Week 5: At The Library

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My grandpap, Ralph, c. 1921

Although I have practically lived at the library (I’m a former Library Director, and have done everything from planning budgets to fixing the toilet), I don’t have any fun “guess what I found in this book!” stories to tell.

But I do remember “life before Ancestry”. When RootsWeb was the latest and greatest and bulletin boards were hopping with obituary lookup requests.

Living in Canyon County, Idaho at the time, and working at the largest public library in the county, I volunteered to do look ups. At the time, I was a Library Page and one of my duties was to replace all the newspaper microfilm reels back in the cabinet each day. I also helped patrons load the film and understand how to work the machines (yes, we had two of them at the time).

So when I had the chance to use the machines myself, I was thrilled. Armed with a name and a date of death, I’d load the appropriate film and zoom through looking for the proper date. And then slowly scroll through the pages looking for the Obituary section and the person in question.

It was intoxicating.

I had a notebook and pen with me and would transcribe the obit to paper, before logging on to my Juno email account to send the obit to the requester. (those were the days….)

Although I was in highschool and had never heard of genealogy standards, I learned some valuable research lessons by volunteering:

  • There is misinformation out there. Not all data is correct, even if it’s in print!
  • Not all records are available. Several rolls of microfilm disappeared or were never created, so there were missing issues of newspapers. Plan B!
  • Accurate transcription is VITAL. It’s so easy to miss something when transcribing, so take your time and double-check everything.
  • Helping someone out is an amazing feeling and gives you all the good vibes.


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