Monday, July 10, 2006

Genealogy and Internet Basics for Reference Desk Personnel

I think this will be my last tardy report from the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans.

Genealogy and Internet Basics for Reference Desk Personnel was a vendor showcase program that was well attended considering its late Saturday afternoon time slot. Many more librarians are interested in genealogy and family history now than there were when I started in libraries in the late 1970s. We had few tools with which to help family historians then. Now there is a growing body of online resources.

Thomas J. Kemp from Newsbank announced a new suite of genealogy databses his company calls American Genealogy Bank. The product, which will be available after Labor Day includes:

1. Historical newspapers 1690-1923 - There will be over 900 copyright-free titles which included over 3.2 million obituaries. These digitized newspapers, which cover all fifty states, have never before been available digitally.

2. Obituaries from 1980s to date - There are more than 19 million to start. The datebase will be working its way back in time.

3. Digital books 1639-1819 - Genealogies, local histories, land title records, and even funeral sermons are included.

4. Federal and state government documents - There are lots of pensions, land claims, and military records.

5. Social Security Death Index.

According to Kemp, researchers can search the service's databases individually or as a group. Newsbank will market to libraries and individuals.

Paul F. Smart from said that its popular Internet database (free) will soon allow people to contribute their own genealogies to the official LDS records online. He said that the database already includes over a billion names.

William J. Forsyth of Proquest showed its suite Proquest Genealogy Center. IT includes the well known Ancestory and HeritageQuest, as well as historical newspapers, Sanborn maps, and military journals. One part is American Periodicals Online, which covers over a thousand titles between 1741 and 1900.

I hope the Illinois State Library arranges free trials of the Newsbank and Proquest titles in the fall.

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