By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department
A brother and sister in the county recently decided to get their first library cards at WCPL. Let’s call them Jack and Jill for short. It is not known why they waited so long to get a card, but it turns out that Jill needs a rare and costly book that the library has on the shelf. Using the library for free (that’s right, free) saves Jill from having to buy the book with the equivalent of half her weekly grocery budget.
Soon Jack comes by the library to pick up Jill’s rare book as well the five movies his sister has reserved online from home. Since this is his first time in the library, Jack takes his own tour to see what’s here. He sees a huge collection of childrens’ books, and notices the Launchpads which could occupy his niece for hours. He browses shelves and shelves of entertainment DVDs, locating several older movies that are hard to find. Nearby is the large area holding an extensive fiction collection and Large Print books.
Jack thinks to himself, “Surely, there is more to the library than this,” and he is right. He sees the stairs and heads up to the second floor. Jack uses his card to access the public computers which offer the range of Microsoft Office software as well as photo editing and more. He discovers that there are nonfiction and documentary type DVDs on the second floor and locates two which ignite his interest.
Meanwhile, Jill is thinking about their family dinner party and texts Jack requesting two cookbooks, Rachel Ray’s Look + Cook, and The Best of America’s Test Kitchen Little did Jack know, but the Library has over 50 shelves of cookbooks upstairs, including one entire 27 foot long wall. He finds both books available, with the recipes Jack and Jill both love cooking.
Before leaving, Jack sees the Reference Desk and asks them a question regarding data for his business. Jack makes guitar pedals and wants to be sure he is speaking to every music place within 50 miles. He asks if there is a database that could help him. Jack gets back on the library computer and the librarian takes him through several databases available for library users. Most helpful is Reference USA, which lets him mine and correlate the very information he is seeking.
Jill texts again to remind Jack to schedule time for the winter family trip to Switzerland. This prompts Jack to think how he needs to learn more about his digital camera, while also brushing up on his French and German. To save time, he asks the librarians at the Reference Desk for help. They show him how to take advantage of the several eBook connections through the library, especially READS and R. B. Digital. With his new card, Jack is able to download on his ipad, David Pogue’s Digital Photography: The Missing Manual. The librarian also shows Jack the photography E-magazines available to check out free through the READS and Zinio electronic libraries. Jack downloads immediately Digital Photography from Zinio.
Jack tells the librarian, that if he ever worried the library would go out of business, he doesn’t now. “Are you as up-to-date on language learning? I need to refresh my French and German.” The Reference Desk librarian shows him the library learning site called Transparent Languages, and gets him into the German and French programs using Jack’s library card as the login.
On his way out, with books, DVDs, and electronic downloads in hand, Jack texts Jill, “There’s a lot here at the library. More than I realized. You say you like the newly designed card; I know you’ll like even more, using it. You’ve got to come check this out!”
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
As a library card holder, you already know that you have access to a vast collection of books, periodicals, movies, and audiobooks at the Williamson County Public Library (not to mention all the other fantastic resources the library provides for the community). But here’s what you may not know: if you also have a smartphone, tablet, computer, or eReader, you can easily gain access to your library’s digital collections of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more. It’s like discovering a new wing of your favorite library, full of additional content. And the digital collections are available around the clock!
At WCPL, we give you access to these vast, additional resources through various apps, which you can read about on this page (http://lib.williamson-tn.org/e_library). One popular collection is known as Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. Previously, the books and audio in this collection were accessible only through the Overdrive app. Now, Overdrive has released a second app called Libby.
Libby has much of the functionality of the original Overdrive app, such as checking out eBooks and audiobooks, placing holds, and sending to Kindle. Some library patrons have already made the switch to this new app, with no looking back. But there are some differences between the two to be aware of before you dive in. Let’s look at how Overdrive and Libby compare, so you can decide which one might be best for you.
Designed to be simple, attractive, and user-friendly, Libby makes it easy to get started downloading eBooks and audiobooks right away. This is the feedback I read over and over, from novice and experienced users alike: Libby is so easy to use! If you have never used either app before, I would recommend you start with Libby, because of its easy setup.
Libby makes managing multiple library accounts painless, whether you have a library card in another library system (for example, Davidson or Maury county), or even a household member’s card you’d like to add. All checked-out materials live on the same “shelf” within the app, streamlining the way you access your digital loans.
