Have you traveled to a library or archive for genealogy research? If so, what is your favorite destination?

When I first started researching my family history in 1978, I either had to travel or write letters. At the time, my ‘favorite’ destinations would have included

  • Dodge City since my grandmother was still living at the time. In Dodge, I had access to
    • Ford County courthouse for marriage records, deeds and military discharge records
    • Kansas Heritage center to use microfilm of the Dodge City newspapers
  • Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka where I could access
    • federal census records for Kansas
    • state census records for Kansas
    • Kansas newspapers
    • books — genealogical and historical collection for many areas of the U.S.
  • Topeka Genealogical Society library in Topeka
    • Genealogical society publications
    • County histories

Thanks to this wealth of Kansas resources I was able to easily document the family histories shared by my grandmothers back to my 2nd great grandparents, who all resided in Kansas. As I worked my way back, I found I needed access to records beyond what was available in Topeka. That’s when I started taking advantage of two ‘lending libraries’.

  • National Genealogical Society Lending Library
    • Books
  • American Genealogical Lending Library
    • microfilm of county records

I also learned how to use the Family History Center in Topeka to borrow microfilm. However, my research required the use of a set of records not readily available thru any of these sources: federal census records beyond Kansas.

That’s when I discovered the Midwest Genealogical Center. During my first visits, this collection of genealogical resources was in a room in the Mid-Continent library in Independence, Missouri. As their collection expanded, an addition was built to the library to house the genealogy collection. In 2008, they built a new library dedicated to genealogy. Since the Midwest Genealogy Center is a relatively short trip from my home, it is often a destination for genealogy research. My husband and I recently took such a trip, spending several days in the library.

With all of the resources available on the Internet, one might wonder why one would spend the time and money to travel to a genealogy library. And my immediate answer is BOOKS!

While some books have been digitized, there are many genealogy related books that are not. And this library has a lot of them. While I’m not sure what call numbers would have been shelved on the bookshelves in the center of the above photo, I know that the Kentucky resources started on shelves near the big windows on the left side of the photo. And the Virginia books were across the room to the right and not visible in the photo. Besides the books for each geographic area, the periodicals were also bound and shelved with the books for that area. Behind us was another room containing the printed family histories.

And then on first floor is even more! The Midwest Genealogy Library has a large collection of microfiche/microfilm.

One of the ‘hidden gems’ in their collection is the Family History Library Microfilm. While the FamilySearch site provides access to a lot of the records originally microfilmed, not everything has been digitized. Other records may have been digitized but are locked unless being used in a Family History Center. Those un-digitized or locked records might be available for use as microfilm/microfiche at the Midwest Genealogy Center.

While I haven’t used genealogical periodicals to the extent I should, the Midwest Genealogy Center does maintain a large collection of periodicals.

The wonderful resources and staff at the Midwest Genealogy Center are likely why Family Tree Magazine has identified it as one of the top libraries for genealogy research in the United States. They also make FamilySearch’s list of America’s Top Ten Genealogical Repositories.

Even though I don’t have a need to research Nemaha county (Kansas), families, the Seneca Free Public Library provides a wealth of resources for local research.

  • Collection of family histories
  • Collection of yearbooks
  • WPA records of births, deaths, marriages and other records from local newspapers
  • Digital access to local newspapers
  • Interlibrary loan
  • FamilySearch Affiliate Library

While the Seneca library is a small public library serving a rural community, they deserve to be on a ‘top ten’ list of libraries to visit for anyone with Nemaha county ancestry.

I’m sure additional trips to the Midwest Genealogy Center will be in my future. However, I would also like to visit the following libraries:

  • Allen County Library
  • St. Louis Public Library (their collection includes the NGS lending library resources)

What about you? Will your travels take you to a genealogy library?


Do you remember using a card catalog in a library? I’m going to reveal my age here, but I not only have used the card catalog in many different libraries but I also helped create and file cards for my local school library. Believe me, it was a CELEBRATION when the card catalog was replaced with an online catalog.

Most of us are familiar with Google, Google Books and, but have you ever used WorldCat to track down a source. WorldCat is that online library catalog for much of the world. Since many books are yet to be digitized, it is sometimes necessary to use a library catalog to locate a book. WorldCat simplifies this process since it is a catalog for most of the major libraries with a genealogy collection.

