Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Tips from a Visit to the Allen County Public Library's Genealogical Collection

Last week was a first. Instead of driving straight home from a trip to one of my sisters, we veered and ended up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a visit to the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogical Collection.

This was not our first visit to the library. It was actually our third or fourth visit. But it was the first time we had thought of working a visit to the library in with this well-worn drive to my sister. The veer was not close but do-able. Our last library visit was when the library was at a temporary site ... so it has been quite a while between visits.

I thought I would share my tips and thoughts about visiting this library.

First, plan everything before you depart! Use the library’s website. Use your favorite trip/hotel planning sites for the non-library stuff. Do not wait until you arrive to figure out where to stay and what to search.

The Library Website

Using the library’s website is a must before you visit. By searching the various catalogs and making a To-Do List, you get more time to do research on-site. From the Allen County Public Library’s main page, click on the genealogy tab to enter The Genealogy Center. Or just go straight there from the link here.

The Genealogy Center website is your hub for planning your visit. Add it to your bookmarks/favorites.

Check boxes to the left of entries allow lists to be made.
There are several links throughout the main site page to the main ACPL Catalog. I suggest using the Advanced Search to control your searches better. Looking for a specific book, put it in the title to see if the library has it. To catch the most possibilities, use the subject to search by County and State, or Surname. Make a list of items to look at by clicking the check box by each individual item you want and when done, select the print link under the Genealogy Center Catalog logo. (I “printed” my choices to PDF files and then printed certain ones to paper later.) This catalog shows you books, microfilm & microfiche, online documents, and magazines & newspapers.

But this is not the only catalog you should investigate.

Under the Databases tab, you’ll find two choices. On-site Databases is a listing of the subscription databases available for use while at the library. See one you don’t have access to already? Add it to your list with what you want to investigate on it. The Free Databases is where you will find links to a wide variety of specialized catalogs. Definitely click this link.

The Microtext Catalog is segmented into specific categories. The best way I found to make a To-Do List from this catalog is to copy and paste into a Word or Excel document file. This way I got specifically what I wanted instead of everything on the page. If the main catalog shows microfilm and microfiche, why use this catalog? Because I spotted that not all of the microtext shows up in the main catalog. And, the microtext catalog gives you links to more details about what is on each film/fiche for most collections.

For example, I discovered searching the Microtext Catalog by state “New York” that ACPL has microfilm of the Robert Livingston Papers. I was not expecting this! A search of the main catalog with Robert Livingston as the subject brings up 7 items. One item is a book guide to the films but the others are just books. So back in the microtext catalog, clicking on the name “Robert Livingston Papers” brings up a list describing the 57 reels of film for this collection. I printed this detailed list for later use.

Also among the Free Databases are specialized catalogs for Family Bible Records; Family Resources; Allen County, Indiana, Resources; Indiana Resources; African-American and Native American Resources; Other States Resources; and Our Military Heritage. Another catalog is the Genealogy Center Surname File which can be searched to find others who have visited ACPL that are searching your surnames.

I think you can see how quickly your To-Do List will grow. Make sure to prioritize your list so you get to those items you really want to see first.

From the main tab links at the top of the main page, Pathfinders will take you a variety of help guides including ones on how to search the catalogs better. Most of these are the same handouts at the library. Why wait to find out what goodies they contain? Find the topics and states that you need, read the PDF version of the handout and add items to your To-Do List.

Near the bottom of the page on the left is the "Planning to Visit?" section which organizes more than just the library hours. The Local Information button will take you to a page with the library address, a Google map showing the location and buttons to PDF files of the library layout, eateries map and parking map that you can save/print. The Orientation Video link on the page did not work for me. But I was able to find the orientation video on the library’s YouTube channel. Though it is about six years old, the video which is in two parts (part 1 and part 2) is still relevant. You get a good lay of the land for the Genealogy Center by watching these videos.

The Events Section lets you see what is going on at the library. Got a question you have not found the answer to on the website? Use the Contact Us link. The response is fairly quick.

At the Library

A USB drive turns a printer into a scanner.

Ask Desk. Once you get to the library, do stop at the main Ask Desk as you enter the Genealogy Collection. Pick up a handout with the more detailed floor layout for the collection. If you plan to use the computers and on-site databases, pick up a temporary library card printout. (These are good for just that day.)

Copy Cards. Do you have an older ACPL Copy Card from a previous visit? Not sure if there is any money left on it? Bring the card with you. If you stop at the main Ask Desk, they can check the card for value and if there is, they will transfer it to a new copy card. My ACPL Copy card had the logo printed in red. Sometime after the logos were printed in maroon (as seen in the orientation video). Currently the ACPL Copy Cards have a black logo with a bar code instead of a magnetic strip.

