Looking Local


Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

I’m sure that most of us have used many of the “big” sites to research, such as Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Family, Find A Grave, Cyndi’s List, etc. So I thought that this month we might take a look locally at what is available for resources. There are many places to look.

First let’s review the general rules for doing research at local places. Call ahead to let them know that you are coming and double check the hours that they are open. Arrive prepared to do research, i.e. have a list of goals that you wish to reach. Be aware that you may not be able to actually look through the books yourself as many are in quite fragile condition. Ask what their fees are. If they do not have a fee, leave a donation.

Your local library will have histories of the town and surrounding area. They may or may not have family history and other records. I always recommend that you read about the area that your family lived in as it helps you to develop a better understanding of what their life may have been like. Also, many of the local libraries have been offering introductory class in genealogical research; you might wish to try one of these if you are a newbie to the research family.

Prendergast Library has a vast collection of micro-film that can be accessed. The Darwin Baker Library in Fredonia has a genealogy room that is open every day through August for research. The Patterson Library in Westfield had a collection of Westfield newspapers spanning the years from 1826 to 1927. It is open daily at 9 a.m. Fenton History Center has the Hall House Research Library that is open Monday through Saturday, packed with resources and staffed with helpful and knowledgeable volunteers. The McClurg Museum is open year round Tuesday through Saturday.

Check at the Town Clerk’s Office. These folks are the keepers of the local records and can be very helpful. Many records such as marriages and deaths are stored at the town level.

Historians are a great resource. Each town in Chautauqua County has its own historian. Just go to http://chautauqua.ny.us/172/Historians to find yours. Chautauqua County Historian, Michelle Henry, is located at the County Court House in Mayville and can help to steer you in the right direction.

Local churches may have just the record that you have been looking for. Call the church office to inquire about their records. If the church that your ancestors worshipped at has closed or merged, call the closest one of the same denomination to see if they have the records of the closed church. If not, search out the synod, diocese, etc of that denomination. The search will be well worth the time if you find the records that you are looking for.

Believe it or not Face book can be of help locally. Chautauqua County, NY Genealogy is a Facebook page developed by two local young genealogists. If you have a problem or question, it is a great place to look for help. I recently was struggling to find some church records. Within minutes of posting my question, I had an answer. I then received several more suggestions, one from a former pastor of the church who now resided in North Carolina.

My advice is to not overlook the many local resources that may allow you to find that very elusive bit of information that puts it all together for you. Til next month!

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Janet’s own web page.