she was three years old. They were German and came to settle in Ft. Smith. I am still not sure why, but I know that they were poor, as my gr-grandmother was a maid in the home of her future husband.

The funeral books had the funeral record for both of her parents. It told me just how poor they were. Anna's funeral was paid for by a man whose relationship to the family is still unknown to me. Henri's funeral was paid for by the Lutheran church.

The records are simple with just a date, their name, age at death, where buried and items, services paid for, which were the minimum and the cemetery where they were buried. Anna's funeral cost $25 and Henri's was $32.50.

"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get."

This line from the movie, Forrest Gump can be well applied to a local library. When you enter those doors, you have no idea what tidbits of information or clues you may find.

Here are just a few of the "tidbits" and clues I have found in my visits to local libraries:

®  The "other" occupation of one of my 3rd-gr-grandfathers.
®  A 2nd gr-grandfather filed for bankruptcy.
®  A 2nd gr-grandmother died as a result of pneumonia as a consequence of injuries suffered in a tornado.
®  A copy of a local history that is the only record of my ancestors in a county where the courthouse burned to ashes and there are no records left for the time they lived there.
®  The court record book for an apprentice assigned a 3rd-gr-grandfather, which stated my ancestor's occupation and residence at the time. (The county didn't have room to keep this first volume of records, so they gave it to a local, private library.)

What I Learned

I learned that a local library will have information on the community they serve.

I learned that I should be prepared to bring my own copying equipment, just in case the library doesn't have any. That actually happened to me in one county library.

I learned that I should always have change for copies.

I learned that while I may not find the answers to my questions, I will always find something that is useful or unexpected.

I learned that I should set aside one day of my research time for visiting the local library.

I learned that the size of the city is not necessarily an indicator of the size of their genealogy or local history collection.

Whether you are new to genealogy or experienced, check out these tutorials.


Share what you have found in local libraries that helped further your genealogy research.

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