Ancestry Daily News
Lessons I Learned at the Family History Library
Professional responsibilities afforded me the opportunity to research sporadically at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, for three days this January. This week we will look at some suggestions for readers who are lucky enough to make a trek to a distant research facility.
Catalog Dates May Be Awry
I encountered this on two occasions with two entirely separate sets of records. The catalog entry for some Catholic baptismal records indicated the time span covered was up to 1885. While looking at the records, the baptismal entries did only go through 1885. However, when I continued to view the materials, there was an index to entries that covered an additional fifteen years not noted in the card catalog. While the actual records for this later time frame were not on the microfilm, the index did tell me that there were entries afterwards and in what years those entries were recorded. If I had stopped when the actual christening records ended, I would have missed additional information.
A set of emigration papers from Ostfriesland, Germany, was also very high on my to-do list. With one-half of my ancestors coming from that area between 1850 and 1883, I had high hopes for the records. The catalog entry indicated the information from the records started as early as the 1850s. There were references in the emigration records to births as early as the 1840s. The emigration records themselves however actually dated from the mid-1880s, too late for my ancestors. Fortunately, my search list contained the names of aunts and uncles who had emigrated later, and I was able to find an entry for relative Tjark Janssen who emigrated in 1893. The record contained four pages of information on Tjark and his family.
numbers for the source being used
As I prepared over a two-week time period, I kept thinking of new things to look for. As I added folders with new lookups, I wrote in pencil on the outside of each folder what information I needed to complete the lookup (names of parents, a date, a village, etc.) so that I had all the information I needed in the folder when I finally arrived at the library. As I prepared, I put the folders in two stacks: one with folders that were "complete" and one with folders where I needed to get some facts or additional printouts from my database before I left.
Before I went to the library, I visited the library's website to determine exactly what materials were on what floor. I did not want to be running from one floor to another and did not want to drag all my lookup folders with me each time I went to the library. My lookups included family histories, British records, German records, Swiss records, and United States records. I sorted the folders by the floor where the records would be located. There was no need to make unnecessary trips up and down stairs!
Use the Internet Wisely
However, it was very convenient to have the library card catalog accessible in so many locations and to be able to perform quick lookups in some online sources if a discovery warranted. There were times where a "hot" or unexpected find required me to perform some quick searches online to make better use of my library time.
Is It in Storage?
Decide How You Work
Since I do little of my initial analysis on a computer, I opted to not take my laptop in the library. For me, it was one more thing to drag around, and I was constantly afraid I was going to leave it somewhere and forget it.
Since I hate to take handwritten notes, I make copies whenever possible. I decided since my time was so short that if a record would not copy well (but was legible) that I would make a note to order the same film from my local branch library. Then I could transcribe it when I could take my time and would not feel rushed.
Write Your Name on Your Hard Copy Card
A Great Experience
ADN Editor's Note: The FGS 2005 Conference program is expected to be available online later this month at www.fgs.org.
Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.rootdig.com, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2005, MyFamily.com.