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Genealogy: Digging Up Your Roots

If you’re anything like me, history has always fascinated you. And I’ve found that there’s no better way to put history into context than to find out what your ancestors were up to! Genealogy, the study of family history, is a fun way to delve into the past and learn more about where you come from.

When you’re doing genealogical research, it’s helpful to follow these basic steps: Start with the information you know, gain all the insight you can from your living relatives, and begin working backwards when searching for deceased relatives. You can also try and find a jumping off point by looking for your relatives in the US Census records, especially census records from when they were a child, which would list parents and siblings as members of the same household.

Interested in learning more about your family’s history? Be sure to mark your calendar for July 22, when Grace DuMelle (author of Finding Your Chicago Ancestors) is coming to the library to talk more about getting started in genealogy! The program starts at 7 PM and there’s still space, so register now!

In the meantime, check out some of the Library’s other genealogical resources that can help get you started and be more prepared for the program (not required to attend program) as well as for helping with your own family history research afterwards!

Resources Available to You! is a great place to start your search – and good news…the library has access to it! You have to be physically on the premises (so stop by and say hi at the desk!), but once you’re here you can access over 10,000 databases with information spanning the globe – and they’re adding more all the time! Ancestry is one of the largest names you’ll find in genealogy research, so it’s always fun to start your search with them. With Library Edition you won’t get the waving leaves like you see on the commercials, but you still have access to all the information Ancestry offers!

FamilySearchThe other big name in ancestry research is The website gives you access to information collected by the Family History Library, widely regarded as one of the largest genealogical collections in the world. Located in Salt Lake City, the Family History Library includes over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, etc.; over 4,500 periodicals; and 3,725 electronic resources. You can access the electronic resources on their website – the rest of the materials can be ordered through our local family history center in Buffalo Grove. Plus, you can access this website at home, and there is some overlap with Ancestry’s resources, particularly with US Census Records.

HeritageQuest OnlineThe library also has access to HeritageQuest Online – and it too is available at home! Owned by the same people as, HeritageQuest’s strengths lie in their research aids, which can help you get started in your search, and in their maps collection, which contains information about county lines for each of the 50 United States and can help you figure out what exactly to call the area where great-great grandma Henrietta lived!

In our print collection you’ll find many helpful books on doing research for different parts of the world – and remember, we can always order books through our Linkin consortium or through the World Catalog!

Finding Your Chicago AncestorsFinding Your Chicago Ancestors by Grace DuMelle

If the author’s name for this book sounds familiar, that’s because she’s the speaker coming in for our genealogy program at the end of July! While this book focuses on tracing your ancestry specifically in the Chicago area, it also covers things like getting started in your research, finding out where and when your ancestors were born, how and when they came to America, what they did for a living, where they resided, and where they are buried. Besides being chock full of important information, it also contains research strategies that can assist you in discovering more about your heritage in the city of big shoulders!

Genealogy Sourcebook_COVERThe Genealogy Sourcebook by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack

Well-known as one of the seminal works in genealogy, the Sourcebook is written by a certified genealogist and contains important information that can guide you through the steps of discovering your ancestors. It begins, as they say, at the beginning, with information on what genealogy is, and then moving on through the charts you’ll come across, talking to your relatives, getting educated about genealogy, taking research trips, the sorts of repositories you’ll come across, and more! It’s truly a holistic source that can help everyone in learning the fundamentals of genealogical research!

As always, this is just a tiny sampling of the genealogical information that is available either through the library or free online. If you want to learn more about the resources we have or the ones that are available online, feel free to contact the Library’s reference department by phone (847-945-3311) or email ( and ask for me, Anne. I have tons of information that I’m happy to hand out to everyone who wants to learn more!

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