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#AtoZChallenge - L is for Local Histories, Library of Congress and Librarything

Part of the joy of being a family historian (as opposed to a genealogist) is that you have a broader view of your ancestry.  You look at them in the context of the place and time they lived.  

Local history is very important to family historians and some even go to the extent of creating one place studies e.g. the lovely Pauleen Cass who has set up one for Dorfprotzelten in Bavaria and East Clare in Ireland.  What a great idea.

Many family historians have spoken of the joy they have felt being able to visit the land of their ancestors.  As part of a short course recently delivered through the University of Tasmania, I completed an exercise in mapping my ancestor's land in a crafty kind of way.  It was a great exercise and you can read about it here if you like.  I haven't been able to visit Taemas yet but I feel like I know the place better now for having studied newspaper articles, joined the local history society and read local histories.

My family history library contains a few Local Histories - particularly about Portsmouth where my Conners come from and Bannockburn where the Forfars come from.  I also have some of the Our Heritage in Focus series that was published by the State Library of Queensland Foundation in the 1990s - Brisbane's Inner City, Brisbane's Western suburbs and the Gold Coast.  Their usefulness has probably been taken over by the fabulous Picture Queensland website now but I still enjoy flicking through them. A similarly devastating series that I haven't been able to resist is the Kingsclear Books which profile the suburbs of Sydney generally but also have pictorial histories of regional areas such as Canberra, the Southern Highlands and the Blue Mountains.  

Rural Pennsylvania / Katherine Milhous.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Library of Congress

I thought I would just flag the Library of Congress again as a resource for someone trying to build a family history library or looking for advice.  The library has more than 50,000 genealogies and 100,000 local histories according to their website.  It also, of course, provides an organisational system or classification system for libraries.  It is, in fact, another A to Z!  You may have come across it in an academic library or want to use the system for your own library.  There's a cheat sheet here on Wikipedia.   Genealogy comes under CS in the LCC classification system. Australian History comes under Oceania or DU.  Local History of the US, British, Dutch, French and Latin America comes under F.  Here's another cheat sheet on Wikipedia that gives you the numbers depending on which state, province or country you are seeking. Why don't you browse their profile page on local history and genealogy? There are a host of Bibliographies and Guides. American Memory is a digital library program which endeavours to digitize American history collections. Don't forget to read the FAQs.


I can't quite remember how I ever discovered Librarything.  I think it may have been a link from my local library's website or my lovely friend Loani who might have sent me a link saying "You like books.  You might like this." Yes, I'm a member of Goodreads too but Librarything will always be my first love. I am nowhere near finished adding my husband's and my collection to it but it is a wonderful tool and I commend it to you.  

As you add books to your collection on Libraryting you will build up statistics and memes which are quite useful.  For example, if we ever have to move, I can tell you that, of the books I have recorded, we have 109.7 cubic feet or 3.11 cubic meters and that I would need 120 U-Haul boxes.  Our books weigh 1.476 kilos or 168 adult badgers.  If I wanted to buy some bookcases to house them, well I would need 27.59 IKEA Billy bookcases.  See!  I told you it was a great site.

I joined in September 2008 and record all my purchases/gifts here.  When I joined I was a bit new to the notion of avatars and the like so my user name is super easy to find - alexdaw.  Can't get much simpler than that.  If you want to follow my most recent reads, you're better off following me on Goodreads but Librarything is where I record my collection. You don't need to be a librarian to use it.  You just click the button "Add books" and depending on the sources that you use e.g. Library of Congress, British Library, National Library of Australia, it will pull the catalogue record information from that source and supply that information for your record.  Great huh?

I use Librarything when I am out and about to make sure I am not doubling up on books in my collection.  I use it as a tool at work when people ask me tricky questions about interminable series - e.g. is the 24th book in the vague vampires series? Librarything introduced me to the notion of tagging.  I have made many virtual friends on Librarything e.g. Virago Modern Classics .  It's just a community of people who love books. I hope you like it as much as I do.

It's National Library week in the US and the folk on Librarything have written about their favourite libraries on their blog here.  What is your favourite library and why?


Anne Young said…
Love Library Thing. Using it I organise the books in my study by Dewey so my local histories are together for example. I have only a fraction of our books catalogued. There were enormous numbers of boxes when we moved. In our old house we had shelves in the corridors, bedrooms, study, sitting room ... Now we have a large lock up garage, half taken up with books. I will look out for the statistics tool ;)

Running behind on my A to Z :(


Anne Young

Anne's family history
Alex Daw said…
You and me both Anne. You and me both. Mad scrambling this end to do tomorrow next week's posts.
Unknown said…
Hello Alex,
I enjoyed your Library post! Both Library of Congress and LibraryThing are on my favorites list. One of the greatest thrills of my life was when I first looked up one of my own books in the Library of Congress catalog. My post today is a about a much smaller library in my home town.
Alex Daw said…
Oh Carolyn that would have been such fun. It sounds as though you love both sites/institutions as much as me. Thanks for visiting my blog !
Kudos for this post! Love all three: Found info about a g-g-g grandfather's tanning business in a local history; Library of Congress photos helped me through 1.5 years of blogging about my Union Army ancestor in the US Civil War; and I'm a new arrival at Library Thing -- cataloging in progress!
Kristin said…
I can't believe that I have never looked the Library of Congress in an organized, genealogical way. I will have to do that once this challenge is done!

Finding Eliza
Thanks for the mention Alex...I just wish I focused more on my local history research projects. I personally love university's surprising what they have on the shelves and tucked away in their reference collections.

I was cataloging all my books in LibraryThing but have let us lapse since taking up Good Reads.
crgalvin said…
Have been on LibraryThing since 2006 but was using it just to remind myself of books I had read. We've moved so many times that we've got rid of physical books and now with so many ebooks I'm starting to look at it in another light.

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