Genealogy Book of the Day

Bibliophile in the making: Reading Wuthering Heights on the back of my Grandpa’s pick-up = goofing off for an AP English assignment back in High School.

As you can probably tell, I’m addicted to books, and have been all of my life. Yes, I do take advantage of e-book offerings from my public library, as well as request e-journal articles via Interlibrary Loan – but I still enjoy the feel of picking up a book. And yet, with the shift to online databases and digitization, I sometimes have to remind my staff and patrons that the books on our shelves contain many things not found online. Here are just a few features that a genealogist may find useful:

  • Family and local histories that were only published in very small runs – sometimes, only a few of these titles exist worldwide – but still firmly under copyright protection.
  • Land record/plat studies – again, usually only published in short runs, but amazing work that can help you map out your ancestor’s land.
  • Personal memoirs – either for one person, or a collection of local memories – again, usually published in a small run, and still under copyright.
  • Record transcription collections – so, why not go look at the original? The original may no longer exist due to disaster, or illegible writing/ink.
  • Subject bibliographies – these collections can help with identifying extant records and repositories.
  • Atlases – getting a birds-eye view of migration routes or the local community of your focus.

Stalking Genealogists:

Print resources in the Kentucky Historical Society Library

I have a confession to make – I recognize the seasoned genealogists who come into my library on a regular basis – and I stalk the resources they use. These are not the genealogists that run to Ancestry the moment they settle in for research – nope – they usually grab a cart and load up on books. Regardless of the fact that I have been researching genealogy for decades, I believe it is vital to maintain a learning spirit. Understanding that as we follow different research paths with each new project, we continue to develop our skills with each new resource we use. We could all research for millennia and not fully know about all of the resources out there. But by examining the pile of books these genealogists are using, I have been introduced to wonderful resources that I may have never discovered without a bit of genealogist stalking. And this is a lesson I often give my staff – When you are back in the stacks reshelving, pay attention to what you are putting away. Is this something that could be useful to your research in the future? Is this something that may be useful to another patron who asks for this type of information? We are fortunate to be surrounded by so many wonderful resources, and even shelving should be an act of learning.

Information Seeking Behavior:

Book Scanning Station at RootsTech 2019 – hosted by Family Search

How we seek information is vitally important to our rate of research success. After all, even the GPS requires a “reasonably exhaustive search” when formulating a genealogical conclusion. And just to be clear, a reasonably exhaustive search cannot be completed online only. Some of you may argue that there are enough primary sources in digital format that removes the need to seek anything further. Well, someday, that may be true, but statistically, in 2019, that’s just not feasible. While digitization has multiplied electronic resources at an enormous rate, there are still billions of records that have not been digitized, nor will they be in the near future. And I’m not even including archival collections in that number. The staff numbers alone will not support digitizing complete archival collections – at least not in our lifetime, unless resource and technology catch up to the weight of the task. Also, don’t forget that copyright will always be an obstacle to digitization unless strict access standards are applied. And by ignoring these digitization limitation facts, your information seeking behavior will fall flat in the success department.

Genealogy Book of the Day:

Share those books that make your genealogy glitter sparkle!

Calling all bibliophile genealogists! As we post our favorite family photos, recipes, ephemera – we rarely post about our favorite genealogy books. Of course, “favorite” is a misleading word. It would be better to say “favorite at the moment”. Because the project we are currently focused on guides our research path – often introducing us to new or forgotten research gems. So…be watching my social media feeds (Twitter/Instagram) for those moments when I discover a great genealogy or history book worthy of sharing. I will use the hashtag #genealogybookoftheday or #historybookoftheday to alert followers to a new discovery, or rediscovered favorite. Feel free to join along as this is not a daily prompt, so you don’t need to feel any pressure about scrambling to find a book each day. But think about your favorites and share them periodically to remind us all about the wonderful print resources available. As you post, just explain why this is your current favorite, and what you learned by using this resource. What is it about this book that makes your genealogy glitter sparkle?

Drumroll, Please!

Just kidding – my first selection will appear in about 24 hours.
Until then, start showing your #genealogybookoftheday love!

2019: The Year of Sharing

Reflecting back on 2018, I’m happy to report that I accomplished a lot more over the course of the year than was conceptualized at its inception. This is not to brag, but rather, a revelation when considering the beginning of a new year. I have come to the conclusion that it is much healthier to identify our successful changes of the previous year, and look for opportunities to expand growth, instead of identifying areas of failure that need to be altered. In other words, we have a tendency to issue resolutions as declarations that are inflexible and too finite to encourage success. Which, in the long run, spells out our defeat even before we begin. If we, instead, look for hopeful themes to help or encourage our growth, then this should be enough to elicit positive change over the course of a long 12 months.
When looking at the growth of 2018, there was no resolution to drive the change, but an openness all year to identify areas susceptible to change, which were actually within my power to change. I knew a healthier lifestyle was priority one, but instead of hitting the gym like a crazed fitness junkie, I started taking walks every day as the weather permitted, and making better food choices consistently. I lost almost 20 pounds, gradually, and even with the weather change, I have not gained anything back, and will gently continue my efforts to get out more, and look for opportunities to enhance this healthy alteration; Being gentle with myself, and not harsh when I take a break or indulge in a guilty treat – celebrating by encouraging myself to continue the good work, instead of internally chastising for a missed step. This approach is also a good rule of thumb concerning our research efforts – be gentle with ourselves, and celebrate our accomplishments along the way.

