At the Library

I’ve have worked in libraries for many years and have used the library for my research.  Way back before the Internet, I interlibrary loaned microfilm from the Illinois State Library.  I ordered Federal Censuses and newspapers for obituaries.  Back then it was a two-step process to find someone on the census.  First I had to order microfilm of the Soundex (an index of surnames coded by how they sound) to find the roll of microfilm with the actual census.  To use the Soundex, I first had to find the code for the surname I was researching.  The code consists of one letter and three numbers.  The letter is usually the first letter of the surname.  If you were searching Smith the first letter of the code would be “S”.  Here is a table to help figure out the Soundex code for the surname.

  • 1 = B, F, P and V
  • 2 = C, G, J, K, Q, S, X and Z
  • 3 = D and T
  • 4 = L
  • 5 = M and N
  • 6 = R
  • Remove these letters: A, E, I, O, U, Y, W, H

The first surname I researched on the 1900 census was Manfroid.  The code for Manfroid is M-516.  I knew they lived in Chicago, Illinois in 1900. I looked in a book in the library for the number of the microfilm for the 1900 Soundex for Illinois that had the code M516.  I then order that roll and waited for it to come.  When it finally arrived, I would search that roll of microfilm to find my ancestors.  When I found them I was given an enumeration district number and some other basic information.  

Here is the Soundex card found on the microfilm reel.


First of all the surname is misspelled but I was able to identify that this is the family I wanted because of the children’s names and ages.  Georgie was my grandfather and I knew his name and birth date and I also knew the names of his brothers and sister.  Notice the E.D. 293 that is the enumeration district and I needed that number to order my next roll of film.  I would then go to another book which listed all the rolls of microfilm for the 1900 Illinois Federal Census.  It identified the roll of microfilm to order by the enumeration district.  I would then order that roll and when it came in, I once again had to search that roll to find the actual census that listed my ancestors.  However, it was a little easier than searching the Soundex.  Notice on the card that it gives the vol., sheet number, and line number that my ancestors appear on.  I would then make a copy of the census.  But it would not all fit nice and tidy on an 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper.  I would make several copies and paste them all together.  It was black like the Soundex card and hard to read.  Once I could get a nice clean copy on, I threw out the old microfilm one.  I kept the soundex card copy because they are obsolete when using online versions of the census, however because I knew it was spelled wrong, I found it that way.  I sometimes think we could be missing records that are there but are indexed by how the census taker spelled them.  Doing it the old way it was possible to find them with the names spelled wrong.  I did this over and over for the entire censuses and for all the surnames in my family tree. 

That was my first experience using the library for my genealogy.  Since then I have used Allen County in Fort Wayne, Indiana and found my grandparents marriage record, Toledo Public library, in Toledo, Ohio; Elmhurst Public Library in Elmhurst, Illinois; Wisconsin State Archives Library in Madison, Wisconsin; Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, Illinois; Cook Memorial Library in Libertyville, Illinois; McHenry Library in McHenry, Illinois; Reddick Library in Ottawa, Illinois; Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah,.  I also have contacted many libraries by phone or email to ask if they have newspapers, obituaries, and other information.  They have done searches for me and sent me the results at no charge. 

I go to library websites where my ancestors lived and sometimes I am able to search their databases.  Cleveland Public has obituaries and death records online.  Forest Park Public Library in Forest Park, Illinois has their local newspapers digitized and I have been able to access them from home.  I may be prejudice because I have worked in libraries for over 30 years, but they are wealth of information and I find librarians very helpful.   

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  week topic “At the Library”

Copyright © 2019 Gail Grunst