Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two snaps to the Charleston Public Library local history room

The day before the NGS family history conference, while I was getting lost in the swampy suburbs of Charleston, Cousin April was attending a NGS sponsored librarians' day at the Charleston Public Library on Calhoun Street. In addition to the different lectures she sat in on, she learned that the library has a pretty extensive local history/genealogy room. So instead of heading over to Boone Hall Plantation after meeting up at 4 in the afternoon, April generously offered to spend yet more time in the library, after sitting there all day, to help me see if I could find anything on my Story and Ellis family. So a thank you and shout-out to Cousin April! :)

The room itself is pretty decent sized and collections are somewhat overwhelming - local histories, cemetery listings, will indexes, land deeds, tax records, church records, you name it, it was there. And that's just in the books - a lot of the records in the indexes (indeces?) are only available on microfilm.

So I got to use a microfilm machine. Made me miss the days I used to sit for hours in the Municipal Archives!

I should have been better prepared for this library visit, with more names and dates, but it was a last minute thing (though one of my conference classes stressed the need to plan for contingencies during a field research trip) - I was so determined to visit Old St. Andrew's that I didn't think I would have any time to spend at the library looking for actual records. Oh well. Another excuse for another trip. I did have two dates - the dates of death for Zachariah Story the elder and his father-in-law Thomas Ellis (I realize I haven't even written to you about these two families yet, but I have so much to talk about that I'm getting some of them out of my head backwards - bear with me, I'll get to everything soon enough!) I was able to find both wills listed in a book index and when I went to the librarian to find out how I could go about finding where the wills might be, she handed me two microfilm rolls.

I can't speak for the whole Charleston library system, but the librarians in the local history room are phenomenal! They were both friendly and helpful, which is exactly what you need when you're in a strange library in a strange city with only a slight idea of what you're looking for - moral of the story, no matter what library you're in while doing your research, don't be afraid to ask for help! You might know your family better than the librarians but they should know their records, probably better than you do!

Anyway, April, who is also a librarian, had to help me load the microfilm, as I haven't used one of those machines in forever. And of course scanning the images made me super sea sick (why go to an amusement park when you can get just as nauseous at the library?!?) *and* they were indexed weird. In fact, I handed one of the rolls back to the librarian after scanning it partially and finding nothing, as well as no name in the index. Well, I had given up too soon. Each roll was divided up further, with indexes throughout the roll. Moral of *this* story - keep scanning. Sometimes the index is wrong. Sometimes things are labeled wrong. Sometimes you haven't figured out the order and system even though you think you have. Got it?

Anyway, thanks to April's insistence and the Charleston Public Library, even though I'm sure there was a ton of information in that room that I didn't find because I didn't have the time or the right information with me, I came home with copies of both wills, two valuable pieces in my Story-Ellis family history puzzle.


  1. Thanks for posting this - this is great news for me. From talking with the cousin I met after the conference, it appears that we have some ancestors from the Charleston area, so now I really do have a reason to return!

  2. No problem, Greta - maybe we'll run into each other doing research there! :)

  3. It is always helpful to pack a librarian with you on your travels. :-D You are very welcome. Although, I really don't think I did much. If you had genealogical information to be found in that city, we were there, of course we had to look for it. I'm excited you came home with new information. And I had a ton of fun!!