Over half of the attendees have indicated that this is their first visit to the library. Some are putting together research plans for their ACPL trip as part of their February goals. So I decided to write an insider’s guide to the library to help them maximize their results.
The following are 10 tips for getting the most out of your research trip from home and at the library. Even if you aren't planning a visit to ACPL, you can still conduct a ton of research from the library's online databases and digitized books.
1. Familiarize yourself with the library.
At Home: Take time to explore the Genealogy Center’s website. Watch the library's Orientation video. Check out their State and Subject Snapshots to view the highlights of their collection. Learn how to search their print and microtext catalogs (PDF).
At ACPL: If you have the option, take the tour. Otherwise, pick up the map of the library and the map of the microfilm collection at the “Ask Here” desk upon entering the library. Walk around and explore where everything is located before you start researching. Also don’t be afraid to ask the librarians on duty for help locating materials.
2. Research in local history books.
At Home: Search the online catalog for the locations where your ancestors lived. Make sure to check links to Internet Archive for books that have been scanned. For example, Volume 2 of History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, Indiana (1885) is available online.
At ACPL: Local histories are shelved using the Dewey decimal system. You can browse the books easily if you know the pattern. Books that are general to the state are listed as XXX.X, county level books are XXX.X01 and city books are XXX.X02. (The Xs here represent the call numbers specific to a location.) For example, Indiana books are 977.2, Indiana county books are 977.201 and Indiana city books are 977.202. County and city books are then arranged alphabetically.
Note: Indiana books are in their own special section. When you enter the library, turn right and the Indiana collection will be in the stacks to your right.
3. Research in the Family Histories.
At Home: Search the catalog for family histories by typing the surname you are seeking and then “family.” For example: “Lyons Family” or “Eiswerth Family”. Look for links to Internet Archive for books that have been scanned.
At ACPL: The family history books are to the left of the entrance. They are arranged alphabetically by the principal surname in the book. Searching in the catalog will bring up many books that won’t be found just browsing the shelves for a specific surname.
4. Research in online databases
At Home: Check the lists of the library’s subscriptions and online databases. They have a number of subscription databases that are free to search within the library, including Ancestry, Fold3, Heritage Quest and more. They also have many free databases to use at home or at the library. These include Indiana Resources, African American Gateway, Our Military Heritage and others.
At ACPL: Feel free to bring your own laptop, tablet or other device and use the library’s WiFi. Otherwise you can use the many computers in the department. If you don’t have a library card, ask a librarian for a temporary number. It will last for 24 hours and give you access to the library’s computers. Printing from the library’s computers costs 10 cents (using a print card charged with paper currency) or you can save any images you find to a flash drive.
Note: If you have your family tree online at Ancestry, you will not be able to access your tree. The library automatically logs into the ACPL library account and you cannot access another account on the library’s internet. (Actually you can find your tree if you search for someone in your tree, but that can be a pain.) If you have a tablet or smartphone with the Ancestry tree app, you not have a problem.
5. Take a break
Note: There is no food or drink permitted in the department to protect the collection.
At Home: Check out the map for restaurants (PDF) within walking distance of the library.
At ACPL: Remember to take a break to stretch and refuel your body. Take care of yourself so you can research at your best.
6. Research in Genealogy Periodicals
Note: ACPL has the largest collection of genealogy periodicals in the country (probably the world). They maintain an index of articles called the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) based location and surname. Articles are not indexed by every name, but by overall topic.
At Home: Search for your ancestors’ surnames and locations on PERSI. It is available through Heritage Quest (if your local library has access) and Ancestry. Make sure to check the ACPL catalog to make sure they have the periodical you are seeking and to record the call number.
At ACPL: The newest editions of periodicals are located on the East wall of the department (turn right when you enter the library and go straight back to the wall.) They are organized alphabetically. When the library has enough issues of a periodical, they bind them into a book and put them on the shelves based on location or topic. Searching in the library’s catalog should help you determine if a periodical has been bound or not by whether or not it has a call number.
7. Research in Microtext Collection
At Home: Check the microtext catalog and newspaper holdings to view the library's collections. Many of these items, but not all, can also be found in the library’s main catalog.
At ACPL: If you want to save or print an image from microfilm, use the readers connected to computers. Bring a flash drive to save your images. Currently printing from microfilm is free, but that could change. Or you can just view microfilm from the many other readers in the Microtext Reading Room.
Note: Check the binder at the Microtext Ask Desk to find out what FHL films are on loan to ACPL.
Extra special tip: The Microtext Reading Room is cold (probably from having the lights turned low). Bring a sweater if you plan to spend a lot of time with microfilm.
8. Research in City Directories
At Home: Search the catalog and microtext catalog to find what city directories the library has in its collection. They have a large collection of directories from across the country.
At ACPL: Older directories are available on microfilm. Modern directories are available in book form in the western part of the department (to your left as you enter the library, past the family histories).
9. Ask the librarians
At Home: The Genealogy Center’s website has bios of some of the librarians that you might meet during your visit. If you have a question about the department, you can contact them before your visit.
At ACPL: Can’t find the materials that you are looking for? Ask. Can’t figure out the microfilm readers? Ask. Want some research advice? Ask.
10. Stay in Touch with the library
At Home: Sign up for the library’s free monthly e-zine filled with information about their collection and upcoming events. Follow the Genealogy Center’s blog and “Like” them on Facebook. Check the event calendar for programs that might interest you.
At ACPL: Come back to research again. Or move to Fort Wayne.
Some extra special tips:
- If you can't find a book on the shelf, check the oversize section. Or ask a librarian. Or ask the people researching and possibly find a cousin using the same book.
- ACPL has open stacks. Find and take the books you want to use from the shelves to a table. Want a bunch of books? Use the convenient black carts. When you are done with the books, put them on the wooden carts by the tables for the staff to return. Microfilm has a special table for returns.
- Fort Wayne is on the Eastern time zone and follows daylight savings.
- Library Hours:
- Monday-Thursday: 9AM - 9PM
- Friday-Saturday: 9AM-6PM
- Sunday: Noon - 5PM (closed Memorial Day to Labor Day)
- Check ACPL website for closings due to holidays and professional development
- Parking is $1 per hour in the library lots (PDF). Maximum charge is $7. You can pay by credit card or cash at the kiosk on the first floor by the checkout area. ACPL library card holders get free parking. Street parking is free on the weekend.
- There are 4 copiers in the department. Copies cost 10 cents. Currently they take change, but will soon only take copy cards than can only be charged with paper currency.