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Genealogy research and more

This has been a record-breaking summer for the library! We have had more than 950 children and teens sign up for the summer reading program, up from last year’s 800. The number of items checked out has increased over 9 percent from last year, and children’s story time attendance is up a whopping 35 percent! We would not be able to keep up with this exciting increase without the help of our amazing volunteers. If you are interested in being involved during this exciting time at the library, we would love to have you join us. 

I am certain that the government officials who dispatched the first federal census-takers in August of 1790 never imagined that contents of those documents would be able to be viewed from anywhere on earth (or on the space station!) via the Internet.  There is a wealth of historical and genealogical information available online, but it can be a challenge to decide where to begin. We have many resources available to guide you on your way.

In addition to teaching genealogy workshops in libraries around the region in the past year, Rosemary Susens recommended the purchase of a number of new books on genealogy research. An information-gathering process that a decade or two ago would involve writing to a historical society and waiting for “snail mail” to deliver copies of obituaries or other documents can now take a matter of seconds to display before your eyes on a computer monitor. The vast quantity of information available, however, can be more than a little daunting. These recently-published guides can help you get started finding your own family history on the web: “Genealogy Online” by Elizabeth Powell Crowe, “Genealogy Online for Dummies” by Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm, and “Quillen’s Essentials of Genealogy: Mastering Online Genealogy” by W. Daniel Quillen. If you’re starting from scratch or are looking into getting a computer program such as “Family Tree Maker” or “Reunion,” a great resource is “The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program” by Karen Clifford (be sure to request the updated 2011 edition).  For beginners and professionals alike, W. Daniel Quillen has published a fourth edition of his exhaustive yet practical guide “Secrets of Tracing Your Ancestors.”  Included in the book are tips on how to deal with inconsistent spellings of surnames and how to begin researching in your ancestors’ home countries.

Many historical documents and records are available for free online, but others may require a subscription to a website. The largest and most well-known of these is It is a great way to get information, but a minimum subscription will set you back more than $155 per year. But as a patron Brainerd Public Library, you can come in anytime we are open and use the site for free. Just ask the librarian at the information desk to set you up on one of the library’s computers.

Also available for your perusal is “Family Tree” magazine, which gives advice on genealogical research and also has interesting articles about the history of particular immigrant groups and ethnicities.

Finally, if your family has roots in the Brainerd area, many obituaries and interesting articles may be found in the archives of this very newspaper. The library has the microfilm for the Brainerd Dispatch starting from 1883 to the present. Come and take advantage of everything we have for you to use, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  

LAUREL HALL is the senior outreach coordinator for Kitchigami Regional Library System.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.