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My Library Adventure

Do you include libraries and archives in your genealogy toolbox?

For me, the use of a library or archive has always been part of my genealogy journey. Perhaps that is because I earned my Masters’ in Library Science about the same time I started my genealogical journey.

Even though my emphasis was in school librarianship, my graduate classes exposed me to some of the very same tools like NUCMC (National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections) that I would use for genealogical research.

In my first years of genealogical research, books and microfilm were the tools I needed to access to learn about my family. Since I moved to Nemaha county, Kansas as a teacher, my family roots are not in Nemaha county. Thus, I had to travel to access resources.

My primary destination was the archives  at the Kansas State Historical Society. Travels to the historical society provided me with access to Kansas census records and Kansas newspapers. In addition, their book collection of local and state histories helped me learn about my ancestors prior to their arrival in Kansas.

When I would visit my grandmother in Dodge City, I often planned my trips around court house hours. This allowed me to search the land and probate records for my family in the Dodge City area.

On one of those trips, I visited Boot Hill and asked if they had a photograph collection. To my surprise, they took me upstairs to their small office and let me search their photographs. Among their collection, I found a picture of my second great-grandfather, Washington Marion Crawford! I’m looking forward to going back to Boot Hill once they have their new archives building opened!

In order to research my family before their arrival in Kansas, I needed to travel to libraries with a broader collection. In particular, I needed access to the federal census for other states (remember this is prior to the Internet). For that I turned to the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri.

Thanks to the Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies and Ruth Keys Clark, I had the opportunity to participate in a bus tour to the Family History Library at Salt Lake City — twice. 

This week long adventure allowed me to come home with piles of photocopies of land, probate and other records for my ancestors throughout the U.S.

In 1985, I became the librarian for Nemaha Valley High School and my library experience shifted from a user to being the librarian. Working with students on research projects helped me develop my research skills. I also improved my knowledge of U.S. history by assisting with various history projects over the years.

In 1992, my library world began to change as implemented an electronic catalog and a NETWORK. Slowly, my network of two computers began to grow as teacher computers and a dedicated server were added to my network. My job responsibilities also began to change as I became responsible for the functioning of the network and computers.

My research skills were enhanced as I learned how to use Dialog to access magazine databases over a dedicated modem. As the Internet began to develop, so did our access.

As each new tool became available, I had to learn how to use it, not only for my own work, but also so I could help others learn to use it. I’m thankful for this time of constant learning since I can apply those skills to my genealogy work today.

Today’s genealogical research is significantly different than when I first started. There is so much available from my own home.

However, I still need access to resources not available on the Internet. For books, I still travel to the Midwest Genealogy Center and enjoy their new setting.

For local records, I turn to Family Search. Many of the rolls of microfilm that I used in Salt Lake have now been digitized. I am finding that a lot of those digitized records are available on my home computer. For those locked records, I simply visit my local library where the librarian applied for and received approval to be an Affiliate Library for Family Search.

I am thankful for all of the libraries and librarians that have helped me along this journey!