Genealogy and Local History Collections Panel Discussion


Hi. We are back at the North Carolina Virtual Family History Fair. I’m Rebecca Hyman with the Government and Heritage Library here in Raleigh North Carolina. Our last discussion of the day is on genealogy and local history collections. We will have three librarians from across the state of North Carolina who will be joining in on the discussion. So you know public libraries are valuable resource when conducting local or family research. Right now join us for a panel discussion. I just said that, featuring local history and genealogy librarians. Online resources such as Ancestry.com and other resources are a good place to history start for finding more about your family, but don’t forget the libraries and archives can play a vital role in conducting genealogical research. Many public libraries have local history and genealogy rooms, so visit both your local public libraries that are nearby as well as the ones that would be associated with the ancestors that you’re looking for. So today we have 15 libraries across the state of North Carolina who are hosting live viewings of the presentations today. And they have been very active on our Twitter chat and posting pictures of where they are. Today, I would like to introduce our panelists and then I’ll talk about our participating libraries again. I would like to introduce our panelists today. all librarians that have very active local history and Genealogy collections within North Carolina. First joining us in studio is Judy Allen-Dodson, who is the Librarian and Archivist at the Olivia Raney local history library, which is in Raleigh, North Carolina. And then calling in by phone is Billy King who’s the Library Supervisor at the North Carolina Room at Forsyth County Public library in Winston-Salem and then also on the phone is Jennifer Daugherty. She’s Special Collections Librarian and Manager of North Carolina room at the New Hanover County Public library in Wilmington. But before we begin our discussion. I just want to talk about are participating local libraries again. So the libraries that are hosting today if you’re on our Chat, or on our Twitter chat feel free to continue to contribute to the discussion. This is just a sample of local libraries across the state that have local history and genealogy collections. I encourage you all to dig deeper into local collections for your research. So as you can see I’ve listed the libraries that are participating today along with what their focuses are so we have libraries from all across the state from the Eastern, North Carolina and the Coast all the way to the mountains. So thank you again for participating. So I’m going to now toss it over to Judy Allen Dodson who is the Librarian and Archivist at the Olivia Raney local history library. I just would like to just state our mission at the Olivia Raney local history library. It’s to collect and preserve materials that tell the story of Wake County and the surrounding areas. We specialize in local history and genealogy. Our mission also is to have a collection of Wake County, Raleigh and North Carolina and surrounding areas, and we by all means would love for people to donate their their family histories and their family collections to our library. And now we’re going to hear from Billy King who is supervisor at the North Carolina Room of the Forsyth County Public library in Winston-Salem. Hello everybody greetings from Forsyth County Public Library. Our North Carolina room celebrates his 41st year this year. We’ve always had a the library goes back 116 years, but we’ve always had some local some kind of local collection of information about North Carolina, or the surrounding area. So 41 years ago up the commitment was made to start a room to collect those materials and it has grown over the years and moved in several locations. We’re in a unique situation at the moment our central library closed two years ago today and was demolished and is being built up again to a larger nicer 21st Century Library and what was going to happen to North Carolina room and people who are doing genealogy? Well they decided to put us in a small smaller space, a temporary space and the government center right next to the Register of Deeds office which is a good thing because genealogists use deeds a lot. So we’ve been there for two years with an abridged collection to the percentage of our books on history and genealogy on microfilm collection and city directories. So things that are used a lot by genealogists and historians. So we’re looking forward to moving into a much larger on new space next summer late next summer, we’re told, but you know how it is a building and construction. So we hopefully will be there, and it’ll be a much larger space and there will be a room for growth. So just to give you a little idea of what we have and what we do. We have over 40,000 volumes thousands of reels of microfilm both genealogy materials and local history. So as Judy said for Wake County, we collect for Forsyth County and the surrounding area things that are pertinent and of interest to people in our area. Genealogists always found a good place to come because of other unique materials that we have to our area: the city directories or newspapers back 100 years, via donations of genealogy and family histories, vertical files, and family histories, and the clippings file that goes back 50 60 years of topics related to the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County area. And we found that over the years our collection has grown beyond just Forsyth County and the Piedmont. And now we have materials for every state in the in the country because a lot of people move too away from Winston-Salem out to other states and