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Using Library Resources for Genealogy Research

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Be Sure to Use the Atlases

Atlas maps are important tools for finding towns, villages, cities, and counties. They also may show old roads. Old roads and waterways were the primary routes of transportation in by-gone years, and may give some clues to the direction of immigration. Even if your ancestor was only from the next town, maps can show which town was the most likely one. People tended to follow valleys and rivers, rather than climb mountains.

More and more maps are becoming available online as well, so be sure to do maps and images searches online for your family's locaties. Google even will show you "Street View" for many localities, and you might be able to come up with a picture of you ancestors former home, if it still exists! Finding the Correct County

The atlas' in most libraries will break each of the states down into counties, and show what cities existed in that county at the time the atlas was published. Be sure and check the atlas date, because these lines often change. You need to become familiar with the names of all the local jurisdictions. These boundaries will be important when you get into Census Records

Gazateers Are A Useful Tool

A handy companion to the Atlas is the Gazateer. Gazateers are basically dictionaries or encyclopedias of place names. They describe the area, give topographical information, population levels, and sometimes the basic industries of the area described. They might even contain jurisdictional history, and ideas about what the area is noted for.

For research in Ireland, Samuel Lewis' 1837 "Topigraphical Dictionary of Ireland" is a gazetter with an interesting look at pre-famine Ireland.

Using the Encyclopedia Online

Online encyclopedias have come a long way and most libraries do not keep encyclopedias in book form anymore.

Encyclopedia and wikipedia.com describe cities, town, and states in good detail. Wikipedia often has maps and useful detailed factual information about almost every locality on earth, as well as articles about important people and events that occurred where your ancestors were born. If you ancestor is well-known or famous, they might even be written up in wikipedia.

Using Magazines

Magazines often contain good articles about the locality you need as well. National Geographic, and others, often contain pictures of the people and lifestyles of various parts of the country. Often, too, there are articles about other countries. In the April 1981 issue of National Geographic, a wonderfully detailed map of Ireland was included. A write-up on the history of Ireland was printed on the rear of the map, complete with smaller maps showing changes in governments. This history is entitled "Historic Ireland, From Pre-Christian Times to the Turmoil of Today". Another issue had a great map detailing the history of France.

These maps are printed in full color, and usually available for viewing in the Vertical Files of your Public Library. You also might want to check with friends and used book stores to see if they have the copy you need, or write to National Geographic.

Also, check to see if your library still keeps back issues of The Genealogical Helper. This magazine contains articles, queries, advertisements, and how-to information on a wide variety of genealogical topics. Sometimes you can find these in genealogy libraries, but few public libraries keep any magazines in hard cover more than two or three years. But most libraries still do have a magazine section for recreational reading, because the cost of a magazine is three of four times what it was twenty years ago.

Old Phone Books and City Directories

Years ago, public libraries kept copies of local phone books and city directories. You may need to visit the library of the local historical society to find these relics today, but they are full of interesting information, and of data that is not yet digitized.

In Ireland and the British Isles, you might find copies of Guy's Postal Directory as well, detailing who lived in a particular community and their occupation.

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