Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Last April, the State Library of Ohio’s genealogy collection of 25,000 books and several thousand microfilm was transferred to the Columbus Metropolitan Library. However, that did not mean the library would no longer be serving the genealogy community. Like libraries, family history researching is changing with the advances of the electronic information age. In the 1980s, genealogists began using software programs on their home computers to organize their family research. By the beginning of the 21st century, 24% of those canvassed by the Pew Internet and American Life Project tracking survey were using the internet for researching their ancestors. Today, we are at a crossroads. While a google search for “genealogy” yields 37,500,000 results, there’s still a lot more out there in books and microforms which haven’t graced the internet. Perhaps the watershed event will occur in 2012, when the Family History Library completes the digitization of its entire microfilm collection of nearly 2 ½ million reels and makes it all available on the web like FamilySearch http://www.familysearch.org/. However, this does not include the many items of interest to genealogists which are only available in print and manuscript in thousands of large and small libraries and archives. Our library contains such a holding.

The State Library of Ohio has been the regional (or full) U.S. government depository for Ohio since the 1930s and the depository for all Ohio state government agency documents by statute. For many years, family historians who visited the State Library to use its genealogy collection have asked about the multi-million item collection of materials on the other side of the building. I would jokingly reply that if I had a map, it would be called the “Terra Incognita” for genealogists. Amongst these “unknown lands,” is the Ohio state documents collection. State Librarian Jo Budler promised Ohio genealogists that the State Library will be digitizing images of interest to them from this collection and these digitized items will be placed online so that they are available anytime, from anywhere via the Internet.

The Ohio state documents collection includes the Ohio General Assembly biographical directories, the Laws of Ohio, the Journals of the Ohio House and Senate, the Executive Documents, military rosters, institutional records, Ohio Secretary of State reports, lists of professionals, accident (industrial, mine, and rail) reports, and many others. Finding government documents of interest to the genealogist is like discovering veins of gold in an almost endless mine. The information may be highly specialized but often is rich in detail. For example, you will not find a list of all Ohio industrial workers for a given year in the Report of the Department of Inspection of Workshops, Factories and Public Buildings but you will find a section on “Accidents Reported During the Fiscal Year” which gives the date of the accident, name of person injured, age of person, by whom employed, city or town, and the cause and severity of the injury. I have compiled a preliminary bibliography of Ohio state documents of potential interest to the genealogical community. Its purpose is to provide improved access to these documents and to serve as a list of items to be considered for digitization. If you are interested in the file containing this preliminary list of Ohio State documents of interest to genealogists, please contact Paul Immel at pimmel@sloma.state.oh.us or 614-387-1186 and I will send it to you.


Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea and long overdue. Why haven't we seen this advertized somewhere?? (Or maybe it just hasn't filtered down the chain of managers to me yet??) May I suggest an email on the GenLib listserve?? It's the quickest way I know of to contact every librarian interested in genealogy in the state!
Kathy @ MCDL

Anonymous said...

I certainly welcome this alternate way to find out info for our genealogy patrons. We certainly can all use any suggestions for this cause. Kathy's suggestion is certainly a valid one to consider.
Thanks Paul and all involved!

Sandy Day
Public Library of Steubenville

Russ said...

What a great way to communicate and share information regarding the infinite world of genealogy. Thanks to Paul and other staff at the State Library for providing another forum in which we can share information and ideas.

I agree that the Internet has advanced genealogical research in many ways. It provides a forum to share information and ideas with a much larger group of people quickly and efficiently. Although genealogists can find a lot using the Internet, there is still a whole world of information only available using more traditional resources such as manuscripts, books and microforms in public, academic and society libraries and archives. Until the last piece of paper is digitized, well indexed, easily searchable and most importantly accessible to all users, we’ll still need to rely on combining both traditional and new forms of resources, research methods and access.

Government documents are often ignored because these collections can be intimidating and not always easily accessible. I’m glad to know that the State Library will be serving our community “virtually” by shedding light on state government documents of value to genealogists and historians. I and many others look forward to seeing what genealogical gems the State Library digs up from this collection and shares with us all.

Russ Pollitt
Columbus Metropolitan Library