With Libby, you can download eBooks and audiobooks for offline access. If you’re online, you can stream the audiobooks instead, which saves space on your device. Libby will also deliver eBooks to a Kindle, if you prefer.
Since Libby is a new app, new features are being added all the time. Just this month, the developers added new search features. For example, you can now search by the title of a series, instead of the names of the books within the series, which sounds very helpful! If you give Libby a try, be sure to keep it updated regularly. That way, you won’t miss out on any added capabilities.
As is often the case with technology, we sometimes have to choose between something that’s feature-heavy and something that’s easy to use. That’s the case when it comes to Overdrive and Libby.
It’s important to know that, right now, Overdrive has better accessibility support than Libby. Libby currently lacks support for text-to-speech, voiceover, and multiple languages. Overdrive also has more amenities for the visually impaired. However, many of these features are planned for Libby’s future updates.
Overdrive gives you better control when it comes to searching content. You can exclude mature content from your searches, or set your searches to show only children’s books. This is not possible in Libby.
If you use Overdrive’s “Wish list” function, stick with it for now. You can “tag” books in Libby, but you cannot import your Overdrive Wish list to Libby.
With Overdrive, you can stream videos from your library’s collection. You can also access checked-out material through your computer’s web browser. Neither feature is planned for Libby.
If you’d like to read more about Libby, you will find some helpful links at the bottom of this article. They include the official getting started guide, a great FAQ page, and an accessibility review.
I bet you will find Libby easy to set up, and a pleasure to use. Remember, if you get stuck, you can always come in to the Reference department for help. Enjoy!
By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department
We all have our own reasons to learn a new language: traveling and exploring new worlds, connecting with loved ones (or strangers) at home and in faraway places, exercising the untapped power of our brain, being able to watch foreign films without those pesky subtitles, and the list goes on. For some, learning a new language is not a luxury but a necessity for survival and connection in a new country. If your goal is fluency or simply mastering a sentence in Japanese for fun, Powerspeak Languages is a proven and powerful way to gain quick language proficiency.
What is it?
Powerspeak Languages is an online program that offers fluency through immersion. Rather than rote memorization or the dreaded flash card, Powerspeak uses pictures, audio, video, and interactive lessons and games for a deeper, more culturally authentic learning experience. Their aim is to transform you into a global citizen who truly understands the language in a cultural context.
Languages include: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. English as a second language (ESL) is also available for Spanish and Mandarin speakers.
Other neat features:
Powerspeak allows you to choose how far you want to take your learning experience. You can begin with the regular activities and, if you want to take it to the next level, choose the More Practice feature to review what you’ve learned. The Dig Deeper feature helps you go above and beyond for maximum language proficiency.
Powerspeak combines both written material and audio samples to improve your reading and listening/speaking comprehension. For those of us who are visual learners, they also include photos of things like food, transportation, and places you’d actually encounter within the country.
Ok, that’s awesome. But is it free?
Of course! One of the barriers for all second language learners is the expense of classes and study materials. But through the library’s website, you can create your own online profile entirely for free! You can even create your own profile to keep track of your progress as you master your new language.
Why am I still reading this? I’ve got language learning to do!
And here’s how:
- Go to our Library’s homepage: http://lib.williamson-tn.org/
- To the left of the screen, click on eLibrary Digital and then Databases by Title
- Click on O – P and select Powerspeak Languages
- Your log-in will be your Williamson County Library card number
- Create an account and make sure to log in every time you use Powerspeak so it will keep track of your progress. (Click the “Returning User? Log in!” button on the top right hand of the home screen to log in after you’ve made your profile).
As always, please call 615-595-1243 with any questions.
by Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian
Use of Ancestry.com is free In the Special Collections Department and to help you use it, here are some very important tips to remember.
- Pay absolutely no attention to spelling! Census takers couldn’t spell. This researcher has seen the name Jacob spelled “Jacup” on the census.
- Pay close attention to extra people with a different last name in a household. Frequently those listed as “boarder” were aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and especially mothers-in-law.
- Pay close attention to who is living next door. The guys either married the gal next door or their first cousin. This researcher looked for an ancestor for 10 years only to find him living next door to a grandson by a different last name.
- Be aware that ages recorded in the census can be 2 to 3 years off. However, usually the younger the closer to the truth. By the time one got to their 80’s either he or his family members had forgotten how old he really was.
