I don’t blame you. I really don’t. I’ve never used it myself. So who am I to point a finger?
When the National Genealogical Society was founded in 1903 in Washington, DC, it established a library for its members. That library continued to grow for the next 98 years, amassing more than 20,000 volumes of family histories; state, county, and local histories; and records of cemeteries, churches, courts, deeds, marriages, wills, and administrations.
In 2001, those 20,000+ volumes were transferred to the St. Louis County Library, which manages the collection. The books are now available for members and non-members alike through interlibrary loan to your local library. In addition, some of the library’s books that are not part of the NGS collection are also available for interlibrary loan. The SLCL catalog is available here, or you can search among NGS books only here. Note that books with call numbers beginning with “R” are reference books and are not available for interlibrary loan.
The library’s process for loaning books is detailed on a page that includes links to initiate a loan request.
As genealogists, we’re constantly learning. And how-to books are good resources for self-directed learning. NGS’s collection includes general guides like Kenyatta D. Berry’s The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy, Penelope L. Stratton and Henry B. Hoff’s Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History, or George G. Morgan’s Your Family Reunion: How to Plan It, Organize It, and Enjoy It.
Or your learning needs might be more specific. Add specific terms to your catalog search to find books like How to Read a Coat of Arms by Peter G. Summers, How to Read the Handwriting and Records of Early America by E. Kay Kirkham, or NGS’s own Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne.
Some of the guides are hyper-specific. Add multiple specific terms (e.g. ethnicity and place or subject and place) to locate guides like African Americans in Union County [Pennsylvania]: Slave and Free, James G. Ryan’s Tracing Your Sligo Ancestors, or Martha W. McCartney and Helen C. Rountree’s Powhatan Indian Place Names in Tidewater Virginia.
Adding search terms to the search engine like “family” or “genealogy” or “descendants” helps isolate some published genealogies. More than 2700 titles are returned for “national genealogical society book loan collection” and “descendants.” A bar on the left hand of the page of search results helps further refine your search. Among the refining categories is “place.” Checking the box for “North Carolina” returns 35 titles. Checking the box for “Bourbon County” returns two titles for Bourbon County, Kentucky: Warren Adams Bacon of Bourbon County, Kentucky: His Ancestors and Descendants by O. Clyde Donaldson and Some Descendants of John Keand of Whithorn, Scotland: Many of Whom Lived and Died in Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky, and Were Known as McCanns by W. R. & R. L. McCann.
Other published genealogies can be found by changing search terms. Removing “descendants,” but retaining “Bourbon” returned 23 titles, including The Duncans of Bourbon County, Kentucky: With Notes from Other Counties by W. B. (Julia Spencer) Ardery and Family of Matthew Current: Who Married Jane Wilson Call, Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky by Martha Belle Hall, Myrtle Rion, and William R. McCann.
Published records are among NGS’s collection and may well be useful to your research. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina consists of thirteen volumes of records from 1752 to 1879. The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records consists of fifty volumes of vital records from dozens and dozens of Connecticut towns. Sacramental Records of the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans consists of twelve volumes of records from 1718 to 1831. Add “records” to your title search terms to find more than 2200 entries.
Royal (and Other) Bastards
I don’t personally care for words like “bastard” or “illegitimate.” They were invented to describe people who mattered less than others or not at all. Nonetheless, “Royal Bastards” is the unofficial name (and the URL) for Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain. The society’s Lineage Book is among those in the NGS book collection. So are the somewhat related Norfolk County, Virginia, Orphans and Bastards: From Extant Minute Books by Sharon Rea Gable and Truitt M. Bonney and North Carolina Bastardy Bonds by Betty J. Camin and Edwin A. Camin.
Search for Yourself
This article illustrates how to use the St. Louis County Library’s advanced search engine to search among NGS’s book collection to your best advantage. Be a little clever and flexible in your search terms for the greatest success. And why not? There’s an entire library at your fingertips that you may never have used.