Another area that caught my attention in 2018 was the amount of clutter in my home. With each house cleaning session, I made a point to throw away or remove via donation, a small amount of items which held no further meaning, neither intrinsic nor sentimental. Over the course of the year, I made 5 carload trips to Goodwill, and disposed of 7 large trash bags of paper junk. The end result: I was finally able to settle all of my family archives into their proper housing containers, and should any emergency occur, I can lay my hands on a few small boxes with the most important items. Now, when someone asks for a copy of a photo, I can go right to the proper location and digitize at will.

With the above accomplishment that evolved over the course of 2018, and while preparing similarly relevant material for my talk at RootsTech in a couple of months, I am mentally able to move on to the next phase in this transformation. The limited nature of time and the familial value of what I have been entrusted with have directed the next offshoot of growth – a prioritization of sharing. It is the natural progression of putting things in order. There is no longer a hindrance in the area of superfluous pieces of random material obscuring the vital or irreplaceable elements.

Welcome to 2019’s theme: Sharing.

But what does a lifestyle of sharing look like?

A sharing lifestyle is fluid and looks for a variety of sharing opportunities. My upcoming session at RootsTech is called: Past Forward: Tech Tools & Strategies for Sharing Family History Through a Consumable Genealogy Plan. Without giving too much away prior to the session, I have learned so much about the brain and how it consumes information. As family historians, one of our goals should be an aim for retention. What can we pass on that will be retained and therefore passed along to the future generations? This concept of “consumable genealogy” is my new driving force when sharing family history nuggets.

As I move forward in 2019, looking for various ways to share meaningful and engaging chapters of my family history, I will strive to be open to multiple platforms, and learn adaptive lessons from engagement. What can I learn from the perspective of others in my family? How can I package consumable pieces of family history in such a way that sparks the lazy muscle that sits between our ears?
Step one for me is to get a bigger handle on my scanning/digitizing progress in order to have material ready to package for sharing. While I have scanned a portion of my collection, there is much more that needs to be done, and sharing along the way will drive my efforts. Conversely, as much as I strive to produce the mammoth 500 page family history someday, I vow to not wait for that moment to begin my sharing. As Charlotte Brontë once said: “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness.” And if we replace the word happiness with ‘family history’….. Family History quite unshared can scarcely be called family history! With so many tools out there at our disposal to share our genealogy love, there has never been a better time to live with sharing as a driving force.

Happy New Year, from…

Sharing is Caring: The Insider’s Guide to Interlibrary Loan

It’s quite a mouthful: Interlibrary Loan. But it would be wise to remember this phrase as it could be your new best friend!

Depending on your local public library, Interlibrary Loan (ILL – sometimes known as Resource Sharing) may be a service that is promoted, simply extant, hidden, or not available – you may need to read the services fine print to learn about your library’s ILL offerings.

Most public libraries are eager to borrow the items you need for research, when feasible. However, the research needs of the genealogist can be challenging for Interlibrary Loan services. Let’s explore the obstacles, tips and tricks of this underused, and often misunderstood service.

What IS Interlibrary Loan?

In a nutshell, this is a networked loan program between libraries, allowing patrons to borrow from outside collections. Most of these libraries are connected electronically through their membership in OCLC: Online Computer Library Center – which also happens to run WorldCat, the world’s largest library catalog.

Tip #1: Remember these terms: Borrower and Lender. They are exactly as they sound, but the Borrower is not you – you are the patron or customer and the library borrowing on your behalf is the Borrower. The lending library is the Lender. Contrary to perceptions, the ILL transaction is a contract between the two libraries – NOT between the patron and the lending library. This way, both parties agree to certain standards during the transaction, even if things get damaged or lost in the mail, there is already a protocol in place to resolve the situation.

Through OCLC, each library will request materials on your behalf via the ILL software of their choice that will talk to OCLC, asking if the lending library is willing to lend an item. Each loan is considered based on a few questions:

  • Is the item available for loan? (Many items do not circulate due to various factors: Is it currently checked out to someone else? – Is it rare or archival, and does not circulate?)
  • Can they supply the item within a few days? (4 days is the standard turn around time)
  • Does the library charge a fee to loan?
  • Are there special use restrictions?
  • Is the item an article? – Articles are also available through this type of service.

