Have you traveled to a library or archive for genealogy research? If so, what is your favorite destination?

When I first started researching my family history in 1978, I either had to travel or write letters. At the time, my ‘favorite’ destinations would have included

  • Dodge City since my grandmother was still living at the time. In Dodge, I had access to
    • Ford County courthouse for marriage records, deeds and military discharge records
    • Kansas Heritage center to use microfilm of the Dodge City newspapers
  • Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka where I could access
    • federal census records for Kansas
    • state census records for Kansas
    • Kansas newspapers
    • books — genealogical and historical collection for many areas of the U.S.
  • Topeka Genealogical Society library in Topeka
    • Genealogical society publications
    • County histories

Thanks to this wealth of Kansas resources I was able to easily document the family histories shared by my grandmothers back to my 2nd great grandparents, who all resided in Kansas. As I worked my way back, I found I needed access to records beyond what was available in Topeka. That’s when I started taking advantage of two ‘lending libraries’.

  • National Genealogical Society Lending Library
    • Books
  • American Genealogical Lending Library
    • microfilm of county records

I also learned how to use the Family History Center in Topeka to borrow microfilm. However, my research required the use of a set of records not readily available thru any of these sources: federal census records beyond Kansas.

That’s when I discovered the Midwest Genealogical Center. During my first visits, this collection of genealogical resources was in a room in the Mid-Continent library in Independence, Missouri. As their collection expanded, an addition was built to the library to house the genealogy collection. In 2008, they built a new library dedicated to genealogy. Since the Midwest Genealogy Center is a relatively short trip from my home, it is often a destination for genealogy research. My husband and I recently took such a trip, spending several days in the library.

With all of the resources available on the Internet, one might wonder why one would spend the time and money to travel to a genealogy library. And my immediate answer is BOOKS!

While some books have been digitized, there are many genealogy related books that are not. And this library has a lot of them. While I’m not sure what call numbers would have been shelved on the bookshelves in the center of the above photo, I know that the Kentucky resources started on shelves near the big windows on the left side of the photo. And the Virginia books were across the room to the right and not visible in the photo. Besides the books for each geographic area, the periodicals were also bound and shelved with the books for that area. Behind us was another room containing the printed family histories.

And then on first floor is even more! The Midwest Genealogy Library has a large collection of microfiche/microfilm.

One of the ‘hidden gems’ in their collection is the Family History Library Microfilm. While the FamilySearch site provides access to a lot of the records originally microfilmed, not everything has been digitized. Other records may have been digitized but are locked unless being used in a Family History Center. Those un-digitized or locked records might be available for use as microfilm/microfiche at the Midwest Genealogy Center.

While I haven’t used genealogical periodicals to the extent I should, the Midwest Genealogy Center does maintain a large collection of periodicals.

The wonderful resources and staff at the Midwest Genealogy Center are likely why Family Tree Magazine has identified it as one of the top libraries for genealogy research in the United States. They also make FamilySearch’s list of America’s Top Ten Genealogical Repositories.

Even though I don’t have a need to research Nemaha county (Kansas), families, the Seneca Free Public Library provides a wealth of resources for local research.

  • Collection of family histories
  • Collection of yearbooks
  • WPA records of births, deaths, marriages and other records from local newspapers
  • Digital access to local newspapers
  • Interlibrary loan
  • FamilySearch Affiliate Library

While the Seneca library is a small public library serving a rural community, they deserve to be on a ‘top ten’ list of libraries to visit for anyone with Nemaha county ancestry.

I’m sure additional trips to the Midwest Genealogy Center will be in my future. However, I would also like to visit the following libraries:

  • Allen County Library
  • St. Louis Public Library (their collection includes the NGS lending library resources)

What about you? Will your travels take you to a genealogy library?

2 thoughts on “Libraries

  1. Archives and genealogy/historical societies are some of my favorite places to visit. Spent time at the Maryland State Archive, Kuethe Library Historical & Genealogical Research Center and special holding rooms at many of the Baltimore area public libraries.

  2. I really want to visit the Midwest Genealogy Center. It’s not that far from Denver so maybe someday. I have been to Salt Lake twice. I’ve been to the Denver Public Library many times, but not recently. They are going through a remodel right now. I also want to visit the Allen County Public Library. Lots of things on my bucket list.

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