Have you been bit by the genealogy bug?
If so, EVPL is here to help you scratch that itch. We have materials for the mildly curious to the avid researcher. In fact, we have so much that I can’t cover all of it in one blog, so I am doing it in three: Genealogy 101, 102, and 103. In this blog, we’ll learn about resources that will help you understand what genealogy is all about. In a later blog, I’ll show you how to start your research without even leaving your couch! And in a third blog, I’ll introduce you to Ancestry, available at any of our branches, and talk about the amazing resources only accessible with a visit to the library.
If you know nothing about the subject, but all of the Ancestry.com commercials have made you curious to learn more, one fun introduction could be PBS’s TV series Finding Your Roots. Each episode takes two or three famous people who are curious about their past and shows them their family tree, walking them through the research findings. The show finished airing its fifth season in spring 2019, but you can catch up on the first three seasons through EVPL’s Hoopla app.
If you haven’t set up your Hoopla account yet, it’s easy. Follow the above link, then click the Get Started Today and fill in the boxes. Once you’ve done that, Hoopla will take you through the steps of designating EVPL as your library and adding your library card number to your account. You can set up and use Hoopla on your desktop, or through their app on the mobile device of your choice.
Finding Your Roots is a great introduction to the possibilities of genealogy, but it doesn’t teach specifics of how to research. For that, you are better off using Hoopla to read or listen to books that teach genealogy. If reading isn’t your preferred learning method, try Hoopla’s video Great Courses Genealogy series. Again, just stream it like you did Finding Your Roots.
Our Overdrive (Libby) app offers its own selection of genealogy books for reading or listening. Or, you can take Gale’s Genealogy Basics course. It is an online, instructor lead, 6-week course that includes simple homework assignments and the opportunity to discuss the material with the instructor and other students through a message board. I had been doing genealogy for a few years and had almost 20 years of librarian research experience when I took the course, and I still learned new things.
Both Overdrive and Gale Courses require you to sign in separate from your library account. Overdrive is the simplest; just tap the Sign In link and type in your library card number and PIN. If you are downloading the app for the first time, you will need to designate your library too. Overdrive will walk you through it.
From Gale’s main page, you can browse their courses, search for a specific course, or sign in if you already have an account. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to select the course and the class time you want to sign up for first. Then, you’ll get the choice to create an account. Gale will walk you through the account creation process, and EVPL staff are always here to help if you run into issues.
If long books and classes are too time consuming, we also have the Family Tree Magazine that you can download with RBDigital. If you’re just beginning to search, some of the articles may be over your head at first, but there is a lot of helpful information. The best part about RBDigital is the ability to set your account to check out the magazine automatically; you can then download it to your device, and you’ll have access to it forever, online or offline.
For those who prefer a solid book in their hands (and when I’m learning a new subject, I really prefer a book where I can easily flip pages back and forth), EVPL has tons available for the beginner up to the experienced genealogist looking for help researching their Germanic ancestors in Europe. Since we’ve been talking about resources for those of us just starting, we’ll stick with those books.
I know some people don’t like the Idiot and Dummies titles, but you can’t beat those books for their coverage of the basics. I would suggest that you pay attention to the copyright dates of these books. While the basics of how to begin gathering information will never change, how you access some of the sources does change. An extreme example, in the 70’s and 80’s genealogists accessed census records through microfilm at libraries, now they get on Ancestry or FamilySearch and type in their relative’s name.
When you’re just starting out, you might think a book on organizing your research is too soon – you don’t have any research to organize yet. Take it from me, the sooner you decide on an organization method and start it, the better off you will be. Going back and organizing piles of documents later can be a major pain and be extremely daunting.
The above list is by no means comprehensive, so I would also recommend that when you have a little extra time, you browse the genealogy shelves at EVPL. You’ll find some books at any of the larger libraries, but EVPL Central will have the greatest selection.
Dig in to everything I’ve talked about here, have some fun, and when you’re ready, check out Genealogy 102 for information on how to start your research from the comfort of your couch!