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Visiting Libraries to Find Genealogy Information

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City Libraries use Dewey Decimals

The local city libraries are of varying help. Any good library should have many basic books to help folks seeking genealogical information, and plenty of genealogy reference books as well.

Learn to become familiar with the Dewey Decimal numbers for the genealogy how-to-books: 929.1, and to read as many of these as possible if they are unfamiliar with basic avenues of research. It is also helpful to learn the Dewey Decimal numbers for the states being researched. For instance, it is important to learn as much as possible about the geography of any particular area being researched, as well at its history. Books in the 917 area describe the various United States.

Use the Reference Area

Learn to use the Reference area of your library. The librarians should usually be available to help, but will not do in-depth research for the patron. Ask general questions about locations of particular types of reference materials, and learn your way around the library so you can find needed materials quickly. Often there are banks of computers in the Reference area where you may find a quieter area for research.

Public Libraries Often Have Genealogy Sections

Most mid-size and large public libraries now have a Genealogy section or room. Sometimes it is called Special Collections, and may include local history material as well. The size and extent to the individual library holdings varies based on the budget, interest, and location of the library.

Libraries often subscribe to genealogy databases that the average person can not afford on their own. AncestryLibrary Edition, Heritage Quest and Fold3 are three such databases. Check and see if your library offers access to their subscriber databases.


Many libraries around the country have very good genealogical collections. Among these are:

  • The Newberry Library in Chicago, IL
  • The Anderson Public Library of Anderson, IN
  • The New York Public Library New York City, NY
  • The Boston Public Library Boston, MA
  • The Buffalo Public Library Buffalo, NY Grosnover Room
  • The Largo Public Library Special Collections, Largo, FL
  • The Tampa Public Library in Tampa, Florida which has a special collection in connection with the Florida Genealogy Society.

As more and more libraries add genealogical resources to their permanent collections, patrons may be able to find good genealogies close to home. Continual requests for genealogical information encourges libraries to add this type of information to their collections. If you spend a lot of time researching in your public library and using their genealogy related materials, please encourage your library to expand and update its collection.

Vacationing genealogists may travel near any of these libraries, and by all means should use them. Sometimes they can write to these libraries for help or suggestions, as long as your questions are brief. Please send genealogy questions to the libraries you plan to visit, and encourage their genealogy department to grow!


There are also several private libraries that contain lots of information about Irish-Americans, and the Irish themselves. The Andersen Library in Gulfport, Mississippi is good. Also, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, had a head librarian named F. Wilbur Helmbold, who had been Director of Genealogy and Historical Research since 1965. He is author of Tracing Your Ancestry, another good how-to book on general genealogy.

LDS Family History Centers

The LDS Genealogical Society and its Family History Center Libraries are based in Salt Lake City, Utah. They have branches all over the world where microlfilmed records can be ordered. LDS has microfilmed many English records, Irish records, Italian records, American records, and records from around the world. Millions of records are available, and LDS is now in the process of digitizing most of them. Check familysearch.org to see if they have the information or old records you need available at their website or whether you have to visit their Family History Centers for restricted materials The Family History Library of The Church of the Latter Days Saints (LDS) in Salt Lake City, Utah is a huge genealogy library you can visit when you are in Salt Lake City, but call ahead to see if you need an appointment. LDS has branch libraries called Family History Centers around the country and around the world

New England Historic Genealogy Society Library in Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The NEHGS has a long history of publishing genealogy books and materials, and has done extensive research on genealogies relevant to the New England area. They also have a lot of DAR information from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

For more information on the NEHGS, please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England_Historic_Genealogical_Society

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