Illinois Ancestors: Preparation key for library research

Illinois Ancestors: Preparation key for library research

Visiting any library in order to conduct genealogical research requires advance preparation. Creating a "to do" list of materials or individuals to investigate, as well as knowing the holdings of a specific repository can make any research trip easier.

Harold Henderson has created a free, online, 26-page booklet, "Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist's Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center." at

Henderson explains, "This is not a normal library. It's big, it contains many unexpected resources on and off line, and to get the most out of a trip there I sometimes need to plan how to make my plan."

With more than 400,000 books, 10,000 periodicals, 55,000 city and county directories, microfilmed newspapers, and digitized Fort Wayne, Ind., newspapers, as well as the Genealogy Center's own databases available, this library requires a guide! Henderson's work focuses on how "to get the most from Allen County's massive resources."

Following the Introduction, the guide topics include Before You Go (including 6 specific finding aids on line); When You Arrive; Copy Cards Are Cash; Finding Your Favorite Microtexts; Finding Your Favorite States' Books; On-line Research in the Library; City Directories Can Be in Three Places; Periodicals Can Be in Four Places; Family History Library Microfilm on Indefinite Loan; Oversize And Super Oversize; WPA County Record Inventories; Law; Special Times: Events, Classes, Services; A Few Goodies You Might Miss If you Didn't Know About Them; and Wait, There's More!

It would probably be wise to bookmark this site (in addition to printing a copy) in order to click on any of the many links available (such as one-page "pathfinders" and "snapshots," and the Genealogy Center's blog posts.)

Henderson has been a professional writer since 1979, a professional genealogist since 2009, and a certified professional genealogist since June 1, 2012. Visit his Midwest Roots website at

New ISGS newsletter

The most recent issue of the Illinois State Genealogical Society's newsletter is now available, free online. Go to and click on "newsletters" and then the current, March/April 2013 issue.

This issue has a helpful article on using the Illinois Cemeteries Location Database Online. Members of ISGS are invited to enter the 2013 Ancestor Photo Contest from now until May 31, 2013. Instructions are provided for attending the society's free monthly webinars.

An article by Curt Witcher on preservation tips from the National Park Service is worth noting. Tips for using the "Find a Grave" website are also detailed.

Anyone with Illinois ancestors would be wise to become a member of ISGS and enjoy the many benefits of membership. An individual membership costs $30 per calendar year. Write ISGS, P.O. Box 10195, Springfield, IL 62791-0195 or join online. ISGS was recently voted as the best state genealogy society in the 2013 Genealogy Readers' Choice Contest, mainly for its matching member donations to the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions Project to the tune of $10,000.

Digital library to be launched

The Digital Public Library of America, to be launched this week, is "a project to make the holdings of America's research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans, and eventually to everyone in the world, online and free of charge."

Robert Darnton has written an interesting article pertaining to this project at He notes, "The user-friendly interface will therefore enable any reader — say, a high school student in the Bronx — to consult works that used to be stored on inaccessible shelves or locked up in treasure rooms. ... Readers will simply consult the DPLA through its URL,"

Several libraries have already joined the organization, including the New York Public Library, the Kentucky Digital Library (from the University of Kentucky), Digital Library of Georgia, and others, according to Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter on April 4. He concludes, "This will be one-stop shopping research."

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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