With online resources and television programs making family history more popular than ever, local historical societies and state archives have much to offer budding genealogists and seasoned genealogists alike.
For Daviess County residents with community roots, the Kentucky Room at the Daviess County Public Library offers a variety of historical records to help people build their family tree.
Savannah Warren, director of special collections at DCPL, said that in addition to providing many resources for genealogists, the library also has library staff on hand to help people overcome obstacles they might encounter in their research.
“We have all kinds of local history records, genealogical records,” Warren said. “We have local marriage records, wills, Kentucky death records, tax records, military service records, newspapers, an obituary index, and some photo collections.”
The DCPL collection also includes family stories previously completed and given to the library to help others put their family history together.
“We’re always researching for people,” she says.
Warren said that while the library usually hosts a history or genealogy-themed event every month, there are still some community members who don’t know that there are trained professionals willing and ready to help people with their family trees.
“We can show people how to get started and we will teach you how to do it and give you all the resources,” she said.
For Ohio County residents, the Ohio County Library offers many of the same resources as its Daviess County neighbor.
Helen McKeown of the Ohio County Historical Society said the majority of the area’s local genealogical resources are located in the Ohio County Library annex. When building the extension, it was decided to pool resources and have a central location for researchers.
“Since the historical society is right next to the library building, it made sense,” McKeown said. “They are open longer than we are, and it was a better library to combine all of the books.”
Over at the Historical Society, a Veterans’ Museum documents the service of more than 1,000 Ohio Counties who have served in the US military since the American Revolution.
McKeown said the library and museum are adjacent, which makes it convenient for researchers to use both facilities.
The state’s largest genealogical archive is located in the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfurt.
Cherie Daniels, director of the library archives, said that while online platforms offer researchers some records and the ability to research from the comfort of their homes, online records are only a fraction of what there is actually to be discovered.
“You have two big companies, Ancestry and Family Search,” said Daniels. “Usually they compete against each other and try to digitize that stuff as quickly as possible, but it’s still only a tiny part of what exists.”
With a collection growing since 1836 and more than 30,000 last name files, the Kentucky State Historical Society helps supplement records that may not be available online anywhere.
“We’re an important hub,” said Daniels. “We collect in all 120 counties, so we will have something from each county.”
Daniels said her best advice for those who are just starting their family history is to start with yourself.
“Get a piece of paper and record who you are, and look at any paperwork you may need to prove who you are,” she said. “Think of all the pieces of paper that could document your existence, and then go ahead and move on to the next generation.”
Daniels said it is also important to use the family records at home and speak to family members about anything they might have in order to track your ancestry and build a family tree.
While television shows have resulted in more people becoming interested in their family history research, Daniels said these shows show an overly simplified version of what family history research really is.
“So much of this marketing has been put into making the research process easier for people that sometimes they are almost doomed thinking they can find something very easily and they are very easily discouraged if it is a little difficult, “she said.
“It’s fun, it’s easy to a point, but it’s still research and there is still some legwork that goes with it, but it’s very rewarding.”