Saturday, September 17, 2011

Research Tip : Use of Checklists to Enhance Family History Research (Part 3)

In Parts 1 & 2, we discussed the General Source checklist and the basic Online checklist.  The third part is actually more of a method rather than a checklist, but you will no doubt develop a list of websites and books that will assist you in this step.

Your research is not complete until you've done a "locality focus."  In other words, you need to target the main geographic areas of your research and educate yourself on their resources.  During this process you will incorporate items from the first two checklists, but the main objective is to seek out all of those places, i.e. libraries, archives, museums, organizations, etc., that may have unique material in their collections.

When targeting an area, consult at least the following resources:
  1. WorldCat 
  2. U.S. GenWeb Project  
  3. Genealogist's Address Book (now up to its 6th edition)
  4. Linkpendium
  5. Cyndi's List of Genealogy Websites
  6. Family History Library Catalog
  7. Library of Congress Online Catalog
  8. New England Historic Genealogical Society Catalog
  9. Allen County Public Library Catalog
  10. National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)
  11. Printed bibliographies
Numbers 1, 6, 7, 8 & 9 serve as tools to help identify what may be available for a given geographic location.  For example, when searching for everything available for pre-1875 in Ontario County, New York, I entered that county into the Subject searches of each of those catalogs (with the Family History Center there is actually a Place Search).  Along with those search terms you can add a word like "history", "genealogy", or "records", to filter out those hits that have nothing to do with family history.   From these results, you will be able to compile a list of things to pursue, either by viewing them in person, ordering them on inter-library loan, looking for an online presence, or making contact with the appropriate institution.

The U.S. GenWeb Project and The Genealogist's Address Book are the first places to go when looking for information regarding research facilities or collections in an area.  In many cases, you will find the collection holder's name & contact information with some links to websites.  This step can't be over-emphasized.  During two of my own book projects, this step led me to some fantastic unpublicized collections.  When earlier this year my focus turned to Lenawee County, Michigan, this method led me to one of the most exciting museum archives I've ever seen, one that was only identified online as a historical society collection without many details. 

Items 4 & 5 are online yellow pages and should be used in tandem.  Both are designed to categorize websites by subject & geographic region, and both are unique in their content.

NUCMC (pronounced "nuckmuck") is an effort by the Library of Congress to identify manuscript collections around the nation.  A manuscript is defined as a book or document, many times hand-written, that has not been published and often one-of-a-kind.  Manuscripts tend to be the hardest things to locate as they are undercataloged and tucked away in corners, protected but often inaccessible.  If located, manuscripts can be very useful and provide the researcher with solid primary source materials.

The last item on the list, Printed Bibliographies, is also a great way to locate those rare and hard-to-locate items.  Materials on these lists can be in a variety of forms including books, microform, periodicals, manuscripts, official records, and audio-visuals.  Where to look for Printed Bibliographies?  Seek them out online & in collections using some of the above methods.  Many times they are printed in books or in genealogical periodicals.  Some libraries/archives have them as a free pamphlet.  And, don't forget those WPA Inventories done during the 1930's & 1940's.

This winds up the series on research checklists, but I hope I've convinced you to pursue a "seek & find" philosophy for your research.  Develop your own checklists, use them & add to them.  This method won't guarantee answers to every question, but will allow a feeling that you've looked "almost" everywhere.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown man with bicycle
Photographer - J. W. Rhodes, Mendon
Can you identify the man in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?   Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the five character catalog number with your e-mail.