Tip #2: You can be proactive in determining the likelihood of your ILL success. When using WorldCat to look for your needed title or article, you can make note of a couple of things for your librarian: The OCLC number, which can be found in the details section of the book record in OCLC – this will ensure that they borrow the exact edition you have found. Also, read the fine print: Is this an e-book edition, or an archival item? (Look for a print edition of your needed title as these are best for ILL – except in cases of e-resource agreements between certain libraries) Neither may be able to be borrowed, but if you are desperate, you can discuss photocopy options with your librarian.

What does ILL cost?

This program may be free for you, but depending on the location of the needed item, you may incur some fees. Many libraries belong to nearby or specialty networks that agree to free loans under reciprocal agreements. Sometimes, articles are included, but sometimes they are only supplied for a fee. So, be prepared for a fee structure running from free to about $20.00 per transaction.

Tip #3: Ask about ILL fees prior to submitting a request. For some libraries, they have decided to offer ILL services at no cost to the patron. Others provide this service for free IF they can borrow from a free lender. If they can only find your item through a fee-based lender, they may pass the charge on to you – it is safer to ask about their fee policies prior to submitting an order.

Let’s Talk Genealogy Materials

This is the bad news about ILL. We genealogists are usually on the hunt for obscure material. What exactly falls under the term “obscure”? Microfilm, family histories, local histories, archival/manuscripts or rare books. These items have a high chance of falling under “restricted” material.

“So, what is the point of this post, if I can’t borrow genealogical material?”

You can – but not always. This is just a word of caution to be realistic in your expectations.

Access versus Preservation:

While libraries are in the information providing business, many of them are also in the preservation business. Your natural inclination may be to argue that since you can’t get this information elsewhere, they should be willing to provide it. (Trust me, I’ve heard this argument more times than I care to count.) But think about it, if there is only one or two copies in existence, why endanger the item by placing it in a mail service where it could get lost? – As in, FOREVER, so that no one sees it ever again! Depending on the number of copies available worldwide, preservation can sometimes outweigh access – just be prepared for that scenario.

Tip #4: What to do if your material falls under this category? 1. Look for a copy to purchase online, through Amazon, Ebay, or the librarian’s friend: Bookfinder.com. 2. Look at the description of the book, is it small or really large? Does it have an index so that you can request look-ups or copies of certain pages? If archival, does it have a Finding Aid to help you identify the portions you would like photocopied? Many libraries are willing to copy portions of restricted material, because, after all, they still enjoy providing access to information. 3. Look at the publication year, is it old enough to be in the public domain and may have been digitized in its entirety through Google Books or the Internet Archive? Many of the older family and local histories are available for free download through these sites. Also, don’t forget to try the books section of FamilySearch

The above section was only meant as a caution – not to discourage. Regardless of what you find, ILL is a program in place to help patrons get the information they need – so use it! One of the really great uses for ILL is genealogy education and historical context study. Did you see a great new genealogy or history title out there that you’d like to use, but it’s just too expensive? Try ILL – the more recent titles (even recent local histories), owned by multiple libraries, have a high chance of being loaned out.

Tip #5: If you borrow a book through ILL, READ IT – and do not dawdle! ILL books will usually arrive with a generous loan period of around a month, but many do not allow renewals. So, get cracking on that title once it comes in!

The Gems in Those Smaller Libraries

OK, I’m talking very small libraries. The ones so small that they do not pay for membership in OCLC. Since your method of requesting material began with a WorldCat search, just remember that not every library can afford membership in this service. If you find out that a smaller non-OCLC library owns the title you need, you can still ask your librarian about ILL. There is a paper form that can be used between the libraries for these types of transactions.

Tip #6: So, you can’t find the title you need in WorldCat. Look at the title from a regional eye. Where was it published, and where is the subject material from? Then canvas the local area for smaller libraries and archives – they may have their own catalog – or, give them a call. You might be surprised at the number of small libraries “off the grid” that house those obscure titles and archives.

What About Historical Societies?

As a state historical society library, our catalog is connected to OCLC. However, it was only recently that we began loaning our books. As a new option for access, we decided to loan out duplicate material, or material small enough that we could create a circulating copy. Much of our library still does not circulate, but we have a lot of duplicate local/county/family histories that just might be the key to your research. As for other state historical societies, it depends. I’ve seen some connected to their local universities for the service, or some that just do not loan at all. In those cases, you are encouraged to call and discuss photocopy options.

Last Word About Microfilm:

As the Family Search microfilm lending program ended, we are resigned to waiting for digital copies of records. However, for many local newspapers, only a portion has been digitized through online databases. Multitudes await your use through the microfilm reader. Some libraries are great at lending these, but many are not. Different types of libraries, such as university libraries are much more eager to loan microfilm than public libraries – but don’t forget, all of these OCLC connected libraries loan to each other, regardless of library type – so, again, it’s well worth a try!

