Clayton Crier Quarterly Newsletter

Clayton Crier

FamilySearch Digital Library
Remote Genealogy

Endangered Archives Program
Electronic Resources
Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center
The Digital Public Library of America

Searching the FamilySearch Digital Library
by Susan Kaufman

This year has been challenging, especially if you are looking for in-person assistance with your genealogy and family history research. Many genealogy and family history research libraries have been closed since March, and some are beginning to re-open with restrictions depending on the part of the country in which you live. Many of the much-needed books and research materials are available only at the library, and for those materials, I invite you to read my colleague’s article in this newsletter on the virtual reference help that Clayton Library is providing to researchers. Our collection remains open virtually and we are eager to discuss your research questions with you via email, phone, or a virtual appointment.

Although there are many sources that are only available on the shelves of libraries, as many of us have discovered, there is a vast array of digitized sources including subscription databases, digital collections from universities and libraries, and social media groups, and much more. A Google search can provide many genealogical rabbit holes to go down.

One of the ways to “browse” library shelves is to utilize the FamilySearch Digital Library. This digital library contains over 500,000 books from major family history collections worldwide. The books contained in this resource are exactly the types of books you pull off the shelves in libraries. Information on family histories, cemetery, land, military, county histories, indexes, and much more can be found by a simple search using surname or location.

As I mention the term “simple search,” there is a caveat to searching the FamilySearch Digital Library. Many of us use FamilySearch in conjunction with other databases and are familiar with the initial search screen, or the magic boxes, as I like to call them. These are the boxes we fill in with our ancestor’s name, hit enter, and search through the results looking for a tidbit of information that will help answer our urgent question, whatever that might be. The FamilySearch Digital Library requires that you search individually from the drop-down menu that is displayed when clicking on the word “search” from the home page. The landing page of the FamilySearch Digital Library is where you will begin your search, using surnames, locations, or any simple phrase or word such as “cattle.” All the books in the Digital Library are scanned and completely searchable by keyword. Therefore, results will have the term you searched, somewhere within the title or the book itself. For a wiki article on effective searching, visit the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Once the results are returned, you will be able to click on a book, search within that book for your terms, read the book online, or download it. There are restrictions on a small number of the sources within the Digital Library, but the majority are viewable at home. You will need a free FamilySearch account to do that.


FamilySearch Digital Library

Additionally, using the “catalog” link from the same search drop-down menu as mentioned above, you can find links to all the books that are returned in a catalog search. If a book has been digitized, a link to the digital image will be found in the information about the book. 

FamilySearch Catalog

Clayton Library has been a partner of this digital project since 2007. Over 14,000 books specifically from Clayton can be found by using the term in quotes “Houston Public Library.”  Since Clayton Library is part of the Houston Public Library system, the books that have been digitized all carry that identifier. Those books can be found here.

Please read my colleague’s article on contacting us and begin to utilize the FamilySearch Digital Library for resources that will help you accomplish your research despite not being able to visit the Clayton Library.

Remote Genealogy: Phone and Email Reference Services
by Steven Bychowski

Have you been waiting for the opportunity to get back to your genealogical research, but find that you can’t get much done without having access to our in-house books and materials?  There is some hope. During this shutdown period, in addition to working on our various administrative tasks to enhance our buildings, collections, and services, Clayton staff have also been providing daily customer service by phone and email during our temporary business hours of Monday – Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM. We encourage you to call or email us to discuss your genealogy questions!  As a courtesy during the shutdown, we are currently able to do limited look-ups of information from specifically-requested in-house resources, and to provide limited copies, if applicable, since customers cannot access our buildings and physical materials at this time.

What is the best way to get started? Well, give us a call to speak with one of our staff to discuss your research goals and to help you determine what records should be searched first.  If you have a home computer and a Houston Public Library (HPL) library card, you may already have digital access to many of the records you might need. HPL’s “Ancestry Library Edition” database is currently free (through December 31, 2020) to use from home with a valid HPL MyLink library card. Please visit HPL’s Genealogy Resources page to see the complete list of genealogy databases. Other popular remote-access databases include HeritageQuest Online, MyHeritage, Fold3, Genealogy Connect, and the Houston Chronicle Historical Archive, 1901-2017.

Once you are zeroed in on a specific person, a specific place (such as a state/county), and/or a specific type of record/document, your next step is to consult the HPL Online Catalog to see what items we have in our collection that might contain those records. We’d recommend doing a simple keyword search using the place name as well as the desired type of record. For example, if you are looking for death-related records from the late 1800s in Harris County, TX, you might try a keyword search like “Death + Harris County + Texas” or “Probate + Harris County + Texas.” After submitting your search request, you will get a list of titles and call numbers. You can use the left panel to filter results only to those housed at Clayton Library. Review the search results and make note of those that might possibly contain your ancestors.

