Librarians: An Underutilized Resource
by Linda Okazaki
As genealogists, we know that most of our time will be spent in locations other than the internet. While Ancestry.com is a fantastic site and the quantity of documents digitized is truly amazing, not everthing is there. And the Family History Library has an unbelieveable amount of microfilmed resources, some of which are online, all of which are easily accesible. But nothing quite speaks to the genealogist in me than a dusty courthouse or a quiet library. It is in these locations that the real treasures wait to be discovered. For the past four years I have made a biannual pilgrimage to Syracuse. My main motive has been to visit Sam, but considering that she is a college student, she doesn’t keep the same hours as I do, nor does she want to spend all of her waking time with her mom, the compromise is that I get to spend as much time as I want in the Onondaga Public Library Main Branch in downtown Syracuse. Throw in a few side trips to Fulton, Rome, Utica, Dexter, Brownville and Watertown and I am one happy camper. One of the greatest resources in their Local History and Genealogy department is the index of New York State Vital Records. The indexes cover deaths from 1880 and births/marriages from 1881, outside of New York City. This valuable resource is located in only a few choice locations, including the State Archives, the National Archives and some large public New York libraries. For further information, go to http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/research/res_topics_gen_vitalstats.
Today was likely my last day in the OPL. Sam graduates this weekend and I don’t anticipate many Northern New York vacations in the near future. I am going to miss that library. I loved the fact that every time I walked in, Theresa remembered me as the woman from California. Librarians and library staff members are among the most underutilized resources in genealogy. They are educated, smart, informed and generally love what they do. I have yet to meet a librarian who wasn’t enthused, but the staff at the Onondaga Public Library has been truly amazing. Sure they can give an introductory class in genealogy to anyone who walks in and they can show each patron the quirks of their particular microfilm readers or give them a crash course in Ancestry.com, but beyond that, they have a wealth of information ready at their fingertips. Can’t figure out the difference between a town and a village with the same name? They will show you on a map, give you a book and explain it all in one fell swoop. Confused about historical changes in counties over the years? They will explain the changes and back it up with documentation. Need more help than you can get in two days? They will actually offer to correspond with you via email. Now, I know that not every librarian can do this, but the staff at nearly every library where I have done research has gone beyond all expectations. It amazes me that more genealogists don’t utilize local librarians in their quest for information. They are the best.
Left to Right: Linda Okazaki with OPL Staff Kim Kleinhaus, Holly Sammons, Barbara Scheibel, Theresa Maunes.