Libraries: Keepers of Local History

I recently attended a family history workshop at my local library. I was amazed at all of the resources that are available there. Many genealogy resources are being digitized and are only a click away on your home computer, but libraries preserve countless valuable historical documents that are not yet available electronically.

Libraries contain a wealth of information

A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life. Norman CousinsLibraries may offer unique documents that could provide some clues to help fill in your family tree, or give you a better understanding of the area where your ancestors lived.

The main branch of the Hamilton Public Library has a “Local History and Archives” department that offers historical records and photos including:

  • Local newspaper archives
  • Old city maps (with land owner names)
  • Local city directories – includes names, occupation and home street address, as well as businesses and organizations
  • Vital statistics from Archives of Ontario and some original vital statistics from local townships
  • Newspaper announcements (for birth, marriage and death notices) and even a church’s baptismal records
  • Census records for Ontario from 1871, 1881 and 1901
  • Old tax assessment records (to date buildings and find an original owner)
  • Funeral home records
  • Cemetery records and maps (including tombstone transcription with names and dates, and plot location)
  • Newspaper clippings (even organized by a person’s name or a category such as ‘murder’)
  • Old photos of streets and houses
  • Limited military records
  • Some of the Hamilton Chapter of the Ontario Genealogical Society’s resources and research

At the library they even let you access the library edition for free!

Consider looking up the nearest library close to where your family lived, especially if they lived in one place for a long time and owned property in the area.

Libraries have always seemed magical to me. You walk into a library and suddenly you have access to the greatest thoughts and words from every period of human history. Hours of discovery await you.  Anne MackinLook online where the main branch is located, and see if they have a local historical department. Before heading out, call and find out how their process works, hours, parking, fees for photocopying, etc. Also see if anyone is available to help access the records. They are probably too busy to do the research for you, but would be helpful in searching through the available resources, or pointing you in the right direction.

Although larger libraries may offer a full local history department, smaller rural libraries may also house the area’s local history.

Even if you cannot uncover specific details on your own ancestors, your research may reveal details about the community and what it was like when your ancestors lived there. The local histories can provide you with a good sense of what the area was like, how affluent it was, what kinds of businesses operated there, and even fill you in on the news of the day.

Quotes found at: BrainyQuote and Library Quotes.


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