Sunday, March 2, 2014


I love libraries devoted to genealogy, such as The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library and the library at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  Unfortunately, many of these specialized libraries are far away. I sometimes forget about my local public library.

The public libraries in my area differ greatly in their genealogy holdings.  If you don’t see what you want in your library, you can usually order the book you desire through the library website or with the help of a friendly librarian. Many libraries are networked with several other libraries. 

West Bloomfield Township Public Library
West Bloomfield, Michigan

The other day I decided to go to the West Bloomfield Township Public Library ( and see what genealogical and historical material I could find.  Here are a few of my discoveries:

1.                   Periodicals

I regularly purchase genealogy magazines, and some of them are pricey, especially the ones from England.  At the West Bloomfield Library I found the following items of interest:

American Spirit

BBC History Magazine

Michigan History

On the library’s website, cardholders can access Gale PowerSearch, a database containing articles from periodicals and other sources. In this database, I found the following magazines I regularly purchase:
  • American History – index coverage:  Jun 1994 to current; full-text coverage:  Feb 1998 - current
  • Family Chronicle – index coverage: May 2000-Jan. 2015
  • Family Tree Magazine – index coverage: Jan 2010 – Dec 2014; full-text coverage: Jan 2010 – Dec 2014
  • The Writer -- index coverage: Jan 1977 – Oct 2012; full-text coverage: Jan 1993-Oct 2012
  • Writer’s Digest -- index coverage:  Jan 1977-current; full-text coverage:  Jan 1994-current
  • Your Genealogy Today -- index coverage:  Mar 2015 - current

You can also search within these publications if full-text access is available. 

2.                   Maps and Atlases

You need to learn about the location of your ancestors. Maps can give you ideas about where to search for records. Boundaries changed, and your ancestor’s records might be in an adjacent town, which is now in another county.  The boundary lines of countries moved also, so be sure to check out the map collection at your local library. It will help you in your research.

These are a few of the publications I found:
  • Historical Atlas of the United States 
  • Michigan Cemetery Atlas          
  • The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Eastern Europe
  • Patrons' Reference Directory from the 1908 Atlas of Oakland County, Michigan

3.    Biographical Compilations

Perhaps your ancestor was talented—a musician or a sports figure. There are plenty of reference books about famous people.  Some of the books I saw were:         
  • Artists of early Michigan : a Biographical Dictionary of Artists Native to or Active in Michigan, 1701-1900
  • Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
  • Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science
  • The Jewish 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Jews of all Time
  • Merriam-Webster’s Biographical Dictionary
  • Michigan’s Biographical Dictionary
  • Notable Black American Women
  • Notable Asian Americans
  • Notable Native Americans
  • Notable Women in World Government

4.    State and Local History

Understanding history is crucial to learning about your ancestors. Public libraries are filled with books about the towns and counties in your state.   Here are some books that I discovered:
  • All aboard!: a History of Railroads in Michigan
  • The Bicentennial History of Ingham County, Michigan
  • Detroit's Historic Places of Worship
  • History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan; a Chronological Cyclopedia of the Past and Present
  • Lumberjack : Inside an Era in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  • Michigan Place Names : the History of the Founding and the Naming of More than Five Thousand Past and Present Michigan Communities
  • Mining in the Upper Peninsula from Michigan Pioneer & Historical Collections, vols. 1-40
  • Out of Small Beginnings : a Bicentennial Historical Sketch of Oakland County, Michigan, 1815-1976
  • State of War : Michigan in World War II

I also found bicentennial histories of numerous U.S. states. 

5.    Cemetery Records

We all know how important cemetery records can be. I had no idea that our library kept cemetery records. Here are a few I unearthed:
  • Cemetery and death records, W. Bloomfield Twp., Oakland County, Michigan
  • Cemetery records, Waterford Township, Oakland County, Michigan
  • Commerce Cemetery, Commerce Township, Oakland County, Michigan  
  • Michigan, Oakland County, Southfield Township Cemeteries
  • Oakland County Cemetery, Oakland County, Michigan

6.    Genealogy Books

Much of the genealogical material I found was in the reference department. However, we all like to check out books and read them in the comfort of our home. These are just a few of the “take home” books I located:
  • In Search of your European Roots : a Complete Guide to Tracing your Ancestors in Every Country in Europe
  • Managing a Genealogical Project
  • Professional Genealogy : a Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians
  • Your Guide to Cemetery Research
  • To our Children's Children : Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come
7.   Genealogical Databases

The West Bloomfield Township Public Library has free access to the following paid or library-only genealogical databases:

In addition, there are links on their website to several free resources you can access at home such as:

I was not familiar with some of these databases, so I am glad I explored the library’s online catalog. 

8.   Newspapers

There is a lovely reading area in our library with a fireplace and cozy chairs. You can browse through a nice assortment of local and national newspapers.  In addition, you can use one of the library’s many computers to explore the InfoTrac Custom Newsstand. This database is a collection of about 900 full text newspapers.  There are also databases for the Detroit Free Press, Observer & Eccentric and the New York Times. Maybe you will be fortunate and find an obituary or wedding notice about a family member.

9.  E-Library--Digital Collections

On the West Bloomfield Township Public Library website you can find numerous historical and genealogical collections in their eLibrary – Digital Collection ( such as:
  • Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society – a collection of old photographs from our area
  • People of West Bloomfield – historic photographs of West Bloomfield residents
  • StoryCorps Digital Collection -- community members share their stories
  • West Bloomfield Memoirs – handwritten and typed memoirs from the 1800s to the 1970s
10.  Ethnic Publications

There were several books on specific ethnic groups such as:
  • African Americans in Michigan
  • Chaldeans in Michigan
  • Hungarians in Michigan
  • Italians in Michigan
  • Jews in Michigan
  • Latinos in Michigan
  • Mexican and Mexican Americans in Michigan
  • Scots in Michigan

11.  Baby Name Books

Census enumerators and other transcribers often butchered our ancestors’ names. It is helpful if you consult books containing lists of popular baby names throughout history. This can give you ideas on the possible name of an ancestor.  There are dozens of books to choose from. These are a few:           

  • The Baby Name Bible : the Ultimate Guide by America's Baby-naming Experts

  • The Best Baby Names in the World from Around the World

  • The New Jewish Baby Book : a Guide to Your Choices

  • Proud Heritage : 11,001 Names for your African-American Baby

12.  Miscellaneous Reference Material

In addition to the many other resources I have mentioned, our library has the following books in their reference section that are useful for family research:

  • The DAR Patriot Index
  • First Land Owners of Oakland County, Michigan
  • Michigan, Oakland County Genealogical Society Surname Directory, v. 1-3
  • Oakland County Directory : 2013-2014
  • Sourcebook of Michigan Census, County Histories and Vital Records

While compiling this article, I actually surprised myself at the many genealogical resources available right in my home town. I’m sure there is much more that I did not mention. Take a stroll over to your local library and see what discoveries you can find.


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, Advertising Cuts of the 20s and 30s, 2003.


  1. Excellent post and good lists Karin. Loved seeing mention of the DAR Resources.

  2. Thanks, Christine. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. I was very excited when I saw the DAR material.