I was stymied about what families to work on during my trip to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in August.
The library has a wonderful collection of print materials as well as microfilmed copies of National Archives records, microfilm copies of many city directories, and a scattering of microfilmed copies of local records for select areas of the United States (the library’s microtext catalog is online and provides specific information). The National Archives microfilm in the library’s possession has largely (completely?) been digitized and is available (entirely or partially) for a fee on Ancestry.com and Fold3.com and for free on FamilySearch and Archive.org. Not all sites have all National Archives microfilm and not all digitized versions are indexed.
The Allen County Public Library has also digitized a significant proportion of their print collection as well (their entire print material catalog is online and the print material that has been digitized can be viewed through their portal at Archive.org).The coverage is national in scope, but does tend to emphasize United States areas east of the Mississippi as well as including a national collection of 20th century city directories. There are also non-US materials in their collection as well.
The digitization of the library’s books only includes those that are out of copyright. Generally speaking, books of that age tend to be county and town histories along with some family histories and some transcriptions of town records (especially in New England). Most twentieth century publications (including genealogical journals are not included).
What is helpful depends upon an individual’s research. It’s always difficult to answer a question about “will a library help me?” without knowing some details about what the person is trying to find. It’s important for a person to think about their research, what their problems are, what they are trying to learn something about, and what they already know.
That goes right back to preparation.
Most of the non-National Archives microfilm materials are not applicable to my research at this time or are areas that I’ve already completed my work on. It’s a great collection, but I don’t need it now.
That leaves books whose copyright has not expired as the digitized ones I can access at home. I realize that it’s great to see the book in person, hold it in your hands, etc. but as my time is limited I need to focus on materials I can’t easily get at home.
That leaves (generally speaking) print materials that have not been digitized–largely items whose copyright has not expired. A large section of the library, that still gives me options.
At this point it boils down to my personal ancestry and what I’ve researched fairly thoroughly and what I have not. Work on my maternal lines are out. Those families were post-1850 immigrants to the mid-western United States, are families I’ve worked on a fair amount already, and are generally not covered in genealogical journals or publications. Working on my two paternal great-grandfathers is pretty much out as well as one was the son of 1860-era Irish immigrants and the other was the grandson of German immigrants from the 1840 era.
That leaves my paternal great-grandmothers. Both of them descend from families who were in the United States before the American Revolution. One of them is the grand-daughter of an 1805 Vermont native whose ancestry is reasonably well determined back to a variety of English immigrants to Massachusetts beginning with the Plymouth settlers. That Vermont native married an Ontario native in the 1830s, but previous work on her ancestry suggests that answers to her parentage probably rests in original records from Ontario that are not in the Ft. Wayne’s library collection. Work on her family really isn’t going to be accomplished in print materials at the library.
Then I saw the blog post by Heather Wilkinson Rojo on the Maverick family of Dorchester, Massachusetts. It’s a family from which my 1805 Vermont native is known to descend. Heather mentions several Maverick family references in her posts which are books that I don’t have and which are ones I don’t have immediate access to. I will add those references to my list of books to locate while at the library and see if I can find additional online references to print materials which may also provide some clues about this family. I’m reasonably certain the Allen County Public Library has the items Heather references in her post and with some work I no doubt can find some other print references as well which I can copy while at the library.
Of course those copies will be for personal use only and any print material can contain errors. But it will give me a place to start.
But instead of spinning my wheels on families that are more difficult to locate in print materials, I’ll hopefully at least make some headway.