A Genealogy Gold Mine in North Texas

What kind of grandfather drags his grandchildren to multiple cemeteries and calls it fun?  What kind of family historian allows the fear of a little traffic congestion keep him from a genealogical gold mine?  What kind of person never stops interviewing his aged mother and gets rewarded with a story he’s never heard?  That would be me, guilty on all counts and hoping you benefit from my experiences.

Let’s answer that second question.

My extended stay with mother in June allowed me to access a true genealogical gold mine.  It’s open to the public, to anyone that is, willing to enter the belly of the beast!

Home for the B. L. Roberts family is North Texas, Denton County to be specific.  My older brother David will soon retire and move back into the county.  My younger sister Debbie lives one county to the east in Collin County.  My mother built a small house on the Collin County property when they moved back to the area from Tucson, AZ.  When I began researching my Roberts and Byrd families in 2012 I found many of their stories played out on the plains and rivers of North Texas.  I was raised on the land of my ancestors! Who knew?

In the past we’ve researched repositories and courthouses in Denton, Collin, Wise, Red River, Lamar, Hunt, Fannin, Grayson and Montague Counties.  I’ve written about libraries, historical societies and friendly county clerk officials in most of these places.  I’ve benefited from them all.  I hope to go back.  But in all our travels, I missed, or should I say avoided, the mother lode.

Mom’s porch sits forty-six minutes from the gold mine on a good traffic day.  Being that close for more than a week was more than I could resist.  I had to somehow screw-up my courage and enter the canyon.  I deliberately chose Sunday afternoon, a good traffic day.  I made my way south out of Collin County and soon entered North Dallas.  At approximately forty-six minutes I exited Live Oak and entered the canyon of downtown Dallas.  Being forced by detour signs to alter my original route in the canyon, I arrived at the entrance to the mine at about the fifty-minute mark.  Not bad.   The J. Erik Jonsson Central Library faces Young Street.  You’ll need to enter the parking garage on the Wood Street side, enter the elevator and go to the 8th floor.  You’ve found a genealogical gold mine!

Photo source: J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas, Texas
Photo source: J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas, Texas
  1. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 8th floor
    1515 Young Street | Dallas, TX 75201
    genealogy@dallaslibrary.org| 214-670-1433

 “The Dallas Public Library Genealogy Section contains one of the largest and most comprehensive collections for family history research in the Southwest. Over 50,000 individuals visit annually, with many traveling from out of the state to utilize the collection which includes all states and counties of the United States. Resources for many foreign countries are also available.”

Dallas Public Library Website

“The Dallas Public Library has been recognized by Family Tree Magazine as one of the Top 10 Public Libraries in the United States for genealogy research. “Many public libraries now have dedicated genealogy or local history collections, making them an essential destination for every roots researcher. There you’ll find not only books, but also rare manuscripts, genealogical journals, census records, and CD-ROMs, all full of valuable information you won’t find on the Internet.”

The Genealogy Section at the downtown branch of the Dallas Public Library is one of the largest and most comprehensive collections to be found in the southern half of the United States. The holdings include a vast array of books (80,000), microfilm (42,000 rolls), microfiche (77,000) and maps and charts (700). Material is national in scope and contains material from all 50 states. It also contains material from other countries, notably Canada, the British Isles and Germany. They also provide access to a number of databases of interest to Genealogists.”

Quote from Dallas Genealogical Society website

Over the next seven days I spent two half-days and two full-days collecting nuggets from this mine.  I had already experienced my only good traffic day.

Personal observations:

  • It’s large. The entire 8th floor is full of genealogical material.  The 7th floor is dedicated to Texas History and research. (It’s closed for renovations until later this summer.)
  • The staff is knowledgeable, friendly and ready to serve.  It was every bit as good as my experience at the Haggard Library in Plano.
  • The environment is comfortable with plenty of room to work and tools to use.
  • The material is as good and voluminous as I’ve seen. This includes research centers like The Clayton Library in Houston, The San Antonio Library, and The Texas State Library and Archives in Austin.  I was focused on one family line during my visits, dabbled in a couple of others and barely scratched the surface on available material.
  • Wi-Fi is available.
  • Backpacks are allowed. There is a very limited selection of snacks and drinks in the vending machines on the parking garage level.  Take lunch and snacks with you.  There is a comfortable place with tables just outside the main entrance on the first floor.  Don’t worry, it’s air conditioned!
  • Like most major libraries today you’ll be sharing the space with the homeless. I’ve never had a problem.
  • The Genealogy floor requests you to sign in and out.

Recommendations if you go:

  • Before you go, use the online databases and do some prep work. You may do search queries by county, subject, name, etc. and print out a list from the Dallas Public Library website.  I had over seventy potential sources to research.
  • Check the schedule. The Genealogy Section (8th floor) has specific hours each day.  Check them before you go.
  • Call the Genealogy desk a day or two before you go just to be safe. Ask if everything is currently available and ready for use.  Three of my over 70 source items were on the Texas History Floor (7th) which was closed for renovations.  Had this been my main focus for the trip, I would have been disappointed.
  • If you use GPS, be sure to use the Wood Street side of the Library for your address point. The one way streets in downtown Dallas can be a little tricky.
  • Dress comfortably.  Take a light jacket.  I didn’t need it but I saw some who did.
  • I was researching primarily Virginia records.  There was a wealth of material.  It  appears this is true for most states.

I plan many more trips to this wonderful Genealogical resource.  Plan your own visit. Find your nuggets in downtown Dallas.

Happy backtracking!

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