Learn more about your family’s history at your library

Jewish family history

Themes in current events, TV shows, books, politics and the ubiquitous ads for DNA test kits reflect people’s yearning to trace their families’ journeys through the generations.

Hennepin County libraries have resources for people who are just starting to retrace those journeys, or who are looking for the next step in a familiar path.

On Saturday, October 27, Hennepin County Library—Minneapolis Central will host the 9th annual Family History Fair. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., at the library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.

The fair includes sessions about finding immigrant ancestors’ places of origin, about decoding DNA, using military records and using social media as a research tool. Register online or Ask Us.

This large annual event is only one part of a spectrum of resources to help people trace their family roots and make connections with relatives and their communities.

Face-time with librarians

Professional research librarians have training and tools – beyond Google – that amateur researchers don’t have. In addition, it’s always good to have another set of eyes on your project, said Jean Bielke-Rodenbiker, a librarian who has expertise in genealogical research and one of the fair’s organizers.

Several Hennepin County Library locations also host classes on topics such as Social Media and Genealogy; Genealogy Research: 20th Century Military Records; Preserving Your Past: Home Archiving; and more. Most years, organizers try to focus in on a particular group – in 2018, there have been clinics to help people explore Native American, African American, Korean and French-speaking ancestors.

See a listing of upcoming genealogy and history events.

Online resources

For research done inside a library building, there’s the Ancestry.com Library edition, an enhanced version of the popular genealogy tool that otherwise requires a membership fee. From home, school or anywhere else, genealogists can use the library website to access military records at Fold3, U.S. history links at Genealogy Connect and local history such as city directories, census records and more at HeritageQuest Online. Users generally need a library card to access these online resources.

Local resources

For families with local roots, Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections include local maps dating back to 1859, as well as Minneapolis city directories, vintage yearbooks and photos, and full-text articles from Minnesota newspapers. These resources are available at Minneapolis Central Library, and many are also available online.