then reverse coming back to us. So people following those trails come to us and looking for families. So we try to collect things that are of use to people where the families came from move into because many people some from Pennsylvania for example came to North Carolina, when Salem was established in the 1700. So it’s growing and it’s a very vibrant collection. We have a staff of two full-time librarians including me, a part-time photograph librarian, a library assistant who’s also a local historian and a page who’s been doing genealogy of her own for 15 years. It’s a very vibrant location that people come to from all over the country. We look forward to opening a new space. Next to you. So that’s it in a nutshell. That’s what we do. Great. Thanks, Billy and now going to hear from Jennifer Daugherty who is the Special Collections Librarian and Manager of the North Carolina Room at the New Hanover County Public Library. Thanks, Rebecca. I first want say that it’s interesting what our titles are the librarians that work in these rooms because I never know if I should call myself the special collections librarian, a local history librarian, an archivist? Because a lot of times these rooms encompass all of that. You know we have global archives, we have special collections, we have rare books. You know I think it’s great that North Carolina the state that has this unique feature in its history rooms. I come from Kentucky and there are several libraries that have Kentucky Rooms, but not such that we have here in North Carolina. I just wanted to say that first of all and I just wanted to share with you the mission of our room. It kind of defines what we do and how we do it. We focus on the heritage and history of the people, places, culture and natural environment of a Cape Fear region, the City of Wilmington, and the state of North Carolina. So we’re looking at heritage and history and we do focus on the lower Cape Fear, but New Hanover county once was much larger than it is now and you know different parts of the state influence other parts and so we do look for things from all over North Carolina. We have a great archives and manuscript collection. We have pieces that date back to the seventeen hundreds because they were handed down from private libraries that were begun in the Cape Fear area as early as 1760. So they’re similar unique things, and then you know we do have our genealogy collection which is papers that people have donated and published books that help people doing research, not just NC, but other areas as well. And like general genealogies which I’m sure a lot of collections have like how-to type things. So, but the big focus I want to talk about is you know the special collections things that we have. Those archives was made for it. That’s where people are going to find the things that they can’t find necessarily anywhere else. Like the Family Bibles that somehow got into the library, letters, diaries, those types of materials. We do have those and they can really add a lot of context to people’s genealogy research. That’s just me in my co-workers, so sometimes it can be challenging to answer all the distant reference questions that we get if somebody from another state contacts us. We try to do what we can but there are only two of us, so I’m sure a lot of places have this problem as well. So you just have to do what you can so we can’t necessarily do your entire genealogy for you, but we will help you if you send us specific questions. We will explain to you about the resources. No one’s more knowledgeable I think about the records and resources in the areas than the local library. That’s a great service that we offer. So that’s pretty much the North Carolina Room at New Hanover County Public Library. Well, thank you everyone for your introductions and talking about what your collections and repositories have. So we’re going to start our discussion and so once I read the question anyone who’s here or online can jump in. So why are local repositories important for Genealogical research? Oh I’ll start. At the at the Olivia Raney Local History library it’s very important to have these local repositories because it’s probably and could be possibly the only place that has that houses that local history information. So it’s very important for the repositories to be able to house those collections because everything is not online and so everything has not been digitized and everything is not searchable online. So I think it’s very important to be able to come to a local history library, or history library, or repository like the Olivia Raney Local History library that and like Billy had mentioned too that we have a clipping service we have city directories that may or may not have been digitized and we also have newspapers that are on microfilm as well as the archival collections that are really important that are specifically local to that to that area. Thank you. Anyone else want to chime in? I was going to say by the same thing but also, not only if you’re looking for a certain family don’t just go to the county that you think they lived in. Because people moved around and counties have merged and come together. So you may find the name in a county that you didn’t expect. So the it pays to go to different collections because they are so unique and I’ve always known that Salisbury, for example in Rowan county to be have a great local history and genealogy collection and they have in the McCubbin’s file which about Rowan county that I’m pretty sure the state library has a copy on Microfilm and some other places have it but that is something unique to that area that one person a hundred years ago or so or almost a hundred years ago put together and just devoted her life to that. And we