Sunday, March 31, 2013

Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist's Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

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.
It's a free 26-page PDF download with live links for on-line use.

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;


Karen Stanbary said...

Thanks Harold. I will study this before I make my first trip to the library for FGS!

Unknown said...

Thanks Harold! This will be a huge help for my trip to ACPLGC this summer before the FGS conference!

Carol Dunn said...


MissPeggy55 said...

This is wonderfuk! Thanks for a great work.

Jennifer Shoer said...

Although I don't intend to visit this library in the very near future, I do appreciate the work you have invested in this helpful guide. Thank you so much for making it available and for free. You are a very generous genealogist!

Pam White said...

Thanks, Harold! Hoping to get there for the first time if I can manage FGS this year and I'm sure your guide will prove very helpful.

Wendy Grant Walter said...

Thanks Harold! I haven't been there yet but hope to go someday and your guide should help.

Unknown said...

What a great resource, Harold! I'm looking forward to discovering some insider tips for making the most out of my visit to ACPL during the FGS conference. Thanks for making this available for free!

debbehagner said...

I am having trouble finding "about us" that you mention in the guide.

look like the E-zine has not been updated for some time.

Harold Henderson said...

Debbe --

I checked the link for "about us" and it worked for me. Another way to get it is to google "The Genealogy Center: A Tradition of Excellence" in quotes. That should reach the PDF.

The e-zine appears faithfully on the last day of every month. The archive that is on the center's web site does not include the most recent months; you have to sign up for a free email subscription to get them. Hope this helps!