|Southern History Department librarian Mary Anne Ellis|
Sometimes the best genealogy resources are the ones you never knew existed. They can be tucked away on a library's website or living inconspicuously on a site for a large government agency. You're not using them because they're hiding in plain sight. They don't necessarily have a fancy interface or use sophisticated software, but one of these hidden gems may provide you with a vital and heretofore missing clue about your ancestors.
Public libraries can be great sources for local history indexes and databases. Who better to document the local history and make it widely available? Below are just a few of the indexes and databases being created by libraries of all shapes and sizes.
The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library has an index to obituaries on their website. You can search by name or browse by the cemetery or newspaper in which the obituary appeared. Copies can be ordered from the HMCPL for $5.00.
The Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, MO, has a valuable index to numerous sources on their website. Called Genealogy Quick Look, this tool allows anyone to search the collections by name or date. While some of the sources included are regional, they do have an extensive index to U.S. Railroad Retirement Claims. The claims records of over 1.5 million railroad workers can be searched here.
The Brooklyn Public Library has partnered with Newspapers.com to offer free access to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Brooklyn Life. Covering the years 1841-1955, the Brooklyn Newstand uses the familiar Newspapers.com interface, but access is free and available remotely.
Of course, here at Birmingham Public Library we have indexes to obituaries, church records, and local inventors to name a few. Follow the links below to explore our local history and genealogy databases:
Alabama Coal Mine Fatalities
Alabama Episcopal Church Registers
Alabama Inventors Database
Oak Hill Memorial Cemetery Internments
Red Mountain Cemetery Internments
Shadowlawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery Internments
Many libraries are working hard to make their local history collections more accessible. When you’re doing genealogy research, always check the website of the public library where your ancestors lived. You never know what treasures might be waiting for you there.