23 October 2014

October is Family History Month

As I’ve mentioned before, October is a busy month in the BDC.  It is Archives Month. It is Archaeology Month. And October is Family History Month.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, says: 
Public libraries have a responsibility to serve the needs of patrons interested in genealogical research by providing basic genealogical reference materials and how-to-do-it books in the library and by providing access to additional genealogical research materials through interlibrary loan or referral.

Beaufort County Library goes one step further and supports some genealogical reference services through the Beaufort District Collection, the system's special collections local history library and archives. Approximately 35 – 40% of our Research Room and e-mail customers are interested in exploring their roots – and they want immediate answers.  Led astray by some of the popular television series purportedly unraveling major mysteries in a celebrity’s background in less than 45 minutes, many the genealogical neo-phyte has presented himself in the Research Room or over the telephone with nothing but a name and a family story that the ancestor was in Beaufort district at some point in the past. The lucky ones have a  name and approximate date of residency for the ancestor. 

Here’s the skinny:  BDC staff guide researchers through our materials. We share access to genealogical databases. We provide basic instruction in how to use the databases and resources we have in our Research Room. We provide general advice on how to approach genealogical research. We keep vertical files on particular families resident here for two or more generations when former researchers give us copies of their work. We do not have the staff necessary to perform in depth genealogical research for customers, whether in-house or those who telephone, e-mail, or send questions by mail. We provide very limited services for those who cannot come into the Research Room to perform their own work.  We can send customers photocopies or scans of obituaries from our newspaper files under certain conditions and for a fee. In other words, we provide materials and guidance that facilitate the work of family historians. 

Perhaps this fishing analogy will clarify what we can and cannot do when it comes to family history research: We provide the pond, stock the pond with a few choice species, and teach you to fish but you’ve got to bring the pole, hook, and bait. And, you’ve got to hold that pole, bait that hook, do the fishing, scale any fish caught, and cook it. We try to set things up so that you have a better chance of catching a tasty fish. We hope that you catch a fish.  Indeed, we will celebrate with you should you catch a trophy fish.  But we do not guarantee that the fish will be biting the day you choose to go fishing. 
From the Donner Collection, copyright BCL
Although the BDC appropriately concentrates on genealogical materials relating to our immediate area of Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper Counties, we try to guide anyone interested in pursuing this avocation to appropriate sources of additional information. Because of the nature of the printed materials in this collection, we can help the most with South Carolina ancestors. For those interested in tracking ancestors in other states and countries, the Library system provides access to Ancestry Library Edition (inside all Library facilities) to support genealogical research at each of the branch libraries. To facilitate researchers, BDC staff offer occasional genealogy workshops, set up one-on-one research appointments or telephone reference interviews by prior arrangement throughout the year.  

Bluffton Branch has a genealogy interest group, led by Debbie Dubrucq, that meets weekly on Thursdays at 2 pm.  Contact Bluffton Branch for details: 255 - 6503.

The BDC is piloting a genealogy drop-in Q & A monthly session at Lobeco Branch on the 1st Wednesday of the month beginning on November 5th and extending to at least March 4, 2015. At that point, we will evaluate the community response to the effort.  

If you'd like links to our genealogy packet hand-outs, including the fee structure for helping off-site customers, e-mail us. Questions?  gracec@bcgov.net; 843-255-6468

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