Libraries are essential for genealogy research. Although we usually think of public libraries, academic libraries — those in colleges and universities — can also be useful (and with more than just yearbooks). Drew Smith shares some tips for using academic libraries in your genealogy.
Generations Cafe Podcast, Episode 34
About Drew Smith
Drew is a genealogist and the co-host of the Genealogy Guys podcast. He’s also a librarian at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Can Genealogists Use Academic Libraries?
Generally speaking, yes, although private colleges and universities aren’t as open to the public as state schools are. There are usually restrictions on hours, so be sure to check the library’s website before you visit.
Why Genealogists Should Use Academic Libraries
Academic libraries, especially larger ones, often have what are called special collections. These can be materials related to any topic, but you’ll find that they can be useful in your genealogy research.
The University of South Florida has a series of collections about Ybor City and West Tampa. They also have several local and family history collections, including the records of some Tampa funeral homes. (Surprisingly, they also have the original marriage records for Hillsborough County!)
Smaller colleges with more of a teaching focus than a research focus might not have extensive special collections, but they usually have yearbooks, student newspapers, and sometimes local newspapers.
Before You Visit an Academic Library
Be sure to check out the library’s website for hours that they are open to the public, as well as any restrictions on what can be brought into the library. You’ll also want to explore finding aids for the collections you’re interested in. These finding aids will help you narrow down where in the collection you want to look.
Also be sure to look for any “request forms,” as some materials might have to be pulled from remote storage. Requesting the materials ahead of time (or at least filling out the forms before you go) can save you valuable research time.