all have collections like that. Donations by local genealogists who have spent their lives on their families. You never know what you’re going to find and it like you said it is linked to each collection. I also wanted to add that our historian that we go to religiously is Elizabeth Reid Murray who has an extensive collection. How she has her archival collection as well as her her two books Wake one and Wake two that she did with Todd Johnson that is by far the most renowned information about Wake County that we have. It’s just imperative to be able to go and have the those local repositories because other than that they may not be available and accessible to the public. And I think just from what I was saying before when in my intro is that these places serve as sort of repository of knowledge. You can see that both Billy and Judy both know a lot about their collection, and I know a lot about my collection and I think just having that local repository you have that place to go where you’re going to go talk to someone who knows who the local historians. I think Billy said this too. They know who to go to what sources to go to to find the answer to your questions. So even just having those people there is great because those people will know what sources are available what records you will or probably won’t be able to find and where to go to find those records. And you often meet other genealogists who just love to help and just love to give suggestions and can give you some great leads too while working in the same room. Thank you for all these good points that everyone has brought up. So we’ll move on to our second question which is how can your library and local libraries in general help remote or out of town genealogists use and access collections? I know that at Olivia Raney we have a branch manager and myself the librarian and the archivist and two half time staff members and so one of the ways is that if possible with volunteers just like Billy and Jennifer had mentioned you know we need people to help volunteer and so but the staff having the staff know the collection like Jennifer mentioned is most imperative. I mean if you know that collection you may not know everything, but to be able to have the knowledge and the knowledge you know of what you have and can be able to point the out of town or the patron over the phone or emailing that question in is most imperative. And I would say that I think it’s really important for… this is just like a piece of it. Well, I know you’re going to talk about and you’re going to ask another question, sort about this about advice but I was sort of give this advice for this one is that when you are out of town especially if you’re an out-of-town person and you’re contacting somewhere like the State Archives or the State Library or a local collection just just to keep in mind that these people that are usually pretty understaffed and that if you ask a really general questions, we’re not going to be able to help you. We can’t do in-depth research for you because we are helping like 10 other people at the same time. We can look up an obituary, we can check a book. I love it when people narrow a question and say can you check an index and see if this name is listed. That’s great, I can do that, but if you send me a request that says so-and-so from 1785 and I’m trying to send me everything about them. I can’t I really won’t be able to help you that much because I cannot go through my entire collection and research and build your your, you know a research formula for you from that. So I just want to tell people It’s like if you know we would absolutely want to help you we’re not trying to be difficult, but when you ask us really general questions it’s really hard, so you know just remember to really specific when you’re contacting the library if you’re out of town and you need help. It’s like you know try to be specific and asked us to look up a specific thing for you so we can help you. Another way that we are trying to help people remotely of course is the digitizing as much material as possible and a lot of us have had help from the military on a digital Heritage Center, which has been year books for us, maps, city directories and other materials. So that way a lot of stuff can be found more and more online remotely. Also by providing the service of being able now to email obituaries easily will keep people will constantly email and call for an obituary when we limited to maybe three a day so we don’t get overwhelmed. We can easily scan microfilm of the newspaper and send it on. It used to take a lot of turn around copying and mailing and the question the payment, but now we can be done in just a few minutes. Also, by providing a better hours we’ve been open weekends and in the evening for people who can come from a distant or if you visit and need more access. That’s one way we help people who are away and also Interlibrary Loan of course the old fashioned way of sending copies of articles or or if there are circulating copies of books and those too. Can I add one other thing? And this is this is kind of really important. My library assistant, and I just discovered that we had found that we had found some information after the patron had come in from out of town from Tennessee and we discovered, oh we have we found the information for them, but for the library staff to be able to get the contact information for the people who are visiting and to be able to if possible, you can follow up with them and be able to have that contact information as opposed to them leaving and you’re not being able to contact them after they left your repository. That’s a good idea. Okay, thank you everybody and so we’ll move on. What is one piece of advice you can offer people