Check this out: Searching your roots at the library
As my New Zealand friend Margaret would say, “The Rellies” have come to visit. By this she means The Relatives, but I’ve always loved the term for its playful innocence. Of course, there are relatives, and there are relatives. Sometimes second-cousin Sid — the one who never stops talking while drinking your Scotch — is the last person you want to track down.
If you’d rather not have your relatives drop in, there’s not much we can do from a library standpoint. But if you want to find them, well, consider them to be virtually on your doorstep thanks to our latest database subscription, ancestry.com. It’s an excellent tool that might not only reconnect you with Aunt Mabel — the one who makes the best cookies in the world — it might offer a window into how she came by that talent, when you find out her great-grandmother was a master baker in Luxembourg.
At the Nelson Public Library, The Rellies have arrived. Ancestry.com may be used in the library at any of our public computers (in-library use is a restriction of our license), and from there the door opens. Ancestry.com trolls over 7,000 databases and 200 billion images to help you avoid Sid and his lineage, or find Mabel and hers.
It’s as simple as plugging in what you know, then seeing what comes up. There are records from census to marriage to death in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.; international collections are constantly growing to include Germany, Russia, China, and more. There are ship lists, phone directories, and emigration indexes; there are military records from colonial era to the last century.
The potential for Rellie recovery is huge: consider 30 million baptism, marriage, and burial records from Quebec, 60 million records from Census Canada (yes, that’s the form you just received at your door!), and 200 million records from England, Wales, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, and Scotland.
There are Jewish family history records from Eastern Europe and Russia, and there are Poor Law Records from London. Add to that postcards, newsreels, and tombstone photographs, and it’s a great place to begin your family tree, one Rellie at a time. In fact, there’s a template you can access right there to help you get started.
At the library we have a steady stream of people from all over looking for their Rellies in our microfilm of the Nelson Daily News and turn-of-the-last-century regional papers like the Nelson Miner, Sandon’s Paystreak, or the New Denver Ledge. These, eye-boggling as they can be to use hour after hour, will always be there. We have provincial birth, marriage, and death records on microfiche, and we have a terrific local history collection in our archives.
But now, what took years to unearth can now take minutes, making Sid, Mabel, and everyone that came before that much closer — shrinking both the world, and the passage of time.
They say you can choose your friends, but not your relatives, and that’s true enough. It might always be necessary to hide the Scotch. But if you choose to find your relatives, who knows what else you’ll find out. The library is a good place to start.
Anne DeGrace’s column is featured every second Friday in the Star