As I’m going thru the citations for my third great grandfather, Nelson Crawford, I found one to the 1877 Atlas of Warren County, Indiana. Since I wasn’t always consistent when I wrote the information required for a citation on a photocopy, I can use WorldCat to check my source information and obtain any missing elements (like place published).

A search of WorldCat for my title produces 182 results. Since I know the copyright date is 1877, I can narrow those results. Along the left side of the screen, there are options to ‘refine’ my search. One of those options allows me to select the year of publication: 1877.

Selecting 1877 narrows the results down to 3 — two maps and 1 book. It is likely that these 3 entries all refer to the same source, but have slightly different cataloging which creates the three different results. When I click on the title, I can open a screen giving the information needed for a citation along with a list of the libraries where the source can be found.

If I go back to the original 182 results, I can also use the ‘refine’ features to see if there are any ebooks. In the ‘Format’ section, there is an option to refine to ‘eBook’.

In this example, the eBook is for a totally different book. Even though I didn’t find a link to an eBook, being able to verify the information for a citation and locate area libraries that might contain the book makes this a valuable tool for my genealogy toolbox.

Shhh! It’s a Secret!

As a genealogist, do you do most of your research online? I have to admit that I tend to concentrate on sources that are online and don’t take the time to see what I’m missing by relying on online sources.

Since I happen to live a few hours from the Midwest Genealogy Center and since my husband is also hooked on the genealogy habit, we try to visit this fabulous genealogy library at least once a year. Usually, my pre-trip plans center around creating a list of localities I want to research and not a specific list of sources.

This time, I had a book that I wanted to find: Descendants of Alexander and Mary McPheeters Crawford. According to WorldCat, this book was supposed be in the collection at the Midwest Genealogy Center. However, it wasn’t listed in their catalog. Thus, I knew I would need to ask for help to verify that they did not have the book.

I am SO GLAD I asked for help! The librarian verified that the print copy of the book was missing. However, she didn’t stop there. In our conversation, I told her that there was a copy on microfiche at the Family History Library. She immediately looked the book up on FamilySearch and then with some computer magic, told me they had the book on microfiche!

Not only did they have this book, but they had drawers full of microfiche and microfilm from the Family History Library.

When the Family History Library stopped their loan program, they ended up with a lot of rolls of microfilm and a lot of microfiche that had been used in that program. Since this media duplicated what was in the Salt Lake library, they offered it to genealogy collections. And the Midwest Genealogy Center accepted all of this film.

The Midwest Genealogy Center does not have a copy of all of the film collection of the Family History Library — but they have a lot! Since some of the resources on FamilySearch have not been digitized and others are only available at a Family History Center, this collection of film and fiche will be very helpful to genealogists using the Midwest Genealogy Center.

To figure out whether the Midwest Genealogy Center has a desired resource, one must do a little of preparatory work. First, one has to locate the FILM number for the resource on the FamilySearch website.

The next step is to see of Midwest Genealogy Center has that particular film.

  • On the Browse Resources page, scroll down a bit to locate the heading MGC Microforms Holding Guide
  • Click on MGC Microfoms Holding Guide to expand the menu
  • Locate Family History Library Microfilm on Indefinite Loan to MGC and click to open the PDF file
  • The PDF is just a list of numbers — the FILM NUMBERS
  • This is where one needs the film number from the FamilySearch website. Search the PDF file for the film number.
  • Since my film number (6110842) was on the list, that meant that the microfiche of the book was in the Midwest Genealogy Center.

Midwest Genealogy Center has a room devoted to microfilm. Until yesterday, I assumed that a large share of this microfilm was the census microfilm that I used when first starting my genealogy research. Now, I know that there’s a who lot more hidden in these large cabinets of microfilm.

I had also assumed that the microfiche collection of the MGC were the UMI collection of genealogy resources. I had used some of this collection in the past, but was not aware of the quantity of resources available. 

In addition to the UMI microfiche, MGC has a collection of microfiche from the Family History Library. It was in these cabinets that I found the microfiche of the Crawford book.

Not only does the MGC have all of these resources, they have a wonderful room fully equipped with the technology to not only read the microfilm/microfiche but to also create a digital copy of the images.

