Whether you are curious about genealogy research, have a family history puzzle to solve, or hit road blocks in your own research, BCFL offers a plethora of e-resources for you to utilize while at home.
In addition to my role as a BCFL branch staff member, I’m pursuing genealogical certification and recently published my debut novel of which genealogy was key. I’ve been researching family history for roughly 15 years, and have discovered details that both shocked and inspired me. From my widowed second great-grandmother (an Irish immigrant/factory worker) providing for her remaining three children at the turn of the 20th century, to finding out about Scottish Highland ancestors I never knew I had (this OUTLANDER fan was pleased to find M(a)cKenzies and Frasers in my direct lineage), I often wonder about what they endured and how I would respond if I encountered the same struggles. They are more than names and faces, and in tracing their stories I build upon my own.
The following e-resources may prove invaluable tools regardless of where you are on your family history path! Let’s start with resources available to you as a BCFL cardholder. Select our e-Library – Research and Online Learning section to access the following tools.
Ancestry.com® Library Edition: Typically available to patrons for in-library use only, BCFL has temporarily expanded access to library cardholders working remotely (courtesy of ProQuest and its partner Ancestry). You can search a wide variety of records – Military, Birth/Marriage/Death, U.S. Census, Wills, City Directories, Immigration, and Newspaper Obituaries to name but a few. They even have an option to “Receive Records at Home” – simply click the “Send Record”/ “Send Document” button and enter your email address. I’d recommend starting with one branch of your tree at a time and having a goal in mind so as not to get discouraged or overwhelmed with data. Search basic records like the U.S. Census to place your direct ancestors in place and time, then branch out to more specific records like directories, military, or immigration documentation.
HeritageQuest (HQ) Online: HQ Online gives you access to U.S. Census and City Directories, like Ancestry, but if you’re looking for some unconventional records, HQ is the place to go! Search your ancestral surname in the Agricultural and Industrial Schedules; the U.S. Freedman’s Bank Record, 1861-1875; or Revolutionary War Era Pension and Bounty-land Warrant Application Files. Sometimes, researching surnames in unconventional records just may provide a new perspective and reinvigorate a stalled search.
Power Library: Speaking of looking outside the genealogy box, the PA Photos and Documents section of the Power Library e-resource may yield some very useful information for those with deep roots in Pennsylvania. Browse through this history-buff’s-dream-collection of historic books and photos, postcards, local newspapers, and oral histories. I admit to not utilizing this e-resource to its full capacity, but intend to make great use of it to expand and color the research I’ve already done.
E-Books and E-Audiobooks: Our library collection is always open through our collection of Downloads and Streaming apps! If you’re beginning your genealogy search, borrow Researching Your Family History Online for Dummies. Further along the road? Family History: Digging Deeper “covers a range of topics and provides clear advice for the intermediate genealogist”. Whether you prefer CloudLibrary, Hoopla, or OverDrive, finding books on this topic are right at your fingertips!
FamilySearch: When you sign up (email, username, and password required) to this free genealogy website, you can search an assortment of records and create a family tree! Sometimes, FamilySearch has images of certain records (like the actual marriage document instead of just an index of names) that Ancestry does not and vice versa; I tend to have both sites open at the same time for comparison. However, I highly recommend searching their “Research Wiki” feature for international research. Whether your ancestral relations came from Eastern Europe, the African peninsula, or Italy’s boot, there are helpful resources just waiting for you! For instance, some of my ancestors were born in the Bardejov, Presov region of Czechoslovakia. When I type in “Bardejov” in the Research Wiki search bar, it brings up the following:
Or, select “Browse by Country” on the left-hand side of the “Research Wiki” page, then choose from the alphabetical selections. As an example, I entered EGYPT and received the following results:
Whether you are new to genealogy or need a refresher on a specific area, the Research Wiki offers helpful tools and videos!
Fold3 and Newspapers.com: Once you’ve browsed the military and newspaper resources available through the BCFL e-resources, you may want to consider a subscription service for a more in-depth collection. Newspapers.com is “the largest online newspaper collection” with “16,600+ newspapers from the 1700s-2000s”. Fold3 enables you to “discover your family’s military past” as it features “premier collections of original military records”. Both sites offer a seven-day trial, so you have some time to browse their collections!
For those like myself who are pursuing genealogical certification or more in-depth research, the cost of subscription services may ultimately be worth the expense. I utilize Newspapers.com every single day and have access to Fold3 and Archives.com through my personal Ancestry.com subscription package. Others may find that a seven-day trial is all the access you’ll need to find what you’re looking for!
I recommend utilizing a combination of the resources listed above and even having multiple tabs open on your internet browser to compare records. TIP: use the street address you located for your ancestor on a U.S. Census record and type that in to the Newspapers.com search field – that’s how I found my ancestor’s obituary from 1899.
All of the above resources may prove invaluable to you on your genealogical adventure, but don’t forget that you are the most valuable resource. In this unprecedented time, we are dealing with so much uncertainty moving forward and yet, perhaps, going through family photos with a parent/grandparent or recording a family history interview with a loved one separated in distance can help remind us that though our experiences differ, we are all more than names and faces!
— Kelly Deeny, Customer Service Associate, Yardley-Makefield Branch