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Something for Everyone. Genealogical Reference Service in the 21 st Century Curt B. Witcher, MLS, FUGA, IGSF. The Very Best of Times…. More people are engaged… More technology is being deployed in more diverse ways… More sites on the Internet… More images on websites…

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Something for everyone l.jpg

Something for Everyone

Genealogical Reference Service

in the 21st Century

Curt B. Witcher, MLS, FUGA, IGSF


The very best of times l.jpg
The Very Best of Times…

  • More people are engaged…

  • More technology is being deployed in more diverse ways…

  • More sites on the Internet…

  • More images on websites…

  • More collaborative initiatives have moved from contemplation to action…

  • More people can play…


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Why the interest?

  • Technology explosion—it is easier to collect data than ever before.

  • Aging baby-boomers.

  • Search for stability and meaning.

  • Advances in medical and genetic research—making family health history critical for many people.

  • Broken families of the last three decades.

  • Genealogy is a great way to teach history.


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Servicing these patrons…

  • Understand that this pursuit is important to them

  • Simply applying good reference techniques will turn any library— every library—into an outstanding genealogical resource center.


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Change of roles…

  • Successfully engaging with genealogists means our roles as information providers will have to be modified to roles as research instructors—teach vs. provide.

  • If we do this, our approach to the reference interview will be different, our comfort level with the overall transaction will increase, and we will think of better answers.


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Dealing with the person…

  • Genealogists typically communicate best through stories.

  • This form of communication can be antithetical to a standard reference transaction.

  • There are all kinds of ways to gently communicate to them, “Just the facts!”


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Strategies…

  • Seize the moment!! (pause, break in the action, etc.)

  • “And which line would you like to focus on today?”

  • “And which record would you like to start with today?”

  • “Have you had a chance to look at our online catalog?”


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Strategies…

  • Next to knowing is knowing where to find out.

  • Next to having is knowing where the data can be obtained.

  • St. Louis County Library and the Mid-Continent Public Library (MO) loan genealogy materials.


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The FamilySearch “Family”

  • Explore the Family History Library catalog. Most film can be loaned to Family History Centers and select libraries.

  • Explore Research Guidance, and Research Helps aspects of FamilySearch.org.

  • Explore links to onlinebooks in their catalog.


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Information Retention Hierarchy/Scheme


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Local Public Library Websites

  • Collect & preserve published local & family history of the specific area.

  • Often serve as a repository for primary source, non-published materials.

  • Collect & make accessible very detailed data about the people, businesses & organizations in the community.

  • Increasingly robust web sites.


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State Library Websites

  • The “public” library for the state—focus on collecting published materials.

  • Searchable genealogy and local history files.

  • Growing collections of online indices & guides as well as digital collections.



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And there are others…

  • Dallas Public Library

  • Houston Public Library—Clayton

  • Los Angeles Public Library

  • Miami Dade County Public Library

  • Mid Continent Public Library

  • New England Historic Genealogical Society



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State Archives Websites

  • Focus collection on unpublished, manuscript materials.

  • Searchable online guides, calendars, & other research guides.

  • Growing digital collections.

  • Custodial repositories for county archival materials.




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State Historical Soc. Websites

  • Tend to be the keepers of the manuscripts & photos for their respective states.

  • Often have research libraries with online catalogs and increasingly online digital collections.

  • Offer preservation & conservation expertise.

  • Coordinate special programs, e.g. centennial farms, pioneer homesteads, veterans histories, county historians, etc.




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USGenWeb/WorldGenWeb

  • Network of local volunteers across the country (and world!) indexing, abstracting, transcribing, and digitizing local records & documents.

  • Consistency and comprehensiveness continue to be minor issues, though improving over time.


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Family History Department

  • Family History Library

  • Family History Archive

  • Scan stone Project at the Granite Mountain Vault

  • FamilySearch Labs/ FamilySearch Indexing


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Putting the pieces together…

  • Recall how historical data is archived.

  • Focus the reference interview.

  • Collect locally; link widely.


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In Service of Genealogists…

  • There is nothing we can’t answer.

  • Instruction as the answer is acceptable.

  • Collect local data comprehensively.

  • Link to area, regional, and national data.

  • Index and digitize items of special local interest.


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