26 February 2010


My parting words to anyone visiting Ireland is always "Visit the local libraries!" Irish libraries are where the faery folk hide all the local genealogy treasures--the church jubilee book, the county history, the local electoral maps. If you are lucky, one of the gents or ladies sitting at the table across the room is the local historian, eager to share knowledge and research tips with you.
But, I would never have thought of going to my local  library in search of Irish records. Luckily, friend of mine did--and found for me a treasure for my own research: a volume of The Illustrated Guide to the City and County of Kilkenny 1885 by P.M. Egan. The guide is a huge county directory, full of lists of names of traders, merchants, and electors.
My wise friend, Lorie Morris, is a retired librarian, and she is a whiz at finding books and records for her Irish genealogy research in libraries throughout the United States--without ever leaving the local branch of her county library. Lorie accomplishes this feat through using interlibrary loan. She has gotten books sent to her in New Jersey from as far away as Alaska using this method. Loris says,"Think of the money I saved in gas by interlibrary loaning it!"
Not going to Ireland soon?  Can't find a copy to buy online of the local history published in 1979 of your ancestors' townland? See if one of the thousands of US libraries has one!
There are search engines and catalogs that can aid your search for books throughout the US. The best known one, WorldCat,  is the one Lorie used to obtain the Kilkenny book. Many of the libraries that belong to the WorldCat System have the catalog search engine on their web page. First, search the catalog for books or materials using your Irish county, city, or townland as keywords.
Lorie describes the process she uses once she finds a book in the catalog:
"[My local branch of the county library has] a link from their page right to WorldCat so I all I had to do was put in my search term. Once I found what I wanted, I printed out the page, making sure to include the ISBN and OCLC numbers. Having them makes it easier for the librarian to identify your book. I took the printed page to the library and asked them to interlibrary loan the book."
Not all libraries belong to WorldCat, and not all will do interlibrary loan, but if you come prepared with all the information to your local library, you might persuade them to help you obtain the book. Some libraries will obtain the book for you if you agree to pay a fee covering the cost of processing and postage.
New Jersey has its own interlibrary online catalog, JerseyCat. Your state might have one, also. I am not familiar with the libraries in other countries, but I am willing to bet that if you arrive at your local library almost anywhere in the world armed with full information, money for fees, patience, and a cooperative attitude, you might just obtain that book, or the copies, you need.
Lorie adds that if the desired book is in a special non-circulation category, or if the library does not use interlibrary loan, many libraries are willing to make page copies and send them to you. Lorie also notes,
"Another good source for genealogy items is the St. Louis County, Missouri, Public Library. You may remember that in 2001 the National Genealogical Society decided to disband/disassemble their library. They donated the collection to the St. Louis County Library with the stipulation that the collection be made available for interlibrary loan."
Thanks to Lorie for sharing her library expertise with us!
NGS Collection at the St.Louis Public LIbrary
Of course, I must mention the two libraries that are US centers for international genealogy: the Family History Library run by the LDS in Salt Lake City and the Allen County Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana:
Family History Library/Family Search page
Allen County Library Genealogy Center