by Delia

Whether you're coming to The Genealogy Center as a local resident or from two thousand miles away, preparing for your research time is vital to a productive visit. We've talked about what to bring, but doing your "homework" before even starting your journey will actually provide more solid research time.

What's your homework?

Check our catalogs and make lists of which books or microfilm you want to use while here. There is a guide to finding material in our catalogs that will help you get started. Gather titles and call numbers for books, and titles with roll or sheet numbers for microfilm sources. This way, when you arrive, you can immediately pull these materials for examination. But make sure you are really using our  print catalog and microtext catalog. Sometimes visitors have titles and call numbers from other libraries that they have searched instead of ours, including the Family History Library and other public libraries for Allen Counties outside of Indiana, and are frustrated that the numbers are not the same.

Why are the numbers different from one facility to another? It's first important to know what a call number is. The simplest way to describe a call number is that it is the "address" where a specific book "lives" on the shelves. In the Dewey Decimal System (Dewey, for short), fiction is organized by author and biographies by the last name of the subject, but other material is organized by subject. There are large groupings of numbers from 001 to 999 signifying general subjects. For example, books with call numbers that are in the 500s are Science books, 700s are for the Arts, and 900s are for the Social Sciences, including history. Within the Arts classification, you have silk painting (746.6), ballet (792.8), and country music (781.6), for example.

Genealogical material can fit into several categories, such as church records (200s), cemeteries (300s), census (also 300s), business (600s), and history and biography (900s).

Confusing? Yes, it is. For people not steeped in the Dewey System, and to many of us who are, it is cumbersome, to say the least. Then add the fact that we now have more than a half million print volumes in The Genealogy Center, and it could have been extremely perplexing to have call numbers stretching from the 200s to the 900s.

Many years ago, however, the staff of the Genealogy Department and the catalogers for the old Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County created a modified Dewey System just for the Genealogy Collection.

To learn more about this modified Dewey System, check back tomorrow.