Genealogy 101: How do I get started researching my family’s history?

You may have heard your friends or co-workers talking about genealogy, or tried to do some searching on the Internet under your family name. Now you would like to do more research to see what you can learn about your family’s history.

Seattle is a great place in which to begin working on your family history. There are several facilities in the greater Seattle area that will provide you with access to resources and assistance.

Courtesy Henry McLin Flickr CC

The Seattle Public Library owns the largest genealogy book collection in the Pacific Northwest, subscribes to major genealogy databases, and has two genealogy librarians on staff to assist you. The Genealogy Librarians offer basic genealogy classes and tours of the Genealogy Collection, which is located on Level 9 of the Central Library. Check the Library’s Web site for Calendar of Events for an upcoming class or tour: just search for “Genealogy.”

So, how do you get started? The first step is to Continue reading “Genealogy 101: How do I get started researching my family’s history?”

Researching names for babies, characters and all kinds of cats

Earlier this year a group of librarians offered to help one of our pregnant coworkers name her babies (yes, babies—as in two!). Although she graciously declined our assistance, the conversation continued and headed, as it so often does when librarians confab, to research—in this case hansresearching names for babies, pets and characters in novels.

We  quickly went to Name Voyager on the Baby Name Wizard site. You can easily research the popularity of names in the U.S. during the past 120 years and use the graphing tool to show trends by decade (see “Hans” and “Stella,” left). Of course I immediately typed in my own stellachild’s name (Theo) and saw that it peaked in popularity in the early 1900s (perhaps a salute to Theodore Roosevelt?). “Angelina” has had a recent spike in popularity (think Angelina Jolie), and once I noticed that I couldn’t resist testing out  celebrity names.

Baby name books are plentiful, but some are standouts. I asked our genealogy librarians Darlene and John for their suggestions of where parents, pet owners, writers, family historians and the eternally curious can go to research names. Here are the books they recommend (and their comments):

Dictionary of American Family Names by Patrick Hanks. A three-volume masterpiece. This is the place to start if you want to know what your last name means. It also gives ethnic origin. Amazing how many names can come from several different national backgrounds.
penguin-classic-baby-nameThe Melting Pot Book of Baby Names by Connie Lockart Ellefson. Older, but a fabulous resource for names from other cultural backgrounds.
The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book: 2,000 Names from the World’s Great Literature by Grace Hamlin. Hankering to name your daughter after a Shakespeare character or perhaps a character from Chinese Opera? This is the book to use when you have only a category of name selected.
100,000+ Baby Names by Bruce Lansky. An overwhelming number of names — but perhaps not enough detailed information to help you make a choice.

Our Newly Enlarged French-Canadian Genealogy Collection

The Seattle Public Library’s French-Canadian Genealogy Collection has expanded over three fold, thanks to the generosity of Carmen Westwater Anderson, who is a local French-Canadian researcher.  Many of the titles in her gift are not available anywhere else on the West Coast.

This addition consists of over 180 Repertoires (indexes) to marriages, baptisms and burials from the Catholic Church parish records of Quebec. Mrs. Anderson also donated the very important 47 volume set,  Répertoire des actes de baptême, mariage, sépulture et des recensements du Québec ancien (Index of Acts of Baptism, Marriage, Burial and Censuses of Old Quebec). This set is better known by its series name, Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH).

In addition to these new print resources, French-Canadian researchers now have on-line access to the Institut Genealogique Drouin’s collection of records through the Ancestry Library Edition subscription database, Continue reading “Our Newly Enlarged French-Canadian Genealogy Collection”

Immigration in your Family’s History

It’s not Ellis Island, or Angel Island, or even Castle Garden, but this graceful brick and stone building on Airport Way in south Seattle was the beginning of an American life for thousands of immigrants for more than 70 years.

The former Immigration and Naturalization Services building was built in 1932, replacing a dockside processing office.  The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, a recognition of its role in the detention of Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century and as a holding place for illegal immigrants more recently.  The building is empty and quiet now but the descendants of its former clients can research their family’s history at the Library.

There are many guides to researching your immigrant ancestors in the Library’s Genealogy collection. 

They became Americans: finding naturalization records and ethnic origins,
by Loretto Dennis Szucs

  Continue reading “Immigration in your Family’s History”

America’s Genealogy Bank – an enticing new resource

Genealogy is the Internet’s second most popular past-time.  At Seattle Public Library we love to work with Genealogists and we’re excited to present a great new electronic resource for our patrons.

America’s Genealogy Bank is the perfect complement to our other fabulous genealogy services. From one very easy to use search screen you can review millions of historical newspapers, books, pamphlets, government documents and genealogies as well as a separate file of obituaries from 1977- the present.  AGB offers full-text of many small-town newspapers such as San Jose Mercury News, 1886-1922,  Eastern Argus (one of the nations earliest newspapers – published in Maine) 1803 -1880 and Dallas Morning News, 1885-1977.  Read the ads, the social news, the business and sports pages!  Discover what was happening in their communities as your ancestors went about their daily lives.  Or search the Federal Government’s publications — Was your ancestor a mail carrier?  Did he work as a meat inspector for the FDA?  Maybe he’ll show up on the annual list of employees and their salaries published by various government agencies. My ancestor did – as a Meat Inspector in Kansas City, Missouri – he made $1,200 a year!  A pretty good salary for the times.

What can AGB help you discover about your family?

~posted by Heather M.W.