Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Favorite Resource

Like most of my blog posts, I start with an idea, often a generalized idea that has been simmering on the back burner waiting for just a bit more inspiration to kick it out of  my brain and onto the computer screen.  A few just burst out, but very few. Today's post has been started several times, before but it always sounded so . . .so . .so mechanical.  I'd like to tell you that I have solved that issue, but I don't really think I have.

When I was a young girl, I am sure that I had more library fines than anyone else in my small town.  I loved the library and checked out boatloads of books, but as I have mentioned before, I have a defective organization gene.  Just like my current genealogy research,  I would travel to far away countries and go back in time through those books. Naturally I lost track of the days and then was afraid to tell my mother that I had overdue books once again.  I wonder how long they keep their records . . . . It's possible I might still have unpaid fines.

When I first began my genealogy research, I dismissed the resources of my local library just because my family did not live in the local area.  Silly girl. . .  While they have a searchable obituary index for the local papers and a county land platbook, it is their fabulous pajama friendly digital collections and databases that make this a five star resource in my book (I know, I know. . .a pun is the lowest form of humor).  My first love was the Historic Chicago Tribune where I found more than obituaries.  I found articles about my family members protecting the citizens of Chicago as policemen, handing out flowers for charity, a kidnapped (and returned) baby, and a g-g grandmother who took in an abandoned and desperate woman.  I love newspapers!

My next discovery was the Newspaper Archive.  The first night I found an obituary and date of death for my g-g grandfather in the hometown paper of his son breaking through a year long brick wall!   I persisted and discovered that my gr. grandparents lived in Estherville Iowa between census records.  Small town newspapers love social news so this had a number of leads I need to follow.  For fun, I put in my own name . . .  Yikes! There were 49 records listing items such as my 4-H ribbons as well as every time I attended my church youth group.  Six hours later, I forced myself to log off and go to bed.  I thought I had been searching for about two hours.

 These are my two current favorites among the many available, but I haven't  investigated them all. I think that Heritage Quest and Sanborn Maps are looming in my future.

Look for this symbol that indicates you can access it from any computer with your library card.

The globe symbol is for databases that can be accessed from any computer anywhere

Some are only available at any branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library

The good news is that ANYONE can get a St. Joseph County Public Library card and access their digital collections and databases even if they are not a resident of St. Joseph County Indiana.  A single non-resident card is available for $50-$64.  This is cheaper than an individual yearly subscription to many of their resources.  What a deal!  Of course, if you are a resident, then it's free!

Click here for information about a card.  Click here for a complete list of databases available.

Is the St. Joseph county library unique?  I don't think so.  The Root Cellar in Clinton, Iowa was extremely friendly and helpful when I first contacted them by phone and email.  When I visited during a genealogy trip there last summer, they greeted me like an old friend and helped my brother and I find the resources we needed, showed us how to use the readers and checked on us occasionally.

If you have Chicago ancestors and you haven't been to the Newberry Library online sources, you are missing a great resource.  Hopefully, next summer I can make a more personal visit.

I would have to say that a library is THE resource that I think of first when I am researching.


  1. The local libraries here have some excellent resources (Heritage Quest that I know of, but unfortunately not Newspaper Archive, yet), and there are a few that have some great databases that can be accessed on their websites for free (Greenville, SC). But I hadn't thought of checking into some of the libraries who grant access only to card-holders to see whether it is possible to buy a non-resident card - neat idea. Your description of yourself and libraries sounds like me. Sometimes people will ask me why I buy a particular book instead of checking it out of the library. I tell them it's cheaper.

  2. Today's post that you started several times is great! It doesn't sound mechanical at all. Our local library has several databases available for home use but alas, no Newspaper Archive, one of the ones I most want to use.

  3. Dear Margel,

    Thanks so much for promoting the services of our St. Joseph County Public Library! I'm glad you've found them to be useful. As SJCPL's Public Service Coordinator, I'm proud of our wonderful Local & Family History team. They continue to find ways to make our wonderful collection of community and genealogical resources even more accessible to all so I'm sure they'll appreciate your kind comments.

    You have a lovely and informative website - thanks for sharing!

    Linda Conyers