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October is Family History Month; start your research at the library

October is Family History Month; start your research at the library


What will you discover when you begin to dig up roots in your family history?

Since 2001, October has been recognized in the United States as Family History Month. Maybe you are just a beginner with genealogical research or perhaps a seasoned veteran. Whatever your family research skill level may be, the Grand Island Public Library has resources that can help you uncover your family’s past.

By far the most popular genealogical research tool that our library offers is Ancestry Library Edition. Ancestry Library provides access to billions of online records including census, vital records (birth, death, marriage, and baptism/christening), voter lists, military records, immigration and passenger lists, and even more unique records such as city directories or high school yearbooks. Ancestry Library is only available for access inside the library, so make an appointment today to use the Heritage Room to log on.

Speaking of the Heritage Room, we have many collections of genealogical materials. There is the library’s own Heritage collection, which consists of mainly Nebraska-related resources, both local and statewide. The library also has a genealogy collection of research guides and some local family histories.

The Heritage Room also houses the Ella Sprague Genealogical Collection, a private collection of genealogy materials donated to the library that primarily focuses on the history of the New England region. We also house a small collection of materials of the Prairie Pioneer Genealogical Society, which is mainly genealogy research guides and family histories, as well as some local history materials.

By far, the biggest collection in the Heritage Room is the Lue R. Spencer Daughters of the American Revolution collection. This collection contains many records of the Daughters of the American Revolution organization, as well as genealogy sources and resource guides for locations across the country.

Newspapers are also an important tool in the research of family history, and the library provides access to local newspapers in a couple of different ways. Many local newspapers from the area are on microfilm, available for viewing at the library including The Grand Island Independent, Wood River Sunbeam and The Cairo Record, as well as some Howard County newspapers.

Relatively new is the Hall County Community Digital Archive. This collaborative project of local historical and genealogical organizations, newspapers, libraries and museums from the county has been able to have many Hall County newspapers digitized including The Independent up until 1930.

The Hall County Community Digital Archive is free to use anywhere you have an internet connection at www. Also online is our NewsBank service, which has newer issues of local Nebraska and U.S. papers. Years available on NewsBank vary by newspaper and results are limited to text-only versions of articles. A current library card in good standing is required to access NewsBank.

Another resource that you can access from home is MyHeritage Library Edition. Access to MyHeritage Library is provided to all Nebraska residents by the Nebraska Library Commission in Lincoln. All you need is your driver’s license or state ID number to log in. If you do not have one, call the library and we can provide you a password to access the database. MyHeritage Library contains millions of genealogical and vital resources.

Finally, reference staff can be of assistance for your family history research. We can help you locate the city directories, yearbooks, cemetery records, vertical files and plat maps, and make interlibrary loan requests for microfilm reels.

Reference staff members are happy to take obituary look-up requests and will assist you with logging on to our computers and using our online family history resources. Stop by the Reference Desk or give us a call at 308-385-5333 for more information about these and all of our services.

Shaun Klee serves as the adult and technical services librarian for the Grand Island Public Library. Email him at

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