One of the Reading Table Areas.
USB Flash Drives. ALSO, bring a USB flash drive with you. With a USB flash drive inserted into a photocopier you can turn it into a scanner. The scans are free but you need a copy card with value on it to activate/unlock the copier. Check the settings prior to scanning anything. The default setting is a 200 resolution PDF file. So everything scanned in one session will end up in one file. I preferred to scan my various books at a resolution of 300, grayscale or color and saved with the tiff/jpg setting. This gave me individual files for each scan. That way I can rename each individual file with a meaningful name for each page image later. If you forget your USB drive, the Ask Desk has some for sale. (I don’t know for what price but at least you don’t have to find the nearest store.)

Wood versus Black Metal.
Reading Tables. Reading tables are located in two spots of the Genealogy Collection. Most of the tables have built in power outlets. The library has wireless internet so your laptop/tablet/smart phone can stay connected. (Obviously don’t leave your valuables unattended. There are no patron lockers.)

The Book Carts. Here’s the 411 on the book carts. The wood book carts are return carts that staff periodically roll away to reshelf the books. So when you are done with a book place it on a wood cart. The black metal book carts are for the use of patrons. Don’t feel shy about using them. The book shelf you want is likely a good distance away from where you are seated. For the safety of yourself and the books, use a black metal book cart to move the books around.

Microfilm Cabinet
Microfilm/Microfiche and Scanning. At the desk in front of the Microtext Reading Room, pick up a handout with the detailed layout of the microtext cabinets. Finding a specific microfilm/microfiche is quicker with a map. In the reading room, you will find row after row of film readers. And, a couple rows of microfilm/microfiche scanners. If the library is busy, find your item with a reader and then use the scanner. With the film scanners, you do not need a copy card to activate them. Just insert your USB flash drive into the computer. Directions on how to use the scanners are not readily available, so ask a librarian for help. There are two different scan programs. One is overly simplistic but the librarian could not give me details on the settings used and there was no cropping available. The other has many user selectable scan settings but the program is very slow to make each scan.

I found these scanners were not as easy to use as the film scanners at the Archives of Ontario which is a different system. Film scanning was the last thing we did before leaving. If I had more time to play with the settings and check the results on my laptop right there, I think I would be a bit happier with the results. The next visit we make to this library, these films are at the top of the To-Do List.
Microtext Reading Room with scanners.

The Other Stuff

As far as hotels, we did not see any need for us to stay in downtown Fort Wayne where prices are much higher. The hotel we picked was not the cheapest nor the most expensive. What it did have was good reviews for cleanliness/service and a location just 15 minutes from the library. Now for some that may sound too far away but it really was a super quick and easy drive from the hotel to the parking garage below the library.

Speaking of parking, though the library’s website shows where the closest parking is in relation to the library it does not mention costs. The garage and lots nearby are $1 per hour with a maximum of $7 per day. Don’t leave your parking ticket in the car, take it with you. You pay by cash or credit card at the kiosk in the library’s lobby to the right of the check-out counter. You have 15 minutes to get back to the car and exit the lot. Otherwise, you can pay at the gate with a credit card when exiting. I also noted a sign in the garage said you have to have your car out of the garage by 9:30 pm. (I think for security reasons you get towed if it is still there.)

Summing it Up

We got a lot checked off our To-Do List for this library, but there is still plenty left on it.

ACPL has a large collection of Ontario cemetery readings and other books. (I feel Canada is a bit behind in getting cemetery tombstones on the internet. There does not seem to be as many posted as for the United States.) So we concentrated on Ontario for a good part of the day and then moved onto New York books that we had not seen yet. The last thing we looked at were the microfilms of the Robert Livingston Papers. Unfortunately, we ran low on energy and did not get through the films that looked promising. We scanned several pages but have a list of other pages found that will need to be copied during the next visit. This collection will be at the top of our revised To-Do List.

One of my next steps now that we are home, besides entering our finds, is to investigate the Robert Livingston Papers more thoroughly. I want to determine the origin of the collection on these microfilm. The catalog entry mentions the New York Historical Society. Are these books/papers the same or different than the what is in the Livingston collection at Princeton University? The ones at Princeton are on my wish list of sources to see one day.

It was a long, productive and exhausting day. (Probably because I was the driver.) We could have stayed a day or two more but we kept it short. Hopefully, our next visit to Allen County Public Library will be before the library remodels or moves again.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy Birthday -- Martha!

Just realized today while working on her family that my 5th Great Grandmother Martha's birthday was two days ago! So today that makes her 261 years and 2 days old! Sorry Grams for not realizing it two days ago. Unfortunately I don't have time today to write much more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Genealogy Analogy: Do You Get it Now?

If you think of your Family Tree as a House ...
then Sources, Citations and your Analysis are the nails, mortar or glue that hold everything together. Without Sources, Citations and your Analysis your Family Tree may collapse like a House of Cards.

A Family Tree can be like a House of Cards ...
no use of Sources, Citations, & Analysis can lead to a Family Tree Collapse. Don't Build a "Tree of Cards."
I don't know if anyone else has thought of this analogy but it has been running through my mind lately.

P.S. I thought it would take longer but it took less than 15 minutes to build this house of cards and I haven't built one in many, many years. The time for my family tree is another story ...