- Know the abbreviations for Men’s first names: Alexr= Alexander, Benj = Benjamin, Geo =George, Hy=Henry, Jas = James, Jno =John ( Why I have no idea), Patk=Patrick, Robt= Robert Thos=Thomas, Wm=William. The last letter of the longer abbreviation are usually written as a superscripts, so that you might see only the Tho for Thomas unless you look carefully for the little tiny s. Periods were usually omitted after the abbreviation.
- Know common nicknames and know that nicknames often rhyme. Some are very tricky.
- Belle=Isabel, Mable, Sybil;
- Beth, Betty, Betsy, Bessie =Elizabeth;
- Biddy, Bridey= Bridget;
- Bill = William, rhymes with Will;
- Cal=Caleb, Calvin;
- Cate (old spelling) =Catherine;
- Carrie= Carololine;
- Carey= Charles (modern nickname Chuck);
- Daisey = Margaret ( for a Queen Margaret whose favorite flower was a daisy);
- Dick = Richard, rhymes with Rick;
- Dollie, Dolly, Doll = Dorothy;
- Ed, Ned, Ted =Edward, Edmond;
- Elsie= Elizabeth:
- Ella, Ellie, Nelly = Elle , but also Helen;
- Etta, Nettie = Henrietta;
- Fee = Felix;
- Hi = Hiram,
- Jack = John;
- Kit = Christopher,
- Lois= Louise,
- Lottie = Charlotte;
- Ky = Hezekiah;
- Mae, May, Molly, Polly =Mary;
- Mag, Maggie, Meg, Peg, Peggy = Margaret;
- Mattie, Patty, Patsy = Martha;
- Maud =Magdalene,
- Maude (male) = Mordichi;
- Neil, Connie,=Cornelius;
- Sallie, Sally = Sarah,
- Stella = Estel, Esther;
- Sukey ,Susan, = Susannah (Suckey, African American 1870/ 80 = a former slave midwife who took care of the sucklings);
- Ted = Theodore (but can be = Edward).
Come join us to hunt for your ancestors!
By Lisa Lombard, Reference Department Total Boox is an app that provides another way to read digital books while you are on the go or at home sitting in your favorite reading spot. The app is available for Android, Amazon Kindle and iPad users. Some great features of this app include; no waiting lines, you can read books offline (you only need to be online to download books), there is no return date, and once the book is on your device, it stays on your device until you decide to delete it. So you can keep books on your device for as long as you have the app and read them as many times as you want without having to re-download. Another perk of this app is that if you get a new device all of your books will be automatically downloaded onto that device so you do not have to search for them again. I’m going to take you through the app from start to finish and I hope that you will consider adding this as a way to read more books in the future!
If you need visual help to learn how to use the app you have two options. One option is a user guide located at the bottom of every page under the heading “readers” and shows you how to best use each section (pictures are provided as part of the guide). The other option is a YouTube tutorial.
An important detail is making sure you get the app that is for libraries so you have FREE access to books. Once you have downloaded the app and open it you will be prompted to login. To login make sure you have Williamson County Public Library selected then enter your library card number and pin, the next screen will ask for your email address.
Once you have completed those steps you will be taken to the “home” screen which in this case is the “My Library” page. From here you have two options: you can either click on “Get Books It’s Free!” or the “+” to create a new shelf. By tapping on the “Get Books It’s Free!” iconic book you will be taken to a page that has several options. These options include sections titled “editors’ picks,” “featured authors,” and “just arrived” sections and have several books to browse through by scrolling right to left. By tapping on a book cover you will be given the synopsis of the book along with the option to read it or download the book, by selecting to read, it will automatically open and if you select download the book will be placed on your “My Library” page.
The other ways to find books include the search area (great for if you know the title or author), browsing through the categories tab or browsing through the shelves tab. If you want to search by category you are in luck there is a wide variety of categories to choose from, 28 total. Of those 28 categories, 18 have sub-categories. This is a great way to browse for something if you have a specific idea in mind or you know you want a historical fiction book. The shelves tab is an awesome option for getting a lot of books from specific categories onto your “My Library” page quickly. For example, there is a shelf titled “Great books to take on your next flight.” In this shelf there are a total of 15 books (for right now), a brief description of the type of books in the section, who shared the shelf and when it was last updated. By clicking on the download button all 15 of these books will be available to you with the shelf title on your “My Library” page. None these books are automatically downloaded to your device you still have to click on “read” to have them available to read without the internet.
Once you have a book open there is a pop up tool bar (tap in the empty area on the bottom of the page) with 5 options at the top: Home, Table of Contents (for the current book), Font size, Browse Bookmarks (for browsing where you have placed bookmarks for the opened book before), and Add a Bookmark. Also to be found when you tap in that empty space is a drag bar that allows you to jump further ahead or behind in the book which is much easier than going page by page.
Back on the “My Library” page you can create your own shelves by moving around the books you have downloaded or selecting “copy” from a book that’s on another shelf and moving it to the desired shelf. You also have the option to delete your books when you desire, all you have to do is tap on the book cover and select the delete option.
While you might not find the most popular books and authors in this app I think it’s worth the time to get to know and it search around, because you will find classics, books in your favorite genre you wouldn’t of normally read and who knows what other good books you might run across. I already have a shelf downloaded and two books ready to read!
By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department
This year’s theme supplies a good reason: “Libraries Transform.” Over twenty years ago, some were saying libraries would go the way of VHS tapes, floppy disks, and beanie babies. But libraries are still going strong! Again, one big reason is how libraries transform people who visit. Please let me illustrate with a few examples.
One morning as the doors open to WCPL, a very focused patron marched in and went immediately to the computer center where he started searching for jobs. After 20 minutes of what he called, “Nothing,” he asked for help. He explains how he just lost his job and desperately needed to find employment. A librarian responds to his request by leading him to a few of the better job search sites, while at the same time helping him narrow his search. This was so helpful that he found three promising jobs to apply for. But he soon asks for help again, as his computer skills were challenged by the application process. The librarian takes time to help him set up a profile and become familiar with just what the applications are seeking. Upon finishing the applications, the man stops to tell the helpful librarian, “Thanks for being so kind to me and taking time. It restores my belief in human kindness.” This patron continues to come to the library, and will never forget how a librarian took time to help transform his situation.
Several weeks later a library patron approached the reference desk with a request. She had retired from two careers but, in her words, “had missed the computer age.” Her children and grandchildren asked her again and again to learn computers, but she held back. Until today. The patron wanted to “turn over a new leaf” and learn how to use a computer, so as to surprise her children by being able to look up answers online all by herself. The librarian gladly set up a one-on-one time with the patron, during which time, the patron disclosed, “I have to tell you, I have arthritis and trembling so bad that I have trouble using the mouse.” Not to be deterred, the librarian scheduled three months of one-on-one times starting with exercises on using the mouse. Although slow going at first, the patron learned to control and use the mouse, which led to creating her first email account. She learned to make and evaluate online searches as well as how to make lists and write letters in Microsoft Word. Over three months she went from being fully dependent on the librarian to semidependence to joyous independence. She reported how her children were impressed with her “entering the computer age,” but that now she uses the computer just because she enjoys it. The patron and her family were grateful that “libraries transform.”
There are many other stories I wish we could relate about patrons who experience the library as a place for transformation. They would talk about learning new skills like Excel; finding interesting books never before considered; discovering Powerspeak Languages to learn a language for their summer vacation; enjoying their first eBook; seeing a program on square foot gardening that doubled their gardening production; tailoring a resume and cover letter for a new career; finding a dyslexia friendly font; and many other stories. All would tell of how libraries transform and become very personal reasons why we celebrate National Library Week.
By Lindsay Roseberry and Rebecca Tischler, Reference Department
If you enjoy boating during the summer, you may have noticed that there are not too many boating access points in Williamson County. In fact, the only access point that I could find in Williamson County is an unnamed boat ramp on the Harpeth River just North of Mack Hatcher Pkwy and on the East Side of Lewisburg Pk. However, if you don’t mind heading out of the Williamson County area, we are surrounded by Rivers and access points.
There are numerous access points along the Percy Priest Reservoir in the north in Davidson and Rutherford County. Toward the south, there are even more along the Duck River, which crosses the counties Maury, Marshall, and Bedford as well as passing through Hickman County in the west. Of course, these two rivers are very popular boating sites, so if you would like to have a little less company, there are a few other spots you could try. The West Fork Stone River in Rutherford County has 2 access points in total and the Harpeth River also provides a couple more access points in Davidson County.
But remember that in order to go boating, you have to have your license, and if you don’t have a boating license to ride your Sea-Doo or boat this summer, you can take the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) boating exam at the library.
You will have to have a library card (or guest pass) with us. Keep any mind, anyone under 18 has to have a parent or guardian with them to get a library card or guest pass. To get a library card you need a current address and a picture I.D. You’ll also need a Type 600 ticket. You can get this ticket at any sporting goods store, where you would get your boating license; the fee is $10.00. You will have to make an appointment to take the online exam, which is why you have to have a library card or guest pass. You can take the exam twice in one day; you have to get 48 out of 60 questions correct. We do have study guide books on the second floor available for free.
The Franklin branch is open Monday – Thursday 9:00 to 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. We also have Sunday hours—1:00 to 5:30. Call us at 595-1243 to make an appointment.
The other branches that proctor TWRA exams are:
Bethesda Branch – call 790-1887 for appointments (closed Sundays and Mondays)
Fairview Branch – call 224-6087 for appointments (closed Sundays and Mondays)
Leiper’s Fork Branch – call 794-7091 for appointments (closed Sundays and Mondays)
Nolensville Branch – call 776-5490 for appointments (closed Sundays and Mondays)
The Learning Express Library is a database dedicated to providing learning tools for people of all ages (ranging from kids in school to adults looking to start a new career, to those looking to become U.S. Citizens) and starts off in a great way. There is a 16 minute video providing an overview of all the tools Learning Express offers. It is also broken down into smaller units for those that only need a quick review on specific sections. The smaller units include: library homepage, registering as a new user, logging in, the about centers,
Each center has a number of different topics to choose from and those topics are further broken down into sub-sections for a quicker find to the areas needed. There are a few important notes to remember: your login will be your library account number, and the Computer Skills Center is ONLY available to those with an account and are signed in. The guidance section for each center is a wonderful starting point to learn about the section.
The Adult Learning Center has four topics to choose from. These topics are building math skills, learning skills to become a better reader, becoming a better writer, speaking while also improving grammar, and a topic for helping to prepare to become an U.S. Citizen. Each topic in this center (except preparing for the U.S. Citizenship test) provides practice sections and eBooks for use, and some topics also provide quizzes and test preparation sections. What is great in the U.S. Citizenship topic is that there are sections for preparing for the exam, how to get a Green Card, and a section that provides the two previously mentioned sections in Spanish. There is also a Spanish Center that has five topics. These five topics are writing, literature/reading, math, GED prep, and a Citizenship Preparation area.
The Career Center has a total of six topics. The topics are learning more about different careers (such as green careers, homeland security, fire fighters, nurse, teacher and more), preparing for the Allied Health programs entrance exams, preparation for 16 different occupation exams, information to join the military or become an Officer, improving job search and skills to use in the workplace, and preparation for “WorkKeys Assessments and TOEIC.” The tools used for this center are eBooks and practice exams.
The High School Equivalency Center also has six topics. This center is set up wonderfully. The first two topic areas are a great place to start if you need to figure out where your basic skills (math, language, reading and spelling) stand along with tutorials, practice areas and eBooks to help you improve your skills as needed. There are two sections dedicated to the GED (English and Spanish sections). The last two topics focus on preparing for the HiSET test and the TASC Test Assessing Secondary completion. These two topics have practice tests and a tutorial each.
The College Prep Center has six topics. Three of the topics focus on the ACT, THEA, and SAT. In these three topic areas you will find tutorials, practice exercises, and practice tests. PSAT/NMSQT is another topic that has practice tests and eBooks available for use. There is also a topic called “College Admissions Essay Writing” that provides two eBooks: one on editing skills and the other on how to write a great application. The final topic in this center is AP Exams, with practice exams for the most common AP courses.
College Center has seven topics. Topics cover math, reading, grammar and writing, and a science review topic that uses tutorials, eBooks, and practice sets. The math topic covers eight of the most common math courses offered in college. The science topic only offers chemistry and biology review sections. This center also includes preparing for college placement exams (four prep areas) as well as the CLEP exam. Also to be found are practice tests and eBooks for graduate entrance exams. These exams include the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MAT, MCAT and PCAT.
School Center has three topic areas. The first topic area focuses on Elementary school with math and language arts improvement sections that is geared towards 4th and 5th graders. The second topic focuses on Middle School curriculum in math (6th-8th grade) and English Language Arts (6th-8th grade), eBooks, and other review techniques are available. The topic of social studies is also covered with a section on American History (the U.S. Constitution) and geography through the use of eBooks. The final section is a preparation area for the High School Entrance Exams. The third topic focuses on High School with a total of five sections. These sections contain a further breakdown of each section along with tutorial and eBook sections for use.
The Computer Skills center has five topics to choose from and starts with the most basic computer skills then moves to learning how to use the internet and all it has to offer. The next topic is learning about and how to successfully use the Microsoft Office products, such as MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. There is also a topic that covers graphic design by using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The final topic is about understanding how your operating system works. You can choose from Windows (several versions are available) and the MAC operating system.
There you have it, a look into the Learning Express Library and the contents it has to offer for patrons of nearly all ages. Best of luck!
By Stephen McClain, Reference Department
Did you know that Williamson County Public Library patrons can access Ancestry.com for free while in the library? Neither did I – and I am guessing that many other people in Williamson County don’t know either. Like many people in the United States, I have a multicultural background, but have never been absolutely certain what my ethnicity truly is. I have long been interested in tracing my roots and wondered when my ancestors first arrived on this continent, but without access to the proper resources, I never really looked into it. My surname suggests that I am Scottish and I have always celebrated that part of my lineage without really knowing the percentage or who first emigrated from the land of bagpipes and single malt whisky. Also, I have been told that my maternal side is of German or Austrian descent, but no one is really sure.
Census Records, Birth and Death Certificates and Marriage Records
When I first started searching Ancestry.com for information on my grandparents, the most readily available data that I found was census records. The search tab at the top left side of the home page provides users with a number of search options, but the easiest way to get started is to simply click the green “Begin Searching” button in the middle of the page. Though I was too young to remember meeting him, I know my paternal great grandfather’s full name and where he lived. By searching his name and town of residence, I was able to locate his father’s name via a combination of census, birth and death records. I repeated this process several times, and through the historical mist, I was able to find that my fifth great grandfather was born in Scotland in 1681 and arrived in what would become the United States in 1766. My family name has apparently been in this country for a very long time and the reveal of this information somewhat diminished my feelings of a connection with the Scottish homeland. I am not going to stop enjoying single malt Scotch whisky or listening to the pipes, but maybe I shouldn’t have gotten married in a kilt…either way, I had another side of my family to research.
The maternal side of my lineage has always been somewhat of a mystery. No one in the family seems to know where the names come from. The names of my maternal grandparents both suggest German, Austrian, Slovak or Hungarian lineage. I searched my grandfather’s name and with very little effort, found out that his father was Hungarian. The 1920 U.S. Census records show that he was born in Hungary and his native tongue was Slavish. While his mother was born in Pennsylvania, her parents were born in Hungary as well, with the same linguistic details. I am 3rd generation Hungarian and never knew it! Maybe that’s why I like stuffed cabbage and lekvar pierogis so much? I don’t know. Regardless, I was excited to know that I had found a relatively recent connection to my European past. And because in many cases, Ancestry.com provides users with an actual scanned copy of the documents, I was able to see that this area in Pennsylvania was a true ethnic community. The birthplaces of the majority of the people (or the birthplaces of their parents) listed on the census record were Eastern European; Austria, Hungary, and Russia. How could my mother and her siblings have grown up not knowing that their grandparents were from Hungary? The reason is probably because so many European migrants of that time wished to disassociate themselves from their past and start a new life in America. They were struggling to make a new start while making a living in a brand new country, most often doing very difficult factory work. Maintaining and passing on a cultural identity was probably not on their list of important things to do.
When I was younger, I remember being told to be careful what you look for, you might find something you didn’t want to know. I grew up knowing most of my great aunts and uncles on my mother’s side of the family. There was only one uncle that I never met, who was killed in WW II…or so I thought he was the only one. Upon examining some census data that listed the household members at my great grandparents’ residence, I read a name listed that I had never heard before. A female child that was unknown to me. This mystery aunt was 2 years older than my oldest great aunt, of whom I grew up visiting on a regular basis. Who was this person? Was she the black sheep of the family that was shunned and disowned? Was she a convicted criminal that the family was keeping hidden? Maybe she was busted for making bathtub gin during Prohibition. I hoped so. That would be so cool. I was both eager and afraid to find out. I had to know who this person was and I could only hope that there was some guarded, veiled story to go along with this ghost on the census form. With anxious trepidation, I called my aunt and asked if she knew the identity of this missing relative. Without hesitation, she said, “That was grandma’s sister who died.” Mystery solved, though, too abruptly for my apprehensive curiosity. But what happened to her and why was she never mentioned? I was told that she died from a common complication after childbirth simply because she didn’t have access to the necessary medication and treatment. Wow. It had happened so long ago that she was never mentioned in my time. No romantic tales of rebellion, crime or calamity, but a somber reminder of harder times, to say the least.
Phone and Street Directories
My searches also produced a large number of scanned city phone directories dating back to the 1920s. When searching for a name on Ancestry.com, users are given categories on the left of the page. One of those choices is “Schools, Directories and Church Histories.” Though it was never mentioned in any family stories, I now know that the likely reason my maternal grandparents met is because their families lived on the same street. These old phone directories most often show not only telephone numbers and addresses, but also the name of individuals who were living at that address, i.e. another relative or a boarder. This is a great tool in locating exactly where a relative may have lived. And if nothing else, it is intriguing to see telephone numbers such as “WAlbridge 1154 and BLackstone 2311.”
My paternal grandfather and many of my maternal great uncles were in World War Two. I was able to locate the muster rolls that listed my grandfather’s name and the ship he was on. (Yeah, I never heard the term “muster roll” either. It is the register of the officers and men in a military unit or on a ship. Thanks, Wikipedia.) I also found out that my maternal great uncle was killed at Pearl Harbor and I located a detailed photograph of the monument that lists his name. Additionally in the military records, I was able to find the scanned copies of WW I and WWII draft registration cards for both of my great grandfathers. The documents are hand written and include the signatures of the men. To locate documents such as these, simply type in the name of the person that you are searching and after clicking “Search”, you will see all of the results for that name. To the left of the page, there is a listing of categories, such as “Census and Voter Lists” and “Birth, Marriage and Death.” The third category is “Military.” This option will produce information on draft registration, enlistment, casualties, and gravesites, just to name a few. There is also a great deal of information on Civil War soldiers and the American Revolution.
This is just a sample of the information available at Ancestry.com and a bit of my personal experience in looking for my roots. It was great fun for me searching through my relative’s collective pasts and getting just a glimpse of their lives well before I was a twinkle in someone’s eye. Whenever you are ready to do your own searching, come to the second floor of the Williamson County Public Library and log on to a computer or visit one of the staff in the Special Collections department and they will help you with your queries. Access to Ancestry.com is only available to patrons while they are physically in the library. On the library’s website, move the mouse over Special Collections on the left of the page and click on Digital Genealogy. From there, click on Access Ancestry Library while visiting the library. The Williamson County Public Library also offers free classes on Introduction to Ancestry.com once a month.
But be advised, you may find something you didn’t expect…
Welcome to September, also known as National Library Card Sign-up Month. And yes, I know that it feels like no matter where you go, everyone’s always trying to sell you something. But don’t worry, I’m not going to try and sell anything, because library cards are FREE! Bonus: we’ll also SAVE you money! Typically, all you have to do to get a library card is live in the area. And while there are thousands of books you can borrow, there’s also free computer use with access to software such as Microsoft Office and Abbey Finereader, amazing programs, use of highly useful databases, ebooks and audiobooks, and so much more. Patrons of the library tell us they get much more from their cards than the privilege of checking out books.
Here are 12 comments we hear from time to time:
- I didn’t know my card could give me free online magazines from Zinio. That saves me going to the newsstand.
- You mean my card gives me free access to the Reference USA research database. That saves me money on my business prospecting plans.
- I like being able to get an older DVD free that I can’t even find in Redbox.
- Rosetta Stone was too expensive for me at the time, but your free online language program, Powerspeak Languages, helped me get ready to visit Spain.
- You mean I don’t have to pay $2.00 an hour to be on the computer? That’s neat you have free access.
- I like being able to use the library computer software. I don’t have a photo editing program so I used the basic Irfanview and worked my way into the more advanced Gimp photo editor, both on the library computer. I also used the library Powerpoint program to set up my presentation.
- We needed to scan our personal documents; the library made it easy, and it was free.
- I thought you only had a few electronic books to download on my ipad. I had been paying for ebooks the last two years. I will now be saving by using READS.
- We were going on a trip and wanted to listen to an audiobook. Most of the time we check out the library’s books on CD. But we just learned there are free electronic audio books too. We downloaded three and enjoyed them as we traveled across the country.
- I come to the library, check out the new books, and like the access to your HP printers. They are better than mine at home.
- I have a limit on my data downloads, so I use the free library Wifi to update my tablet.
- We recently got to visit the Dyer Observatory on the special night for library card holders. A great program.