using local collections and local libraries for genealogical research? I’ll start. Start with the abstract, then look for specific records. It places your person in that location and you’re not looking just looking around. You’re actually finding something specific and then branching out from there, which actually helps with your research, and it saves on time as well. I would like to add that, that I’ve seen people do this with particular family members if they thought was like a person the farthest back that can get on who they think ever like especially male line of who they are descended from. If they come in, I’ll pull a look and say oh well you know this book is on the McRae family or hear this book is not about your McRae, but it’s got you know he’s not in this book, but there might be related. I’ve had people just really quickly dismissed that and say oh, no no, that’s not my person or and I think that’s kind of what Judy saying. He was like you know maybe even if you’re looking for this specific person when you come in look at those other even if you don’t think that’s your line look at those other things, surnames books, look at related records because they may be related. Don’t think that oh my guys not in that book so I’m not gonna look at that surname book and it sounds kind of simple, but I’ve seen people do it. They just been like oh no that’s on my family and it’s like yeah that probably actually is the same family. Yeah, that’s a very good point Jennifer and the other thing that I was going to mention too is, and this is so imperative, the spellings of names. Don’t just take that one spelling because it could be spelled like so many different ways and it’s the name spelling changes over the course of years or centuries and people move so and they change the spelling of their name, so you know check different types of spellings. Right and names are misspelled a lot too of often on the census records and other places. My advice was probably already mentioned, is ask. People come in and they want to help themselves or browse, and discover, but ask the Librarian. Ask anybody who’s in the room because they have this knowledge that they love to share and over years experience and and don’t be shy. That’s what they’re there for and that’s what they enjoy. Just ask, ask, ask. Yeah, the other if I could just add as well a couple things communication between you just like you said, Billy ask, ask that next level question and also to for the library staff and ask that next next level question. You know, you know because sometimes when you’re just that surface level they don’t know sometimes the patron doesn’t know what they don’t know. So you as being that professional and that experienced researcher you have the knowledge of that collection whether you have it in your collection or not, you can ask that next level question that may be able to point them in a direction that they never even thought to even be able to to travel down. Yeah and I was going to say about the communication as well. It’s like just make sure that you are… it’s funny because when people come to the library sometimes you know we just give them one book, but a lot of times we want to give them more books because they shy away from wanting to get more information, but just be able to give them everything that you know as the library staff and to be able to help them and its really kind of up to them if they want to pursue going or taking the time. And a lot of times I was going to say to the people who are out there listening as researchers, allot enough time to be able to get your research done. Because a lot of people see the commercial Ancestry.com and they think they can push a button and their leaves are just going to fall off the tree like you know these are all my ancestors, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of research. So allot enough time to be able to be thorough in your research and in the information that you that you’re getting. I’m glad that you brought at the ancestry because I think that that’s a good point that before you come to these local repositories which I want to say we are a good source like if you need help getting started if you need help even learning how most of us have like a subscription Ancestry Library Edition. We definitely can help you with that, but if you have that subscription at home, you know do your do your homework especially if you’re traveling and you’re going to come to our repository. Definitely do your homework before you come. Know what is on Ancestry and know what you might be able to find uniquely in our collection or call me and I can tell you. I can say hey this is what you’re not going to find in Ancestry. This is why you should come to our repository. So just know that there’s going to be a big difference probably between what’s available and that really easy, quick online searchable database and the kind of records that I’m going to have church records. I’m going to have bible records. I’m going to have a totally different kind of record. I just want to make sure that my patron especially if they’re coming from out of town gets the best use of their time and definitely call me beforehand we can work out a game plan for you, and you can figure out some things on your end And then I can kind of steer you on where I can help you more individually with our selection. Always call before you come any distance because you don’t know what might have happened, there might have been a hurricane. Yes, that’s definitely important to call ahead. That’s that’s very important because you know just to check the hours just to be able to see if somebody, you know, if the library is going to be open and you would hate to to take that trip and then it’d be wasted. So