A large percentage of genealogical research done today is done via the Internet. This makes sense as there are several large web sites such as Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Past, Find A Grave, Cindy’s List, Scotland’s People, Roots Ireland, and many, many more. However, if these are the only resources that you use, you will miss out on some really terrific resources. Books, manuscripts, newspapers and other print sources can provide you with a great deal of information that has not been digitized.
Libraries, both local and historical, contain many resources that you can use. Many towns, large and small, have town histories. Often these were written on significant anniversary dates and reading through one of them, you might find one of your ancestors named. If not, you will surely find information about where they lived, and this of course gives you a much better view of their life. Consider contacting one of the Town Historians for help in locating resources.
Year books can be found in many local libraries and these are a rich source of family information. There are photographs of at least the Senior Class with specific comments next to each Senior. It is always interesting to see if your ancestor lived up to the accolades listed. In addition, there are pages that highlight, sports, clubs and school activities. You might just discover as we did that my mother-in-law was a member of the Pep Squad. If you are really lucky, you have your parents or grandparent’s actual Year Book complete with signatures and comments. These comments might stimulate some very interesting conversations at the next family gathering.
Churches also produced histories on significant anniversaries. If you are able to locate the church that your family attended, you may find them listed on various committees or pictured at various activities. Again, you are adding context to their lives.
Some families have produced extensive family histories going back generations. These can be found at local history centers and sometimes in public libraries. Along this same line, many families and Genealogical Societies have produced Newsletters. Some are digitized but many are not. I personally have used the Wing Family Newsletter, The Owl, for research. In doing so, I was able to find the reason that my many times great grandfather moved from Massachusetts to the wilds of northern Vermont.
How to Books are an essential tool in doing family research especially for the beginner. They have been written on an endless number of topics such as specific ethnicities, proper documentation, various wars, finding female ancestors, and on and on. These are available in genealogy libraries as well as for sale in book stores and on line.
Within Chautauqua County there are several libraries that contain books that can assist you in your research. The three largest collections that I am aware of are at the Hall House on Forest Avenue in Jamestown, the McClurg Library in Westfield, and the Darwin Barker Library in Fredonia. If you Google Chautauqua County Libraries, you will see a map on the page. Look for the town that you are interested in and click on it. This will take you to their library where you can search the site to see what they offer in the way of Genealogy or history of their town. Don’t overlook their online Catalogs and asking their librarians for assistance.
Take the time to search out books and other written material to enhance your research. You might want to consider searching out the manuscripts and other printed material that the digitized records are based on as they may contain other nuggets of information that will lead you down new paths in your quest for your ancestors.
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.