Author Alex Haley (Roots, 1976), once stated that, “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.” It is all too fitting therefore that the Adams County Library System seeks to be a “gateway for exploration” or simply a place by which we connect people to opportunities that enrich their lives. On any given day at Gettysburg Library, patrons are seen with inquisitive yearning seeking out information. One may hear the rhythmic clicking of computer keyboards, the chirping of barcode scanners, telephones ringing, and photocopiers humming all in a somewhat surreal choreographed musical serenade of sorts. However, through all the clamor and din of noise there is a little tucked away corner on the second floor aptly named “The Local History and Genealogical Research Center” or simply the “history nook.”
This is an area that patrons can immerse themselves by enriching their knowledge of family roots and local area history. The research center focuses on the history, genealogy, and material culture of South Central Pennsylvania, including the counties of Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, and York. Adjacent counties in Western Maryland are also included. Besides the library’s regular circulating collection of print publications, the history nook further provides materials on area town histories, the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, and Gettysburg National Military Park. Along with a small collection of items associated with President Eisenhower and several books written by Elsie Singmaster Lewars, a local author, educator, and early president and board member of the Adams County Library system, there are rare books relating to Pennsylvania and the Civil War in a secure locked display cabinet. Although these print materials are for in-library use only, everyone is welcome to browse and explore the collections.
A computer situated in the nook provides researchers further access to several electronic resource collections. Ancestry.com Library Edition is an in-library-use-only database that connects users with the ability to browse census, birth, death, military, and other genealogical resources online. Another in-house database, Access Newspaper Archive, contains tens of millions of newspaper pages from 1607 to present and researchers of Adams County will find interest in accessing the local Gettysburg newspapers. Every newspaper in the archive is searchable by keyword and date, making it quick to explore the historical content. If researching from the comfort of home is more your style, try accessing HeritageQuest Online. HeritageQuest provides digitized, searchable images of U.S. Federal census records, city directories, wills and probate records, Freedman’s Bank records, and a large digitized collection of books on family, city and county histories. ACLS cardholders can access this database from home using their library card number. Patrons may also find through our website, https://www.adamslibrary.org/services/history-genealogy, online genealogy resources to further guide their exploration.
Besides having available a general brochure describing the collection offerings and general use procedures, along with a supplemental brochure of genealogy resources near the research computer, the public services staff are available to help answer any questions you may have about the center or to assist in directing you to specific collections. So, the next time you are visiting the Gettysburg Library, we encourage you to explore the Local History and Genealogy Research Center.
Submitted by Steve LaBarre, Gettysburg Library