If you have ever considered researching your family history the Manatee County Public Library can help you get started. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don’t be. One of the first rules of genealogy is to think of it as an ongoing project. There is no end, as you will discover new things you didn’t know along the way. You might also consider attending one of the monthly meetings of the Manasota Genealogical Society, which are held every second Tuesday of the month (October through May) at the Central Library. These folks, as well as reference librarians, can help guide you.
The library has many good basic books that will help you to understand the genealogy research process such as W. Daniel Quillen’s book, “Mastering Online Genealogy,” which is especially useful now that so much material is available electronically. Other Quillen books in the collection include “Tracing Your European Roots,” “Mastering Family, Library and Church Records,” “Secrets of Tracing Your Ancestors” and “The Troubleshooter’s Guide to Do-It-Yourself Genealogy.”
There are also census indexes from most of the 50 states, but with an emphasis on the Midwest and New England regions.
To access the library’s genealogy databases go to www.mymanatee.org/library, click on “Research & Learning,” click on “Databases” and then click on “Genealogy.” HeritageQuest Online includes access to the Federal Censuses from the first one in 1790 to 1940, the most recent. All of the censuses are intact, with the exception of the 1890 census, a good portion of which burned in a fire many years ago. Using state and local records, many of the gaps have been filled in.
Another question you might be asking: what good are censuses? Censuses can yield a wealth of information on an ancestor, from the names and ages of those in the household as well as birthplace information. Other information that can be gleaned is occupation, whether they could read or write and more. Don’t overlook this very valuable resource for your family history search. You’ll certainly need to know places of residence to search for further records.
The other electronic database, “America’s Genealogy Bank,” includes Historical Newspapers, covering from 1690 to 1922, Historical Books, from 1749-1900, and Historical Documents, from 1789 to 1994. This database also includes the Social Security Death Index, from the program’s start in 1937 to 2014. The death index can help you when searching for an obituary. Obituaries can also be very useful; they can tell you where the person was living, their surviving family and sometimes a detailed history of the person’s life.
One more resource that is a great place to do research is www.familysearch.org. This Church of Latter Day Saints website makes available billions of free digitized records. Good luck researching your family’s history.
“Read the library’s new literary and art journal, 805, for free at www.805lit.org. Submissions of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art accepted year-round and worldwide.”
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. David Breakfield is a reference librarian at the downtown Central Library.