we we asked the library staff we want to help you. We want to be here for you. We want to pull information for you before you get here because we know that if you you know if you’re traveling or even if you’re local just the time you just don’t realize how much time it actually takes to actually go through a book, go through an index, go through the microfilm, go through the archive the archival boxes. You just, it’s just imperative to yeah just definitely call ahead. Thank you for all all that great information and all the good advice from everybody and just a reminder that another place besides calling ahead is to look at the library’s website. There’s a lot of great information on there mentioning if you are going to visit and hours and links to catalogs and reading lists and handouts and things like that. So we actually have only one more question and then we can just open it up if there’s other libraries who are participating, say if they have anything to add that we can catch them on Twitter or on or chat and we’ll talk. So our last question and thank you again everybody What are the most underrated or hidden collections in local libraries or in your library to use for Genealogical research? I think that maps are pretty underrated. A lot of people maybe they don’t get there first, but just don’t discount them as a resource that you wouldn’t use simply because you know just like Billy said people people moved, people traveled and lines, county lines were shifted and they may have lived in Johnston County before it before Wake county or the line may have moved and the other one that I was going to add would be on tax records. Tax records seem like they’re just, you maybe you may shy away from tax records, and you may not know that that’s a resource. But what the tax records show is it proves that you had residence there, that you owned property, that you, it showed wealth, it shows it shows a lot of different things so and they go back pretty far depending on what county you go to. So definitely maps and tax records. I would definitely say are the most underrated and kind of hidden that people kind of shy away from or don’t know about. Jennifer do you want to go? Actually, I think a collection that we have in someone actually just recently did an article about this collection so it made it comes to my mind. When Rebecca I gave me a heads-up about this question that I thought you know what what is really unique to our collection that I can share towards people that people don’t normally think to look at and its local cookbooks. We have a local food blogger who give this really great article about our local cookbooks and when I got to talking to her about the things that you’re going to find in these cookbooks, I thought wow these really do have useful information. A lot of these cookbooks have been donated or the Library purchased copies they were done is like fundraisers for local organizations. Like the Daughters of the American Revolution did one, the Sorosis Club did one, a lot of ladies clubs do them, our Rotary Club does a cookbook. First of all you’re getting this great usually the regional local recipe so it’s sort of giving you a sense of the community like the kinds of foods these people are cooking at home and eating and a lot of them were like traditional recipes. And if you can imagine like I’m on the coast and if it’s a lot of times these books have great seafood recipes in them and then you’re getting people names because they are submitting these recipes and they usually have their name and like what communities are from or sometimes they’ll have, how they’re you know like if they are vice president of the organization or something like that. So you’ve got sort of a list of people in the community who also put there and it also gives you sort of a little bit of social history if you can find that one of your ancestors has submitted a recipe is it tells you like the type of food they were eating, it tells you they were probably a member or associated with this organization in some way. I’m always looking for ways to look at ancestors beyond just like names on paper you know just to try to bring them and bring the people into their the lives of their ancestors. And I think these local cookbooks are a really great to do that. It sort of invites you into the kitchen of your ancestor. So I would have to say yeah local cookbooks. People just don’t think about looking at those and looking through them and even like statewide published cookbooks. We have some really great cookbooks that have been done in our state and that’s another place to look. Like I said it just really gives you this great picture of you know what’s going on in people’s kitchens even if it’s not giving you a birthday or a death date. That’s a great idea. It is. I was thinking that the most underrated or under used are often the donated collections of genealogies from researchers. The files of genealogists who have donated their files or whose children have donated their files. We have boxes and boxes of that type of material that needs to be indexed and needs to be made accessible in a certain way. So if you have the time and if you’re looking for a certain family that’s one place where you can go digging and find stuff. We do have a couple collections that have been sorted, somewhat indexed so there’s a list of family names and what pages to go through for that. There are others that are going to have to be processed once we reopen. So probably work building on the collections and the research of those who have gone before us. It’s probably what I think is most under-rated materials we have. Does anyone have anything else to add? I had a few things that I wanted to just mention about the Olivia Raney Local