I once read an article about a woman who moved to Fort Wayne in order to work on her genealogy. I know just how she felt.
When I first went to the Allen County Public Library there, my concept of genealogy consisted of photocopying lots of derivative sources and downloading what little there was on the internet. In those days the stacks were closed and you had to request items on paper slips. Now the Genealogy Center is bigger and better, with open stacks, and I'm older and less ill-informed, in part thanks to the patience of its staff.
Over the years it gradually dawned on me that this is not a normal library. It's big, it contains many unexpected resources on and off line, and to get the most out of a trip there I sometimes need to plan how to make my plan.
Which of the six catalog entry points should you start with? Books? Periodicals? Microtext? Microfilmed newspapers? Digitized Fort Wayne newspapers? The Center's own databases, including three specialized research portals?
How do you get at the mammoth collection of city directories? Or the world's best collection of genealogy periodicals? Which of its holdings may now be available on line? (And where?) No wonder some of my knowledgeable friends had trouble navigating it.
Over the years the center has produced brochures, pathfinders, and an introductory video -- and maintained generous hours and an unparalleled staff of helpful genealogists who are also librarians (or is it the other way around?). This is all good, but nothing quite gives the whole picture.
So I've tried my hand at an unofficial independent guidebook to what I think is the best all-purpose genealogy destination between Salt Lake City and the east coast. This booklet does NOT describe all the center's holdings (I'm not that crazy). It does explain how you can more efficiently find what you need -- even if you never actually manage to show up!
It comes in four parts:
- Introduction (p. 2),
- Before You Go (p. 4),
- When You Arrive (p. 11), and
- Wait! There's More! (p. 25), with two appendixes that link to a 13-part blog history of the center and include some numbers showing just how far it reaches beyond its Indiana and Ohio homeland.
I hope it will help as you make plans -- either to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2013 conference there in August, or to visit another time, or to make better use of the library's resources remotely. Let me know of corrections or potentially useful additions.
Harold Henderson, Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist's Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center (La Porte, IN: author, April 2013; http://www.midwestroots.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ACPLGC-April-2013.pdf).