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.
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 sectionsof 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.
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.
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.)
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”.
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.
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.
One reward for the family historian is discovering and walking the ground of their ancestors. I did this last week with my best friend. My wife is an incredible person. I’ve spent the last 40 plus years getting to know her. In the past three years she’s revealed her hidden talents as a research assistant and photographer. Dee’s my best help when chasing family “ghosts”.
Below is a recap of what we did and how we accomplished so much in a limited time, valuable tips for genealogists everywhere.
In five days we traversed five counties. (The other three days were spent visiting family, porch sitting with Debbie and Jim and antiquing with David and Cheryl. Family should be fun!) Here are some of our unearthed treasures:
Located in Collin County and took my mother to visit the grave of her two x great grandfather. Before last week, she didn’t know his name. (William Brumley Price)
Located in Wise County and visited the grove of trees where my great grandfather pastored a Methodist church for 16 years. (Pleasant Grove) In the adjacent cemetery we visited the graves of my great grand aunt and her family. (Narcissus Byrd Curtner)
Located in Wise County and visited the graves of my two time great grandmother’s family. (Elizabeth Norman Ashlock Byrd)
Took Dee to see the grave of my great grandparents Pleasant Wesley and Rachel Marinda Byrd, in WiseCounty.
Located in Collin County and visited the graves of my great grand aunt Malissa Jane Byrd Spradley, her husband James Reed Spradley and her first husband Charles H. Gough.
Narrowed the date of my great grandfather John Anderson Roberts’ arrival in Texas by the use of microfilmed tax records from Red RiverCounty.
Located and visited the grave of my great grand uncle Samuel Zedock Byrd and his second wife Martha Josephine Vicars in Collin County.
Located in Hunt County and visited the grave of Samuel Z. Byrd’s first wife my great grand aunt Sina Canzada Burke Byrd. (Does anyone know the origin of “Sina” and if it is short for something else? Her marker reads “S. C. Wife of Samuel Z. Byrd”. No help here.) This also gave me previously unknown birth and death dates!
Located in Lamar County and visited the grave of my 3 x great grandfather Wiley Laningham. I only learned his name doing research last month! (We also enjoyed lunch with my cousin Glen Gambill and his precious wife Sarah! I’ll write more about Glen in a later post or two,)
Documented my great grandfather John Charles Wesley Ingram’s first land purchases in Kerr County further confirming the errors on several historical markers and online historical accounts of Ingram, Texas.
Further documented the correct arrival date of my 3 x great grandfather Jeremiah Horn to Texas and when he and others actually began the Swayback Methodist Church and school in western Collin County.
Documented my 2 x great grand Uncle John Horn’s 1846 Collin County enlistment to fight in the Mexican – American War. (We had located and visited his grave in Stillwell, Oklahoma this past December. While looking for his grave we also met and visited with his g-great grandson!)
Meeting Genealogy Librarian Cheryl Smith of the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas. (I’ll write more about this wonderful resource in a later post.)
Finding the surprise resource of the genealogy room in the Walworth Harrison Library in Greenville, Texas.
While this is only part of what we learned, I think it’s the best part!
My post has run a little longer than I intended. Let’s finish it later. Come back for those tips on getting more genealogy done in a short amount of time.
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