Even though I’ve used this wonderful genealogy library several times over the past few years, I was not aware of all of these wonderful resources. 

Now, the secret is out! 

I wonder what secrets are hidden in other libraries. Let’s work together to discover and expose these wonderful gems in the collections of our libraries, historical societies, genealogy societies and archives!

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

It’s time for some more Randy Seavear’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun on Sunday afternoon.

This week’s challenge:1)  Do you recall what you were doing in 1985?  Family, school, work, hobbies, technology, genealogy, vacations, etc?Can I remember what I was doing in 1985? If it had been 1984, 1986, or most any other year, I would have to say ‘NO’ or ‘Not really’ and then perhaps figure it out with a little research of my own.However, with 1985, I do remember since that was a year of major change in my life.During the winter of 1985, my husband and I were teachers at Nemaha Valley High School in Seneca, Kansas. My husband taught chemistry and physics while I (with my chemistry degree) taught biology (and algebra during the 84-85 school year). 

The librarian, Mildred Meyer, announced her retirement that spring. Since I had obtained my Master’s of Library Science, I applied for the job. Thus, as I was doing spring grades and inventory, I was also planning for a new year as the high school librarian.That spring, my husband and I also purchased our first (and only) house. With this purchase, we moved out of the upstairs apartment we had rented from Chet and Madge Milne for 11 years. Chet and Madge welcomed us in to their home and into their family. Madge passed away in 1984. Thus, it was with heavy hearts that we moved across town from Chet that next spring.

The summer of 1985 was spent convincing our custodian, Lowell Elder, that it would be OK to cut a double-sided bookshelf in half so that it could be used to remodel the library while moving into our new home.As fall approached, we started another year at Nemaha Valley High School, with Mike still teaching science in Room 109 while I was starting my life as the school librarian. 

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!

Happy Dance!

The Seneca Free Public Library is an affiliate Family Search library!

create240I only have to drive a few blocks to access the restricted resources on Family Search! That means I have access to deeds, marriages, wills, probates and a wide variety of other resources at my local public library.

About a month ago, the ‘genealib’ mailing list was discussing the new application to become an affiliate library. I shared that information with the director of the Northeast Kansas Library System. She shared it with the directors of public libraries in northeast Kansas. My local librarian completed the application and notified me today that everything was approved and configured.

Upon learning this fantastic news, I packed up my laptop and to-do list and headed to the library. In a couple of hours, I was able to download over 20 Thompson deeds from Warrick County, Indiana. These deeds were dated prior to 1900 and will help me sort out the two Thompson family lines living in Warrick County, Indiana about 1840. I spent less time accessing these deeds at my local library than it would have taken me to drive to and from what previously was the nearest affiliate library.

From my afternoon of research, I have some tips for others wishing to use the Seneca Free Public Library to access restricted records on Family Search:

  • Use a library computer (the open wireless network evidently didn’t access the Internet via the same IP address as the library computers)
  • Use a computer in the genealogy room
  • Images are downloaded to the DOWNLOADS folder – can be copied/pasted onto a thumb drive
  • Saving to the SOURCE BOX on Family Search is a LINK to the record. The image is not viewable from home.

See my post, Affiliate Library, for information about the application process and join my HAPPY DANCE!

Learning to Use Book Scanner

BookScanner320Several months ago, the Seneca Free Library added a book scanner in the genealogy room. My husband was likely one of the first to utilize this tool. Yesterday, I decided to figure out how to use it for a project that I’ve wanted to complete for a couple of years.

Having worked with technology, I didn’t think it would be that difficult to figure out. To my surprise, I faced a major obstacle when I first sat down in front of the scanner. I couldn’t find the button to turn it on! Fortunately, my husband was near a phone and able to walk me thru turning the computer on and getting started.

  • To turn on — There is a button on the underneath side to turn the computer on. The button is on the right side about 1 inch from the edge.
  • There is a password to login to the computer. The library staff can provide that password.
  • There is a button on the scanner that looks like a white triangle to turn the scanner on. This button is blue when the scanner is on.
  • The icon for the scanning software was in the middle of the screen. Clicking this icon opens the software
  • Once the software is opened, my husband advised that I select ‘Custom Scan’. This allowed me to select options for the scan. I selected the following options on the ‘Custom Scan’ screen.
    • File Type – Document
    • Destination – USB Drive
    • File Format — PDF (other options include jpg)
    • Convert OCR – Yes

Armed with his directions, I was able to start scanning.

