Discover Your Roots - Genealogy

Discover Your Roots - Genealogy

Posted on Wednesday April 27, 2011 at 02:48PM

Discover Your Roots: Genealogy

The other day I received an AAQ request for a family tree for a specific person, and I wasn’t able to do it. Unless the person is famous and historians have already traced their roots, local library staff cannot be expected to provide this type of information: it requires too much research, often months. It also requires dedication and access to a wide variety of resources. Tracing your own family tree two or three generations back may not be that difficult: just check the family Bible or ask Great Aunt Ethel who was who. If she’s having a good mental clarity day and remembers to put her teeth in, you might hear a great story have a place to start on the family history. Going back further can be much more difficult, particularly if your ancestors came from another country.

The library service response, Discover Your Roots, has two aspects to it: genealogy and local history; I will be dealing with these aspects separately. Genealogy is a monster of a topic, as there is so much to it. One very important thing to keep in mind is that your duties as an information professional include knowing what resources can be accessed and how to access them. Although you may choose to assist patrons in this type of research, do not feel that you have to do genealogical research for your patrons. The questioner in the previous paragraph was simply provided with links where he/she might continue the search.

For this particular service response, having a knowledgeable staff is incredibly important. You may wish to consider allocating funds for professional development, either for all staff or designate one staff member as the genealogical expert. See if a local college has a course on genealogical research, or check out the National Institute for Genealogical Studies ( This Institute, affiliated with the University of Toronto, has numerous online courses available on a wide variety of topics related to genealogical research. They can be taken separately, or as part of a package leading up to certification in Genealogical Studies.

Through TRAC, you have access to over 200 items on the topic of genealogy. You may already have something in your own collection with which to start (see your 929.1 section). Don’t forget the databases that are available to you: Heritage Quest is available through TRAC and Ancestry Library, which is only available in the library itself due to licensing. You could also take a look at the Canadian Genealogy Centre ( Put together by Library and Archives Canada, this site directs the user to government resources and further ideas for how to search.

Keep in mind you may also get requests for information from people living outside of your area, who have distant relations who were born, married or died in your town and village. In this case, you would need to know how to access local and church records. Remember: you would not have to search these yourself, but refer your searcher to them. Look into where records for the local cemetery are kept, and if they are available online (some are – which is really helpful). Church registers of baptisms, marriages and funerals can be a goldmine of information. These are particularly helpful for finding records prior to the late 1800s.

Finally, use local experts, whenever possible. A program does not necessarily require a formal presentation. An organized discussion of people in various stages of genealogical research can be very beneficial. People like knowing that they are not alone in their frustrations and love sharing their triumphs. While family trees are a lot of work, they are intriguing.

-Jasper Conference is next week. If you take pictures, consider sending them into the Aurora!
-Library Manager’s Advisory Council is scheduled for May 25th. We will be running the Summer Reading Program Orientation simultaneously, so be sure to bring along an extra staff member.

Author: Northern Lights Library System


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