Library and History Room have many genealogical resources

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 19, 2018

By Gretchen Beilfuss Witt

Rowan Public Library

The History Room at Rowan Public Library is well-known for having good resources for researching your family genealogy. Unfortunately, none of the materials in the History Room can be taken home and pored over in the wee hours of the night.

There are, however, some books located in non-fiction that can be checked out. “Genealogy for Dummies” by Matthew and April Helms provides a solid beginning for genealogical research including an overview of online resources, free and subscription.

It introduces the reader to specific surname family websites as well as different language/cultural genealogical websites including Asian, African and Caribbean. The chapter many might find useful examines what is available for genealogical DNA testing and what test and company might best fulfill your genealogical goals.

Other books along this same vein might specialize in specific groups like “A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors” or may have a particular slant like “Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History” by Katherine Scott Sturdevant.

Along with genealogical research, letters, photos, family memorabilia and important documents are often handed down. It is useful to know how best to house and preserve such items so they are around for the generations to follow. The library has an excellent book, “How to Archive Family Keepsakes” to guide a person through the process of gleaning the treasures from the chaff.

After a grandparent or old auntie dies, folks are often reluctant to go through boxes and papers not knowing quite what to do with them. This book enables a person to discern what should be kept and what to toss, how to organize, store and preserve.

For the finishing touch, check out Joy Neighbors’ book, “The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide.” It begins with a fascinating chapter on the history and cultural importance of cemeteries. The Neanderthal are believed to have buried their dead as much as 50,000 years ago in the caves at La Chapelle-aux-Saints. The first tomb for an individual dates to 12,000 BCE and is located in Israel.

Did you know that the Victorian Era saw the first park-like or garden cemeteries created so people could escape the dingy cities to enjoy a walk in the fresh air while admiring sculptures and interesting architecture?

Neighbors explains how tombstones are useful in genealogical searches not only by revealing dates but also indicating something of the life of the person. The carving on a tombstone might indicate the religion, occupation or military record of the deceased. She also gives hints on how to read worn headstones or to find and record important information about a deceased relative.

Neighbors suggests volunteering to contribute to the ever-increasing databases like Billions of Graves and Find-a-Grave which record gravesites via photograph and provide information for researchers.

With these and other books, no matter where you are in family search, the library has the resources to unearth your family story.

Photowalk: Monday, 6:30 p.m. Join us for a walk around downtown Salisbury as we view and photograph the 2018 Salisbury Sculpture Show. Bring your digital camera/phone to take photos. Questions? Contact Paul at or 704-216-7737. The photowalk will last approximately 90 minutes.

Great American Read testimonials: South, Aug. 28, 5-7 p.m. Record a testimonial detailing which book should be considered “America’s Favorite.” Testimonials will be shared on social media, submitted to PBS and could be selected to air on PBS this fall. For more details, contact Abby at 704-216-8248 or at

Book Bites Book Club: South, Aug. 28, 6 p.m. This month’s selection is “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. Refreshments will be served, and new members are welcome. Questions? Contact Paulette at

Library Card Sign-up Month: Sept. 1-30. Headquarters, East and South branches. Join us as we celebrate 2018’s Library Card Sign-up Month at all of our branches. Do you have your library card? Cards are free and, when kept in good standing, give you access to RPL’s circulating collection, computer labs and online resources and materials. Contact your nearest branch for more details or visit RPL’s website.

Displays: Headquarters, Communities in Schools; East, a celebration of African culture by James Rhea; South, artwork by Miranda Foster.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.