Happy researching!                                                                                                                                                    Cheri Daniels, MSLS                                                                                                                                            Your Genealogy Librarian

The Online MYTH: Researching in Tandem for Best Results

I am writing this post with gritted teeth and a fake smile upon my lips – retaining a professional demeanor in the face of such a dangerous fallacy can be almost impossible. But I promised you undiluted genealogy – and here comes test case number 1! Quick – go get a cup of tea before reading further!

Just this morning, on Facebook – the disseminator of both good and evil genealogy advice – a woman was asking for research location tips from her fellow genealogical researchers. As several gave her great insights, one person declared that:

“So many Kentucky records are online that it is rarely necessary to do onsite research anymore.”

She then proceeded to list about 3 wonderful online repositories….which was helpful, in a way….but with no cautionary caveats.

Two of the three online resources she shared should have come with cautions: The first one links to an aggregated collection of digitized items from around the state, including maps and newspapers – but what she doesn’t know, is that this site is in limbo, and most early participants no longer share digitization efforts on this site – most have created their own online portals for digitized records. The other site is a go-to for land records, and I recommend this one to researchers all the time – but caution that state budget cuts hit them hard, and digitization efforts had to stop short of the entire collection – some onsite visits would be necessary to access any records past a certain year.

Now, I understand that the standard researcher will not have knowledge of these limitations – but the overall impression of digitized record repositories containing complete collections, thereby eliminating a need for onsite research is FALSE!! FICTION!!! JUST PLAIN WRONG!! In fact, DANGEROUSLY WRONG!!

Why dangerous? Because the libraries and archives that contain our history operate on funding – local, state, or federal funding. What happens when the visitation numbers go down to a point that makes the keepers of the funds question their allocation that year? They cut, and they cut some more….and they hear local/national statements about everything being online, and they cut further…until access or existence is in extreme danger.

I was recently told a scary story (just in time for Halloween) about the construction of a new county courthouse – the locals in charge of building said courthouse, decided to opt for a closet sized research table to access records, because “No one conducts onsite research anymore – it’s all available on Ancestry!”

How do we stop this madness?

You MUST conduct your research using a tandem approach – and abandon the research vacuum of online only records!

1. PLEASE stop perpetuating the myth of online-only access. Just think about statistical probabilities alone – they are staggering. Since we’ve only been digitizing things for about the past 10-15 years (larger institutions), only a tiny portion has been digitized. And so many smaller institutions are not digitizing at all because of low staffing, technology and budget constraints. The libraries and archives of the world maintain huge collections of local records and family records – primary sources that can obliterate your brick wall! But if we encourage others to research in both places – online AND onsite, budgets grow, and online access continues to grow….otherwise, with the demise of research repositories because of a myth, we run the risk of endangering the existence of our history – and stopping the digitization efforts! Trust me, the digitization budgets are connected to the libraries and archives – you cannot have one without the other.

2. Run tandem research all the time – begin with online sources (images of primary sources hosted on main sites, such as Ancestry and Family Search) – noting the original location of these records. After building your research foundations with the wonderful digitized documents available to us, move to other online resources. Take a virtual tour of the libraries and archives of your state, region, and county of focus. Comb their websites and online catalogs to see what they have – look for several things: catalogs that list many of their items AND separate links that house archival finding aids or any digitization efforts they may be running. Remember: Even catalogs have limitations, and may not contain a list of EVERYTHING in their collection. Also, smaller county historical/genealogical societies may not have a website at all, or if they do, they may only list their location – not a list of what they have. Personal contact would be necessary in this instance.

General Stacks section of the Martin F. Schmidt Research Library at the Kentucky Historical Society

3. Head out on the road! Now that you have a research plan as to the locations and collections you want to see, you will be much more successful in your results. Be ready to experience some amazing bonuses along the way! By visiting the area of your ancestral home, you will gain an understanding that is unparalleled. You see the geography, breathe the air, and talk with the people of your homeland. Contextual knowledge of your ancestral community is a vital part to understanding your ancestors. Plus, your visit, though a tad costly, helps maintain the existence of these storehouses of history and information.
In short – always think of research as a multi-dimensional process. We are fortunate enough to have wonderful records at the tip of our fingers via super digitization efforts of many – but our research should NEVER stop there! Our storehouses of history contain the family records we need: Bible records, genealogy research files, correspondence, diaries, photos, school and Church records, etc. A fundamental principle of the Genealogical Proof Standard is “conducting a reasonably exhaustive search” – NEWSFLASH – online only research is NEVER a reasonably exhaustive search!

Great, now I need another cup of tea – and it’s only Monday!
Cheri Daniels, MSLS
The Genealogy Librarian