  • To scan, I simply put the document on the black felt about 1″ from the back edge. Since I wanted to make sure I would be able to easily print the PDF file, I wanted to keep the items within an 8.5″ x 11″ space. Thus, I used the LTR guides on the left and right side as a guide for where to place my documents. Once the items were in place I clicked the SCAN or CONTINUE SCAN button on the computer.
  • Once finished with the documents, I clicked the finish button. This opened a ‘document review’ screen. On this screen, I was able to rotate the item.
  • I also discovered that I needed to pay attention to the center of the screen where it showed the scanned image and a red outline. This red line indicates what will be included in the final outcome. In some cases, I needed to bring this line was cutting off some text. In other cases, it was only including part of what I scanned.
  • When I finished reviewing the output, I clicked ‘SAVE’ and the pdf file was saved to my USB flash drive.

In my one hour of scanning I was able scan about 1/3 of one box of 3×5 notecards. Hopefully, I will be able to make it to the library to finish this box of documents this week.

I’m hoping to learn how to use this book scanner to scan the following types of records:

  • Photo Albums
  • Scrapbooks
  • Journals


Don’t Forget the Book!

For the April meeting of the Topeka Genealogical Society‘s ‘Brick Wall Study Group’, we were supposed to bring one of our brick walls to the April meeting yesterday. The intent was that we would discuss our brick wall with another member of the group and get their input. (And then we would discuss their brick wall and provide input.)

For this task, I decided to take one of my SMITH brick walls. In 1833, my ancestor, Nelson G. Crawford, married Martha Smith in Warren County, Indiana. Even though I have Martha’s life documented after her marriage, I have no information on her parents or siblings.

hannah smithHowever, I remembered that I had seen a tombstone for Hannah Smith in the West Lebanon City Cemetery to the East of the plots for Nelson and Martha Crawford. Because my memory says that Hannah was buried close to Martha Crawford Smith, I elected to try and prove that Hannah was Martha’s mother.

So, I went to the meeting armed with SMITH census and marriage records to try and find Martha’s father and/or siblings. As we visited about this research, we kept returning to my recollection of the placement of the stones and whether I could find anything to validate my memory. Unfortunately, I couldn’t rely  my recent set of photos from the West Lebanon Cemetery, since the Hannah Smith stone was not found. Nor can I rely on Find a Grave for help, since that site does not show a Hannah Smith in the West Lebanon Cemetery.

That’s when we turned to the book I had brought along: Warren County, Indiana Cemetery Inscriptions, Volume II by Rosella Jenkins (c1985). There is information in this book for Hannah Smith on page 87.


From studying the book, we made the following observations:

  • Hannah Smith is listed in Stack 3 of the West Lebanon City Cemetery
  • Hannah Smith is listed on the same page as Nelson G. Crawford and Martha Crawford
  • The names are NOT in alphabetical order
  • Based on the ‘introduction’ to the book the information was obtained by reading the stones
    • “This volume of cemetery inscriptions includes …”
    • “Every time I found a stone so weathered as to be almost impossible to read, I would think that perhaps this very stone would be just the one someone needed for their records.”
  • Hannah Smith is listed just above William C. Crawford (d. 1868). This William C. Crawford is believed to be a son of Nelson G. Crawford and Martha Smith Crawford.

Based on the order in the book, we believe that it is possible that Hannah Smith was the mother of Martha and grandmother of William C. Crawford.

Without this book, I would not have been able to

  • verify that the stone for Hannah Smith was in the West Lebanon Cemetery at some point in time
  • see the possible family connection based on the closeness of Hannah Smith’s grave to the Crawford family graves.
  • seen that Hannah Smith’s stone was next to William C. Crawford’s stone.

This experience has reinforced the concepts that

  • not everything is online
  • in some cases, context is lost when the data is placed online (For example, Find a Grave does not help determine who was buried next to whom.)
  • books are valuable resources for genealogical research
  • libraries provide access to resources not available online

When all else fails, go old school:

visit a genealogy library and

open the books to see what clues are hidden inside!