Erin Cataldi: Library can help you get to know your family – Daily Journal


How well do you know your family, or how far back can you trace your family tree?

Many are trying the DNA testing kits such as 23andMe or FamilyTreeDNA to learn more about their ethnic roots or discover connections to past and contemporary relatives. The appeal is clear: By merely spitting into a tube or swabbing your cheek, you can potentially unlock genetic mysteries and learn more about your family lineage. Not everyone may feel comfortable using their DNA, but there are still other options to learn more about your extended family.

Johnson County Public Library has a service, Ancestry, which any library cardholder can access at home now through Dec. 31 or in a library branch any time. Discover your family history by searching census records from 1790 to 1940, birth, marriage and death records from around the world, voter registrations, military records, immigration paperwork and much more. New to genealogy? Get started with the helpful tutorials and downloadable forms.

Besides Ancestry, your library card also provides access to HeritageQuest Online, which contains more than 25,000 local histories and family genealogies, the Genealogical Periodical Source Index (PERSI), and Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, which are all fully indexed and searchable. The library also has access to the Indiana Digital Archives, the Indianapolis Star Newspaper Archives and Johnson County newspapers (current and historical) which are great if you come from a long line of Hoosiers.

With all these digital resources at your fingertips, there is no better time to get digging into your family’s history. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, ask any librarian and they’ll be happy to get you started. While you’re at it, be sure to explore the JCPL Historical Room at the Franklin Branch. It’s filled with newspapers, yearbooks, local history, maps and photographs. Visitors are asked to sign in at the adult reference desk before entering.

Finally, don’t forget to visit the Johnson County Museum of History; they have an amazing genealogy and local history library. Their library contains a wealth of research materials, many of which are original documents, relating to Johnson County and surrounding areas.

If the holidays have you too busy to start digging now, mapping out your family tree can always be a New Year’s resolution. Fill out that family tree and discover how fun genealogy can be.

Want to learn more before jumping in? Check out these books at any JCPL Branch:

  • Unofficial Guide to How to Find Your Family History on the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Website by Dana McCullough
  • Genealogy for Dummies by Matthew Helm
  • Practical Genealogy: 50 Simple Steps to Research your Diverse Family History by Brian Sheffey
  • Genealogy Standards by
  • Unofficial Guide to How to Find Your Family History on the #1 Genealogy Website by Nancy Hendrickson