I read and commented on this interesting blog post: Locked Behind University Walls: the Database Quandary. I hope you will read this post and the comments. James Tanner, the author of the blog Genealogy’s Star, has been practicing law for 38 years. I was a librarian for 39 years. We share an interest in two areas that either confuse or are ignored by a number of people — copyright and digital content in library databases.
Libraries have subscriptions to a great number of databases that are of interest to genealogists and not available through personal subscription. Two examples very familiar to genealogists are AncestryLibrary Edition (although personal subscriptions to Ancestry.com are available) and Heritage Quest. (Both of these are available to libraries from ProQuest)
Examples of the many others that can be very useful to genealogists include:
- J-Stor (full access) (description)
- Lexis-Nexis. Records of Southern Ante-Bellum Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War (description)
- LLMC Digital provides digital access to primary legal materials, including early statutes and court reports from the U.S. and around the world (titles)
- ProQuest. American Periodical Series (description)
- ProQuest. Civil War Era (description)
- ProQuest. Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970 (description) and Digital Sanborn Maps Geo Edition (description)
- ProQuest Historical Map Works, Library Edition (description)
- ProQuest. Historical Newspapers (description)
- ProQuest. Obituaries (description)
- Readex. America’s Historical Imprints (description of the several collections that comprise this set)
- Readex. America’s Historical Newspapers (description of the several collections that comprise this set)
- Readex. Hispanic American Newspapers 1808-1980 (description)
Does your library subscribe to any of these? Or others that might be useful? Talk to a reference librarian at the library to find out how to discover what digital collections are available. However, most smaller or medium size public libraries subscribe to none or very few of these collections. They are too expensive and not of interest to the majority of the library’s patron base. But….
Large (very large) libraries — public, academic, archives and state libraries– will often subscribe to at least a few of them. Usually remote access is available only if you are a member of that library’s patron base, for example a student at a university library. However if you are in the library, access is available on site. So it may be worth a trip to use these databases and a large library near you.
If you plan on doing that, you will want to do a little homework. Large libraries have large catalogs and websites and often it is difficult to identify what electronic resources are available. Contact a reference librarian at the library for a little tutorial on how to learn what is available at the library and how you might access databases of interest.
Remember: when in doubt, ask a librarian!