History Library. Our collection is extensive and that we have a multitude of different areas for genealogy researchers to do research. We have newspapers which go back to 1799 and that’s with the News and Observer. We also have the Raleigh Times and we also have another collection that I was going to say that it’s kind of underrated, it would be periodicals. People don’t think to use periodicals and I just wanted to thank the State Archives for digitizing Our State. I mean that is just by far phenomenal for us as you know this repository to be able to point and to be able to have them as a resource. So definitely check the periodicals as well. I just wanted to mention that Olivia Raney also has a photograph collection and I think people tend to maybe not look at the photograph collections in different repositories as another way to find ancestors, or to use that as your research. Vertical files at Olivia Raney our extensive as well as Billy had mentioned. Olivia Raney also has or still has, but had in the past an actual clipping service. We still clip but it’s not as much as possible because a lot of things are searchable online from the newspapers, but the definitely check the vertical files and the vertical files at Olivia Raney for anything Wake County related. We have business, families, biographical ones and just ones in general that are very helpful. Again the maps I had mentioned that were I thought were a little bit underused and underrated and kind of you know hidden, and I think it just helps so much with just the lines and the county lines and just to be able to get people to understand the location of their ancestor because sometimes you just think that this that they could have moved or where they are actually where they were actually located. So maps help to just to be able to, so you can get a sense of where they were or where they lived at that particular time that you’re looking for. Again the microfiche and the microfilm– I did want to mention that we do have two new microfilm readers at the Olivia Raney Local History Library. So we welcome researchers to come and use those and to be able to test those out and give us feedback on those and they’re just phenomenal and we appreciate the donation and Wake County Public Libraries to be able to help us get those up and running. We also have books and people tend to go to books right away, but and they are helpful, and we do have a really good collection of books on the Civil War, African-American history and local history as well. So I just wanted to kind of reiterate what resources that we did have at the Olivia Raney Local History Library and also another one if you’re not local and you can’t get to us if you can go on you can go on our website and go to our our Local History and Genealogy Research guides those are very helpful and can help you with information that is within the area, within our within our mission, so I did want to point those out as well as our databases as well you can always go to Wake County Public Libraries our homepage and go under research and be able to get to those research guides, and those databases. And just like Jennifer had mentioned we do have a Library Edition of Ancestry.com and we’re open to be able to help you figure out and how to be able to use that as a resource for your for your research. Thanks, Judy. So before we wrap it up does anyone have anything else to add or any last thoughts regarding genealogy and genealogical research and the roles that local repositories play in their research. I just wanted to add that well just sort of sum up like what we’ve all been saying is that the larger database does definitely have their place in there is so helpful, but to through don’t discount going to a more local repository or library because there are things that you don’t you don’t know that we have and not everything that we have is in our catalog. You know a lot of us are understaffed, and you know it may take the next ten years or so to get all the stuff compiled we know is here. So just don’t forget about those local repositories because I got some letters donated to our archives that someone found in an attic and you just you never know what letters or diaries or personal papers are going to make their way to us. So just keep always keep that in mind. And don’t forget that that leads into the idea that the collections are ever changing. It’s like you should take those databases regularly because they are always adding new collections. So are our local history rooms are always getting new donations and being able to buy more materials. So be frequent users come often. Well, I want to thank everyone for the discussion today. I’ve learned a lot for how local repositories local libraries and archives can help in genealogical research, so every library collection has its own unique materials. And I hope that you will visit your local libraries and archives as you conduct your family research. I want to thank you again to our panelists Judy Allen Dodson from Olivia Raney Local History Library, Billy King from the Forsyth County Public library as well as Jennifer Daugherty at the New Hanover County Public library. And I want to then thank every all the libraries that have participated across the state today. Hello, everybody and thank you, and thank you to our staff here in the studio and all of our presenters and especially the staff at the Nature Research Center, and the CEO Chris, Mike, and Greg. So thank you and thank you again for watching and listening and I encourage you to fill out our survey so we can get feedback so we can continue offering more programs like this and thank you and have a good day. Thank you, okay. Thanks for having us.

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