Thursday, April 5, 2007

National City Library Local History Room

One of the hidden gems on the list of San Diego genealogy/history repositories is the Local History room at the National City Public Library. National City is a city of about 60,000 people tucked between San Diego (population of about 1.2 million) and Chula Vista (city of about 220,000 people) with no room to grow. The city built a new library several years ago, and with extraordinary foresight, they included a large Local History Room to house the historical material.

Unfortunately, the Room is only open Tuesday through Thursday from 2 to 5 PM, so people need to plan their trip there.

In addition to the National City historical material there (quite a bit, including diaries and notebooks about the founding Kimball family), the Room has several vital databases, including:

1) San Diego City Directories - almost complete from about 1900 to 1984. They also have several San Diego Suburban directories but nowhere near all of them - too bad!

2) Card file to the National City Record newspaper, and the National City Star-News newspaper from about 1900 to 2000 (approximately). There is a separate card file for obituaries. You can search microfilms of the newspapers and print the page images. Since the NC Star-News differs from the Chula Vista Star-News only on the front page - the card catalog serves as an index to the CV paper as well (except for front page news).

There are a number of large maps and pictures in the Room. One of the neat maps they have is a photo of National City from about 1950 - it measures about 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. You can see every house on every street. I mentioned to Matt, the docent, that he might be able to figure out the date of the map by finding blocks with only a few houses on them, getting the addresses for those houses, and checking the city directories to see when newer nearby houses were built.

I went there today to try to find information for three queries received recently by CVGS. Unfortunately, I struck out on all of them, but I enjoyed the search, marveled at the resources in this wonderful room, and appreciated the help from Matt.

The Chula Vista Library has a small local history room with some of the City Directories, and the Chula Vista Star-News on microfilm, but there is no index. There are also microfilms of the San Diego Union-Tribune from about 1975, but there is no index after 1980. There is a small Chula Vista Historical Society with limited hours - I haven't visited them, but I need to.

The downtown San Diego Library has more city directories, and the San Diego Union newspaper on microfilm, with an index for 1930 to 1980, but it is difficult to park during the week in an undesirable section of town. The San Diego Historical Society in Balboa Park has wonderful resources for the whole county, but costs money to enter and has parking problems.

I am very appreciative of the work that National City has done to protect and preserve the heritage of the city, and I love the easy access to the library and the Local History Room resources.

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