A visit to the Brigham Young University Family History Library has a number of benefits. One of the ones not usually anticipated is the in-library access to the huge list of online resources available in the bank of computers available for free public use. This list is not you usual public library list of "free" websites, you will find online subscription services that you would never have access to in a local library.
There are some limitations. Some of the online programs are limited to the students and staff of the University. However, most of the those that pertain to family history are more widely available. In order to use a computer in the BYU Family History Library, you need register with the student workers at the Reference Desk for a free temporary login and password. A picture ID will be required for registration. This takes only a few minutes and you are then free to use any of the computers that are not already being used. In my experience, there are very few times when an available computer cannot be found. The busiest time is on the two Sunday afternoons when the Library is open. Use of the computers will also depend on the academic schedule. Around final exams in each term or semester, there is an increase in usage.
Because of the huge number of websites, it is only possible to give a few examples. One of the most interesting for viewing in the Library is the HistoryGeo website. This website contains two major components: The First Landowners Project and an Antique Maps Collection. Here is a short summary from the website:
Instead of looking at landowner maps township by township, imagine what it would be like to have a SINGLE, INTERACTIVE MAP containing over 12.3 MILLION LANDOWNERS among 30 states (all 29 of the public land states in the Continental U.S., plus Texas). Imagine constantly expanded map coverage, and having the ability to keep track of all the early homesteaders you're researching. Imagine...wait, you don't have to imagine. IT'S HERE, and AVAILABLE NOW to Our Subscribers! (Emphasis in the original)The map collection is also described as follows:
Over the years, we have compiled and indexed HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF LANDOWNERS from a constantly expanding collection of nearly 4000 MAPS from various sources and time periods. All you need to access this content is a HistoryGeo.com subscription.You should also be aware that the BYU Family History Library has complete access to the Harold B. Lee Library map collection that contains over 290,000 maps. The maps are located on the same level as the Family History Library and are open for use by patrons during the time the Library is open.
Historic or merely old newspapers are a valuable genealogical source, especially for legal announcements and obituaries. The Library has links to about 50 valuable newspaper websites. Half of these can be viewed only in the Library. Incidentally, the Library also has an extensive collection of newspapers on microfilm. When you are doing research is a large library, such as the Lee Library, you need to be persistent in looking for resources. The extra research effort will usually result in finding more information.
Speaking of microforms (including both microfilm and microfiche) the Library has access to over 3 million items in its collections. Many of these are directly related to genealogical research and are housed in the Family History Library.
The online collections also contain links to many other genealogically valuable websites, such as the following:
- Bible Records
- Census Records
- Death and Obituary Records
- Immigration Records
- Military Records
- Record Databases
Additional categories of links on the BYU Family History Library startup page include the following:
- Blogs/Message Boards
- Census Reference
- Digital Libraries
- Language/Name/Term/Abbreviation Helps
- North America Maps/Gazetteers
- Obituary Reference
- Periodical Indexes
- Reference Portals
- Vital Records Reference
- World Maps/Gazetteers
The Sanborn maps themselves are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 50 feet to one inch (1:600) on 21 by 25 inches (53 by 64 cm) sheets of paper. The maps were published in volumes, bound and then updated until the subsequent volume was produced. Larger cities would have multiple volumes. In between published volumes, updates were sent out as correction slips. Subscribers would paste the slips on top of the old maps to reflect new or altered buildings or lots.
The map volumes contain an enormous amount of information. They are organized as follows: a decorative title page; an index of streets and addresses; a ‘specials’ index with the names of churches, schools, businesses etc.; and a master index indicating the entirety of the mapped area and the sheet numbers for each large-scale map (usually depicting four to six blocks); and general information such as population, economy and prevailing wind direction.Here is an example of one of the maps from Durham, North Carolina in 1888.
Federal Depository Library Program and has over 377,000 government documents.
Stay tuned for more information about the BYU Family History Library.
For the first part of this series see: