During Fort Wayne Ancestry Day's Ask the Experts Panel, we received so many questions that we were unable to answer them all during the event. The following is a question asked and The Genealogy Center staff's response.

What is the best way to start research at the ACPL if you are near?

There are two answers to this question, depending on whether you are just beginning your genealogical project, or you have done research previously but not at The Genealogy Center.

If you have never done genealogical research before, prior to coming to The Genealogy Center, gather as much information as you can from home sources (family Bibles, obituary clippings, birth and death certificates, etc.), including names of family members, dates of birth, marriage and death, and locations where relatives lived. As a general rule of thumb, you will need to know the name of someone who was born prior to 1930, and where that person lived in 1930, to begin your research. This is because the most recent census schedule that has been released to the public is the 1930 census. Also, most of the vital records indexes and other information that is housed at The Genealogy Center dates from about this time period and earlier. When you arrive at The Genealogy Center, the librarians can look at the information you have and give suggestions as to materials in the collection that you can use to find out more information.

If you have done research previously but not at The Genealogy Center, perhaps the best course of action is to have a plan for specifically what you would like to find on a given visit, such as the death date and burial place for a particular ancestor, or the parents of an ancestor. You can see that it is easier for the librarian to direct you when she asks “What can I help you find?” and you answer: “I am looking for the death date and burial location of Marybeth Johnson, who was alive in the 1870 census, but I can’t find her in 1880,” than if she asks, “What can I help you find?” and you answer, “My ancestors” or “My family history,” without a specific question or direction in mind. Bring more than one question or family line to work on in case the first one doesn’t pan out on that particular visit.

Whether you are just beginning your family history journey or you are experienced at research, before coming to The Genealogy Center, take the time to view our orientation video online to familiarize yourself with the kinds of materials in the collection and how the department is organized. You can find this resource at http://www.genealogycenter.org/Services/Orientation.aspx. We have an orientation area onsite where you may view the video again when you arrive, if you would like to do so.