Books in the Belfry: Spotlight on special collections

By Hailey Morgan, Special to Dorchester Banner
Posted 1/28/23

CAMBRIDGE - If you’ve visited the Dorchester County Public Library, you’ll know that we have more than just books – we offer DVDs, music CDs, audio books, eBooks, and so much more. …

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Books in the Belfry: Spotlight on special collections


CAMBRIDGE - If you’ve visited the Dorchester County Public Library, you’ll know that we have more than just books – we offer DVDs, music CDs, audio books, eBooks, and so much more. But you might not know about our many special collections.

This week, we’re highlighting our genealogy-related special collection. Whether you’re just starting to delve into your family history or you’re a seasoned genealogist, the library has several resources to help you – all of them free.

The gold standard for genealogical research is the website and you can access it on any library computer. Users can search census, immigration, military and vital records, city and area directories, school yearbooks, church histories, land records and much more.

Ancestry’s online Learning Center is especially helpful, with tips on getting started and guides on census, immigration, military and ethnic research. Users can also download blank copies of genealogical charts and forms, read the message boards, and view Ancestry members’ public family trees. Many users have discovered distant relatives through Ancestry!

The website Heritage Quest offers many of the same tools and features as but contains fewer records; however, Heritage Quest offers remote access, so you can access the site both from the library and from home, as long as you have a current library card.

With a focus on “how to,” Gale Genealogy Connect is an excellent online resource for both novice and advanced family history researchers, featuring a fully searchable online collection of history and genealogy reference e-books.

Family history researchers with Eastern Shore ties will want to spend some time in the M. Virginia Webb Memorial Maryland Room at our Cambridge branch. Maryland Room materials consist of primary and secondary sources, including microfilm records, yearbooks, family histories, local history documents and select newspaper archives.

A smaller Maryland collection is maintained at our Hurlock branch. Materials in the Maryland Room are for in-library use only. The Maryland collection at both branches is available for use whenever the library is open, but we recommend that you make an appointment if you wish to use the microfilm reader (Cambridge branch).

For those who prefer more formal instruction, there is Genealogy Basics, one of many online classes offered through Gale courses. Participants learn how to conduct research and interpret their findings and how to access various genealogical databases.

Another Gale course that may be of interest to family historians is Writing Your Life Story. Gale courses run six weeks, start every month, are free for library users, and can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. Contact the library for assistance with enrolling in Gale courses.

Additional resources include the Upper Shore Genealogical Society of Maryland, the Lower Delmarva Genealogical Society, the Dorchester County Historical Society, the Maryland State Archives, and the Maryland Center for History and Culture. All of these organizations have websites which can be accessed by the public or you can make an appointment to visit in person.

Family history research can be an enjoyable and rewarding activity during the cold winter months and the Dorchester County Public Library is a perfect place to start your journey!

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