Making the Most of the Library

By Lisa South - Certified Genealogist

How To Prepare Before You Go...

Your genealogy research may take you to many libraries, but you'll be able to save a lot of valuable time if you are well prepared before going.

Before you make the trek, be sure that you even need to travel to a library in the first place to get the information you want. I know of a gentleman who flew from the United States to England to locate some records only to be directed to the local LDS Family History Library, which he could have done in his own hometown! You should also check the library site online to see if you can access their records over the internet.

When you think a trip to a library is required, search the library's web site (if one is not available or you cannot access the internet, call or write to the library) and get as much information as possible about their operations and policies.

Find out when the library will be open. How discouraging to travel a long distance only to find the library is closed on Fridays or will be closed for the next two weeks for renovations. Find out hours of operation, what materials are available, and ascertain their policy for copying material. If it is a large library, you might want to request a floor plan. Be aware that some libraries require you to have a reader's card. Obtaining one is usually just a matter of filling out a form.

Prepare a pedigree chart or print out family group sheets to bring with you. Having the pertinent information in your hand will make it easier for the experts to guide you through your search. Most librarians are happy to help direct you to the right records, but it is difficult for them to know what you need or want without seeing your pedigree chart.

Of course, before you do any of this, you'll want to check OneGreatFamily's data base first. The research may have already been done and the information entered by another subscriber will be instantly available to you!

A visit to the library is a great opportunity to resolve conflicts you may find with information other OneGreatFamily users have provided. If your family tree information differs from someone else's research, locating the primary sources of information is extremely valuable for clearing up any confusion. When you go to the library, make sure you take both versions of the information with you to compare to the original documentation. Once you have verified the genealogy, you can update your family tree on OneGreatFamily and, at the same time, help other researchers who may be working on the same family line. The less time you have to spend orienting yourself to a new library, the more time you will have to spend in the records and the more successful your visit will be.

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