August theme: Help
I love libraries. My earliest memories are of the old Erie library. Every week or two, Mom would take us. We were on the poor side of things, but didn’t know it because we could have all the books we wanted – for free! I probably still hold the record for the number of times a person has checked out “Millions of Cats”. (My sister still has a scar on her chin from when she fell on the library steps.) My mom loved to read and instilled it in us. (She is also responsible for our love of cats.) “I’m in the middle of a chapter,” was a legitimate excuse to get out of almost anything.
At home, I generally limit myself to fiction – my escape. But when I travel to other cities doing genealogy, the local history section of their library has been a favorite destination. The advent of the smart phone has made it so easy, too! I can snap a picture of the title page and any relevant pages. So much better than the hours of scribbling notes and trying to read them later on, or paying for poor photocopies!
The Erie library has a new location, with a fabulous “Heritage Room,” where I’ve made amazing discoveries of my Erie ancestors reading microfilmed newspapers and browsing the stacks for cemetery records, old yearbooks, and other references I didn’t even know to look for.
When I visited my grandfather’s hometown of Lyss, Canton Bern, Switzerland, the tiny library gave me some wonderful pictures of what the town must have looked like when my ancestors lived there. (Not all that different, to be frank.)
Archives are another kind of library genealogists depend upon. The archives in Bern, Switzerland were amazing. And here is the perfect opportunity to mention that librarians and archivists are heroes, especially when they can help a foreigner with old Swiss-German script.
I can’t mention every library I’ve visited, and every helpful staff person I’ve had the pleasure to work with. But I want to mention one more library – my personal library. I have many bookshelves in my house, mainly filled with reference material. When I visit towns and regions of people I’m researching, another place I head to is thrift / antique shops where I look for old histories, cemetery inventories, various genealogical records. Some person’s junk might be my treasure!