Doing Genealogical Research in North Texas: a surprise, the status quo and a gem

If you have family or research family history in North Texas, this blog post is for you.  These resources will make your research more productive.

Dee and I recently used the genealogical sections of three North Texas libraries.  One was a surprise, one was status quo in our experience and the third one was a gem.  Here’s our report with some basic information on these resources plus tips for researching any library in any place.

The Surprise

We were in McWright Cemetery in Hunt County, Texas looking for the final resting ground of my 2 x great grandfather William Henry Price.  Three of us were looking (including my sister Debbie from Collin County), but we could not find him.  It’s a large cemetery and has been in use since the 1800’s.  It’s possible his burial marker had been destroyed by time.   I wondered and then hoped someone had recorded the graves earlier before there was a Find A Grave.  That’s when a car pulled into the cemetery occupied by two elderly sisters.  They had lived near the cemetery all their lives, but they could not recall the Price name.  They did remember there was a book in the Greenville library with a listing of all of the graves in the cemetery at the time the book was published and suggested we look in that book for William Henry Price.

W. Walworth Harrison Public Library   

#1 Lou Finney LaneW. Walworth Harrison Library

Greenville, Texas 75401

Hunt County

903-457-2992

Hours:  Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursdays, 12 pm – 8pm and closed Sundays.

I was surprised by such a large, modern facility in such a small place.  I was also surprised by the generous genealogical holdings secluded in their own room.  The library has a public break area with vending machines, very nice for long hours of research.  The staff on duty this day did not seem particularly knowledgeable in the field of genealogy and appeared to be pre-occupied with preparing to watch basketball on the computer. So, be prepared.  You may have to provide for yourself. (see below).   We found the book our good Samaritans told us about but did not find William Henry in it.  We did however find several other useful facts about other family members.  If you’re researching family in Hunt County, you’ll want to visit this facility.

The Status Quo

We were looking for old Collin County, Texas tax records.  When I say old, I mean from the beginning of the county (1846).  I was looking for evidence my 2 x great grand father Samuel Byrd made it to Texas before his death.   I was pleased to discover the microfilm of the earliest tax records was available in McKinney near my family’s residences.   It would not be necessary (as we had been told by the county officials) to travel to the library at the University of Texas at Arlington.  (BTW, I found no evidence that day or any other day that Samuel Byrd made it alive to Texas in spite of what someone posted on the Find A Grave website.)

Roy & Helen Hall Memorial Library

101 East Hunt St.

McKinney, Texas 75069

Collin County

972-547-7323

Hours:  Mon.-Thu: 10 am – 9 pm, Fri.-Sat.: 10 am – 6 pm, Sun.: 1 – 5 pm

This library is modern and spacious, pleasing to the eye.  The genealogical section is good on Collin County and fair on the surrounding counties.  There is, as there is in most Texas libraries’ genealogical sections, as smattering of books on the states from which Texas settlers came.  The second floor space is shared by an open computer room where it appears mostly young adults are checking Facebook and playing computer games.  There has been an attempt to tuck the research tables back into a corner away from distractions.  This provides a place for others to talk and text away from the crowd.  The staff from which we requested assistance did not come across as knowledgeable of their genealogical holdings or how to operate the microfilm viewers.  It was a fairly standard experience and thus the term “status quo”.

The Gem

And then you find that special place with special people.  I’m talking about the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas.  I speak specifically of the basement in this library and the people who work there.  The basement?  Sounds rather dark and damp.  I assure you it’s neither.

Haggard Center emblem

Click for more details

Haggard Library       

2501 Coit Rd.

Plano, Texas 75075

Collin County

972-769-4250

Hours:  Monday – Thursday, 9am – 9pm, Fri. 9am – 6pm, Sat. 10 am – 6 pm, Sun. 1pm – 5 pm

The genealogical section of the Haggard Library is in the basement.  It’s large, comfortable, well stocked and well staffed.  I could spend a long time here and I did spend most of a day and part of another.  You need to plan your visit or you’ll be going from “one shiny thing” to another.  There’s plenty here for the history hound and the family historian.  And then there’s the staff.  They are knowledgeable, courteous and considerate.  Considerate?  Yes.  When I’m researching I generally have goals and don’t have time for chit chat.  I need the staff to be knowledgeable, but share with me only the knowledge I request.  Otherwise I need them to simply give me space and solitude.  I’ve just described the five staff I met working the basement in my two days at the Haggard Library.  And the gem of this gem was Genealogical Librarian Cheryl Smith.  She is a wonderful and respectful resource for family historians and genealogist researching North Texas families.  She is especially knowledgeable of Collin County.  Thanks Cheryl!  I smile when I think of the staff — and that basement!

My one complaint about Haggard is the lack of a public break area.  Researchers may be in the stacks for long hours and need regular breaks to stay nourished and hydrated.  This would be a nice addition to the library and provide additional income.

Preparing to research a library:

  • Have research goals.  What do you hope to find or accomplish with you visit?
  • Know before you go.  What is available?  What is allowed?  What are the hours?  Where is it located?
  • Search the online catalog.  Have your titles and call numbers ready.  What questions do you have for the staff?  Prepare your research log in advance.
  • Don’t forget your equipment.  Notebooks, computers, cameras (know their policy) and money for the copier

When you’re there:

  • Be courteous to the staff and considerate of others.  Allow them to do their work.  Don’t distract others around you.
  • Follow the library’s protocols.  Don’t reshelf the books.  Place your used materials on the carts if they’re provided.  Know how to use the equipment and properly use it.  Ask for help if you don’t.

Happy Hunting!

 

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3 thoughts on “Doing Genealogical Research in North Texas: a surprise, the status quo and a gem

  1. The Dallas Public Library (downtown) has Texas county tax records on microfilm on the 7th floor. I think they have all of the counties going back to 1846. And, of course, the big genealogy collection on the 8th floor, which I suspect you know.

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  2. My mother’s father left in 1933-34 right after she was born in 1933. For two years I have tried to find him, but it was sudden dead ends. The only Troy Herman Brooks born in 1902 is buried in the McWright Cemetery. I am still at a dead end on him. If you know anyone in Hunt County that may help me, please email me at roblynbrown@yahoo.com! My mother is 84, and she has always been curious about the father she never knew. Find A Grave has no record of him.

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    • Hello Roblyn. Thanks for reading the blog and contacting me. Let’s see if we can help. I’ll send you an email and ask for some more information.

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