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Full of free resources and advice, the library is a great place to celebrate Family History Month

ANN ARBOR, MI, October 1, 2014 – October is Family History Month and a great time to add to or begin researching a family tree. This increasingly popular hobby has been given a boost from the sheer volume of resources now available to find ancestors. Millions of pages of historical census data, military records, newspapers, birth and death records are accessible online and easily searched. Information powerhouses like ProQuest conduct major scanning and digitization projects and are also the source of online tools that guide users in filling out the branches of their family trees.

Learn more about online genealogy resources here:

Where to find those resources?

“The public library is the genealogist’s best friend,” says William Forsyth, the genealogy expert overseeing ProQuest’s expansive line of digital family history resources. “They have loads of specialty resources and great advice on how to use them.”

Before you visit the library, arm yourself with the information you already know about your family:

  1. Make a list of the names of your known ancestors
  2. Include any details you have – birth and death years and places, military service, occupation, businesses with which they were associated  
  3. Find details in family photo albums, scrapbooks, bibles, and other keepsakes. Quiz other family members on what they know

Then, head to the closest branch of your library, which could be your computer. If you’re in a bricks-and-mortar branch, head for the reference desk and ask a librarian for help in getting started. If you’re visiting the virtual branch, look for tabs marked “online” or “electronic resources” or something similar if you don’t see “genealogy” or “family history.”

  • Forsyth recommends databases such as Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest Online, for their breadth of information and simple navigation
  • Historical newspapers can be great sources of personal stories as well as birth notices and obituaries. The latter is an especially rich source of details about the deceased’s life, including the names of other family members
  • Military databases, such as Fold3, include official service records, as well as stories and photos. Other unique resources like Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War provide personal insights from the men and women who served, helping to build a tree that’s a rich family history

Access to personal details about ancestors is inspiring a growing number of genealogists to write books about their findings. Bowker, the official U.S. ISBN agency, tracked nearly 20 percent growth in the number of self-published works about families in 2013 versus 2012.

“There are so many resources available to self-publishers now that creating a beautiful book about your family is a very straightforward and affordable process,” said Laura Dawson, product manager of Bowker’s “The important first step is to take the plunge and start the research.”

About ProQuest (

ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company’s products are a gateway to the world’s knowledge including dissertations, governmental and cultural archives, news, historical collections and ebooks. ProQuest technologies serve users across the critical points in research, helping them discover, access, share, create and manage information.

The company’s cloud-based technologies offer flexible solutions for librarians, students and researchers through the ProQuest®, Bowker®, Dialog®, ebrary®, EBL® and Serials Solutions® businesses – and notable research tools such as the Summon® discovery service, the RefWorks® Flow™ collaboration platform, the Pivot™ research development tool and the Intota™ library services platform. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with offices around the world.

01 October 2014

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