Using Real and Virtual Libraries for Family History Research

Would you rather look at a computer screen, a phone screen, or an actual paper page in a book? Your answer may rely on which of the “generations,” as defined by Wikipedia, you belong to. The younger the demographic cohort of a person, the more they seem to prefer the transient image, the disappearing snap photo, the meme: something to ponder briefly, identify with, for what it’s worth,  and then move on to the next thing. The older the demographic cohort of a person, the more they seem to prefer a book, something tangible and permanent, that can sit on the shelf and collect dust but be there, faithfully, when one has a notion to look something up.

My mom, possibly classified as being on the cusp of the “Silent Generation” and the “Baby Boomers,” (see Wikipedia link above) reveled in doing what one cousin recently dubbed “the legwork” in family history research: going to the courthouse, copying down information in longhand  because there was no copy machine at the facility in the 1960’s (and her script can be very difficult to read), traipsing up and down mountains in foul weather to find old neglected graveyards, knocking on the doors of unsuspecting relatives we’d never met before and doing impromptu interviews with them,  and taking blurry pictures of the old portraits in wood-and-plaster frames on their living room walls.

Eventually, she compiled all her notes into a book. This photo includes two versions of it.


For the first version, the spiral-bound one above, she asked me (as a much younger person) to draw the cover, with the background mountain formation the locals called “Ol’ Tom of the Rocks.” I guess she decided to go with something a little less primitive for the cover of the second, more mass-produced version. I think she self-published about 100 copies and sold them for about $10 apiece. They sold out quickly. Quite a few libraries across the country have non-circulating copies.

I have the original manuscript and I’ve thought about reprinting it, since people still contact me, craving a copy of it.

She recorded all she could find of the descendants of Thomas Bland, born c. 1740. I’ve entered a lot of her info  into my pedigree chart, and thus have enough hints generated that I will never run out of updating tasks for the rest of my life.

To find the nearest physical location where a copy of her book resides, or any other family history book, you have only to look it up in the virtual library card catalog in If you’re reading this, of course you know that Family Search is a free web site you can join, collaborate with others, post your pedigree, which becomes part of the global tree (except for the entries for living people, which are suppressed from public view).  It’s also a treasure trove of historical records. Sign in, go to the link “Search” near the top of the page, then go to “Catalogue.” Choose to search by “Titles” and then type in “Thomas Bland.” If you click on one of the Thomas Bland of Pendleton County entries, you can find a link inside, for “WorldCat” database, which will show you all the libraries that have a copy, beginning with the one closest to you. You may be able to get your local library to “borrow” it from one of the other libraries.

This may be possible with any book you find in the WorldCat. Real or virtual, you’ve gotta love your library. This is for week #5 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. 

2 thoughts on “Using Real and Virtual Libraries for Family History Research”

  1. Wow. This is great info. My family also has a self published history written by a great aunt, but it has limited info on my grandfather’s branch. I’ve wondered if I should work to expand that side of the tree for my grandson. Thanks for the great post!

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