The final step is to send us an email, with the specific title to be searched, keeping in mind the specifics of your request (person, place, time period, and record type). We answer questions in the order received, and response time can vary from one day to one week, depending on the number of questions currently in the queue and the complexity of the question. Please submit just one request at a time and wait until a response is received before submitting a second request. The Clayton Library team is not able to conduct “in-depth research” for customers, since “in-depth research” typically takes longer than an hour to complete. Upon completion of the search, a staff member will send you a reply to let you know what was found, and whether there are copies of pages that we can provide to you.

We look forward to the time that we can safely re-open and see you all again in-person. Until then, we hope you take advantage of our phone and email reference services to advance your genealogy research!

Endangered Archives Program
by Rodney Sam

The Endangered Archives Program at the British Library provides grants to individuals and organizations looking to digitally preserve archival records in danger from decay, destruction or from countries lacking the resources for preservation. The types of archival records that are preserved include audio files, photography, manuscripts, periodicals, books, and other documents. The British Library allows the digital records to be made open and free for the public to view through the Endangered Archives Program website. The archival collection is divided by archival type, content type, language, place, subject, and the location of the country where the materials are from. There are 6,907 digital materials directly related to genealogy. They include everything from church records, newspapers, periodicals, and correspondence. Most of the genealogical collection comes from English-speaking countries in the Caribbean and the oldest records begin in the early 18th century. There are some unique collections like the register of manumitted Africans set free from slavery by the British and baptisms of slaves in Brazil that may provide unusual sources for genealogists who trace their ancestry to these regions. 

Here is an example of a record you might find, a baptism page from a Methodist Church register located in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Baptism Record Methodist Church

If you are an archivist or researcher with access to original records that are at risk of being lost, contacting the Endangered Archives program may be of interest to you. Best of luck!

Electronic Resources You May Have Overlooked

The Houston Public Library subscribes to nearly 150 online databases. Many of these are NOT located in the Genealogy category listed on the Databases by Category page of the HPL website. It is our goal by reviewing some of these non-genealogy databases that your research will be expanded and you will discover new sources, understand the history your ancestors, and learn background information that will help you write your family story.

Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center Database Review
by Irene B. Walters

This Texshare database is an Ebsco Connect product that contains a collection of periodicals, books and videos covering common and unusual hobbies arranged in over 140 topics. One topic is genealogy. The Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center is found in the Leisure and Do-It-Yourself Resources link of the Houston Public Library databases by category page. The database is available both inside the library and at home with an HPL MyLink library card. 

This database contains over 3,700 articles from eight genealogical magazines in either .pdf or html text format.

The genealogical magazines included are:

  • Internet Genealogy (2009-2020)
  • Family Chronicle (2009-2015)
  • Your Genealogy Today (2015-2020)
  • Discovering Family History (2009-2010)
  • Family Tree Magazine (2015-2019)
  • Ohio Genealogy News (2007-2017)
  • Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly (OGS) Quarterly (2010-2019)
  • Ohio Genealogical Society Genealogy News (2006)

Some of these journals are found on the shelves of Clayton Library, though we may not have all the issues contained in the database.

The journals in this database cover a wide variety of hobbies and interests. Other articles that may be helpful for those pursuing their genealogy may be found in magazines that are written for other interests such as; history, antique collecting, historical needlework, or found in the category “Scrapbooking & Paper Crafts”.

The database offers both basic and advanced search functions with the ability to narrow search results by date published, publication title, article title, author, subject terms, or to full text articles only. You can start your search by clicking on “View All Topics” on the homepage and scroll down to “Genealogy” and click there to see all articles under the topic heading. Whether you are looking for a guide on how to research a state or the latest tech tools for genealogists, the Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center database has something for you.

We invite you to explore this resource in your family history research. For help with the database contact a Clayton Library team member.

The Digital Public Library of America Database Review
by Rodney Sam

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is found under the History and Social Sciences resources link of the Houston Public Library (HPL) databases by category in the “Recommended Websites” section. Since DPLA is a public website it can be accessed from home or by users within their local HPL branch (when open).

The Digital Public Library of America is a rich digital collection of photographs, books, primary documents, oral histories, audio files, and film collected from libraries and archives all over the United States. It is searchable by keywords, subject, and format of digital media. Users can search the digital public library by geographic location, name, and subject.

For example, a search under the subject “genealogy” yielded 380,417 results across five different types of media. More than half were textual which were further divided into subcategories like Bible records, African American funeral customs, and school yearbooks.  Typing the name of my birthplace town gave me beautiful photographs of black Catholic school confirmation classes from the 1930’s. Not only will users get information about social history, they will also have potential sources of genealogical value to pursue.

We invite you to explore this resource in your family history research. For help with the database contact a Clayton Library team member.

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