Allen County Public Library
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The Fred J. Reynolds Historical Genealogy Collection is the second-largest genealogy collection in the United States and the largest genealogy collection in a public library. Its holdings include more than 350,000 printed volumes and 513,000 items on microfilm and microfiche. Users in Fort Wayne also have access, for a small fee, to more than 2 million additional microfilms from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. ACPL creates the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), a subject index to genealogy and local history periodicals from all over the United States and Canada, including French Canadian journals. PERSI is created from the Center's premier collection of more than 5,100 current genealogy periodical subscriptions, as well as runs of numerous ceased serial titles.
Major online subscription databases at ACPL that patrons may use onsite include: Ancestry.com · African American Heritage · Footnote.com · HeritageQuestOnline.com · Historical Detroit Free Press · NewEnglandAncestors.org · Origins Network-British, Irish, and Scots · Paper of Record-Historical Newspapers · and WorldVitalRecords.com.
The Genealogy Center primarily is a North American collection, with a complementary focus on British Isles and some German materials. It also holds guidebooks, methodology works, heraldry titles and similar items of general focus for other countries. ACPL has more than 50,000 family histories, nearly 200,000 local histories, a significant number of North Carolina records on microfilm, and numerous important collections such as the Draper Manuscripts, the Drouin Collection, the Barber Collection, and many National Archives microfilm collections. The Genealogy Center also has significant resources for Native American and African American research. Specifically, the African American Gateway is a database of several thousand links to African American resources on the Internet, coupled with a bibliography of resources for African American research in the Genealogy Center's holdings. A large collection of early city directories on microfilm complements the hundreds of post-1960 print directories obtained by the Genealogy Center as a repository for the Polk Directory Company. For more details see Genealogy Center and the ACPL catalog.
Not surprisingly, because the Genealogy Center physically is located in Allen County, Indiana, the collection includes a vast amount of resources for Fort Wayne, Allen County and the surrounding area. The Center's website features a number of Allen County, Indiana Databases that are freely available to anyone with an Internet connection. Those with ancestors from the local area also will want to peruse the Allen County, Indiana Links posted on the Genealogy Center's homepage.
The staff bibliographer regularly monitors current journals, booklists and the Internet for newly published genealogy and local history books to add to the collection. In addition, the Genealogy Center welcomes donations of materials such as high school and college yearbooks, church histories and directories, self-published family histories or indexes to local records, or any other publication of interest to genealogists. A number of genealogists have named the Center as the repository for their genealogy book collections as a part of estate planning. The growing popularity and ease of digitization has made it possible for the Center to accept donations of originals or photocopies of many items that were not part of its collection development policy previously, such as photographs and individual documents. In particular, the Center welcomes submissions for Our Military Heritage and Family Bible Records. The Genealogy Center also welcomes the submission of computer databases of records pertaining to any geographic location to be made available to the public on its website.
One of the creative ways the Genealogy Center collection grows is through its Photocopy Exchange Program. Individuals submit a manuscript copy of a family or local history they have written and the Genealogy Center photocopies the document twice, placing one hardcover copy in the Center's collection and returning one hardcover copy and the original manuscript pages to the author
The most important resource of the Genealogy Center is the attentive and experienced reference service offered to on-site patrons by its seven full-time reference librarians. They have a combined total of more than 150 years of genealogy research experience. From providing suggestions for untangling a tricky research problem, to aiding in the use of the collection, to instructing how to use the equipment in the Genealogy Center, the librarians are happy to assist patrons.
A goal of the Genealogy Center is to provide regular educational programming. To that end, the Center offers at least one lecture or workshop each month on-site at the Allen County Public Library. In March the Center offers "March Madness," a week's worth of seminars. In October - Family History Month - there is a lecture or other educational opportunity at the library during each day of the month. In many years, October's special events culminate with extended hours on one Friday night, unofficially referred to as "Midnight Madness." For more information about upcoming programs, interested individuals may consult Genealogy Special Programs on the Center's website.
Librarians in the Genealogy Center are happy to give tours to visiting groups of 10 or more. Please call 260-421-1225 in advance to schedule a tour. The Center has an orientation area where individuals or smaller groups of researchers may view a DVD tour of the Center.
The Research Center
Those who cannot visit the Genealogy Center in person may need copies from specific sources held by the Center, broader research done in the collection, or copies of articles found by searching the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). The Genealogy Center has a Research Center arm that provides these services and long-distance patrons may use the Quick Search, Research Request and Article Request forms on the Center's website to request copies or research.
What is now known as the Genealogy Center opened as the Indiana History and Genealogy Room of the Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County on 3 January 1961. However the collection's history predates that time. As early as 1903, the Mary Penrose Wayne chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) sought shelf space in the library for the society's lineage books and other historical works. During the Great Depression, library administrators roamed used bookstores throughout the Midwest, bringing back to the library many books and periodicals of a local history nature that with the DAR books, became the core of the genealogy collection when it was formed in 1961.
Library Director Fred J. Reynolds was instrumental in the growth of the genealogy collection from about 400 DAR books at its inception, to more than 100,000 volumes by the time of his retirement in 1978. The collection was renamed the "Reynolds Historical Genealogy Collection" in 1971. Ironically, Reynolds was not a genealogist himself, but saw the value in the study of family history. Some of his methods of expanding the collection were unorthodox, such as the trading of duplicate materials with other libraries, and photocopying partnerships. One such partnership was with the Newberry Library in Chicago, whose books were becoming worn from overuse. Reynolds arranged with Newberry's curator to borrow station wagon loads of books from the Chicago facility, which college students copied throughout day and nighttime hours. The library in Fort Wayne kept and bound a copy of each book and the Newberry received a new bound copy, plus its worn original, which was retired to storage. Through this partnership, the Genealogy Collection copied perhaps as many as 30,000 of the Newberry Library's books. Several other photocopying partnerships have been forged since that time.
The physical area covered by the Genealogy Center has grown several times during the past 50 years. This included an expansion that nearly doubled seating capacity and floor space in 1990, and the most recent renovation of the main library building in the mid-2000s that resulted in "open stack" shelving for virtually all genealogy materials.
During its nearly 50-year history, the Genealogy Center has been the recipient of a number of grants and many monetary and materials donations, large and small, from individuals. However, it remains overwhelmingly funded by local county taxes. The local chapter of the DAR and the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana have been supportive in a variety of ways throughout the Center's history.
Tips for Your Visit
Bringing a Group?
If your group is planning a visit to the Genealogy Center, please call 260-421-1225 and let the staff know the date(s) of your visit, what time you plan to arrive and depart, the approximate number in your group, and to provide the name and telephone number of a contact person for your organization. This allows the Center to ensure that an adequate number of staff will be available to answer questions your group may have. During this initial telephone contact, you may wish to schedule a tour of the Center for your group as well, or ask that a packet of informational material be sent in advance of your visit. If the dates for your group's visit are flexible, you might ask when you call whether other groups have chosen the same dates and then modify your plans accordingly if you prefer a less-busy time. Having a contact name and telephone number allows the Center to contact your group in the case of a weather-related or other unscheduled closing of the library.
The following are guides to doing specific types of ethnic, record-specific or theme-specific research and include citations for helpful materials in the Genealogy Center's collection.
If you cannot visit or find a record at the Allen County Public Library, a similar record may be available at one of the following.