Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Favorite Genealogy Libraries

This is National Library Week, and several genea-bloggers (especially Lori Thornton ) have posted about libraries and how they have enhanced their lives and/or their genealogy research.

Since I started genealogy research in 1988, I have enjoyed visiting local, regional and national genealogy-oriented libraries. Here are my top 10 genealogy libraries based on their usefulness to me as a researcher (note that I have not visited every library in the nation):

10. York (PA) Public Library -- I visited this library once in 1998 on vacation. They have an excellent set of local history books and family files - I found many pages of Spangler, King, and other unique resources here.

9. Watertown (NY) Public Library -- I visited this library in 2004 on vacation. Besides an excellent local history book collection, they had drawers of family files. I found many Smith and Bell unique pages here.

8. San Diego (CA) Public Library -- their decent book collection is dated, but they have a complete set of the NEHGRegister, the only AGBI set in San Diego, and the San Diego newspapers.

7. Chula Vista (CA) Public Library -- This is my "home" library. The Chula Vista Genealogical Society donates many books to the Family Research collection, which has about 2,000 volumes.

6. Sutro Library in San Francisco -- This is part of the California State Library system, and has an excellent book collection and family file collection.

5. San Diego Genealogical Society Library in El Cajon CA -- This is a private library, with a good book collection and excellent periodical collection.

4. Carlsbad (CA) Public Library -- This is the best genealogy library in San Diego County, with an excellent book and periodical collection, in addition to the UMI microfiche collection (which is mostly available online now).

3. San Diego Regional Family History Center in Mission Valley -- This is my favorite genealogy library because of the availability of FHL microforms and the computer system resources. I've been going here since 1988 on an almost weekly basis.

2. New England Historic Genealogical Society Library in Boston MA -- I have visited NEHGS several times, but not since 1995. Their local history and surname book collection is excellent, and they have a good microfilm collection for Massachusetts VRs. I am an NEHGS member and use the web site frequently.

1. Family History Library in Salt Lake City UT -- I went to the FHL in 1995 and 1997 and hope to go several more times. The genealogy book collection is without peer, and the microform collection provides "one-stop shopping" for original source records for state and county records. I use their resources on microform (through the FHC) and on the Internet regularly.

What didn't make my list? I have been to the Library of Congress and the National Archives branch in Laguna Niguel (but not in Washington DC). I am unimpressed by both. The Library of Congress required a lengthy sign-in procedure and a call-slip system that frustrated me, and I didn't find much "new" information there.

The libraries that I most want to visit include Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne IN, the Newberry Library in Chicago, the St. Louis County Library (with the NGS collection) and the Los Angeles Public Library.

What other libraries should I put on my list of "must-visit" and why?


Unknown said...

There are two libraries that I would love to visit based on the quality of their web sites and the information accessible there:

1. Minnesota Historical Society
2. Wisconsin Historical Society

Additionally I am very interested in seeing the CGSI (Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International) collection at the Minnesota Genealogical Society's Library.

Paula Hinkel said...

Randy, I might be a little biased, but I think the Southern California Genealogical Society's Family Research Library in Burbank is an excellent library. With resources from every state (especially Pennsylvania, Texas and Iowa), French Canadian, German, Cornwall and Ireland, every researcher can find a treasure there. The library is open to the public (a small donation is always appreciated) with several online resources for members: Heritage Quest, Ancestry Library Edition,, LA Times Historical Newspapers, NEHGS, NewspaperARCHIVE with others soon to come.