— The West Oaks branch is closed until January while the entire genealogy collection is set up in its new home.
OCOEE — Ancestry.com is great for tracing your family’s origins, but sometimes, you need to dive headfirst into military records, cemetery records and other physical volumes that aren’t available on the Internet.
Come January, the Orange County library in Ocoee, located on East Silver Star Road, will become the West Oaks Library and Genealogy Center, where residents can sift through thousands of genealogy books or sit at a computer and search through the Ancestry website and other online resources.
Gregg Gronlund, West Oaks Library branch manager, will run this department. He served as department head for genealogy for nine years at the Orlando Public Library and is a past president of the Central Florida Genealogical Society.
He has been with the West Oaks Library since 2009 and the Orange County Library System for 23 years.
For Gronlund, studying one’s genealogy is like a detective story, a treasure hunt, a mystery. He is excited to be reconnected with this collection.
“For the very beginner, we can explain how to do this, how to go about the process, how to use online resources so they know what to do next,” Gronlund said. “We are going to have a full-time genealogy specialist on staff, in the library and out in the community promoting genealogy.”
The print collection — which covers genealogy from the mid-19th century to now — will take up about a quarter of the library, Gronlund said. It includes information on microfilm and microfiche, too.
“The material itself ranges from ‘how to do genealogy’ to very special indexes and abstracts, from military records to wills to cemeteries, Bibles — anything that can help you find names, dates and places in the history of your family,” he said.
The library facility isn’t expanding; its contents are being rearranged, and compact shelving on movable bases is being installed. Ten shelving units will be replaced by 17. The carpet is being replaced, and the interior is getting a new paint coat.
And nothing is being cut from the West Oaks Library, Gronlund said. In fact, programs are being added.
Staff members will provide classes on genealogy, and Gronlund is looking into scheduling outside speakers.
“This collection is giving this library a chance to have a focus and a new start,” he said.
The Orange County Library System’s genealogy department has been in downtown Orlando since the library’s founding in 1922. It was then the Albertson Public Library, named for Capt. Charles Albertson, a genealogist who donated his personal collection.
“It had all kinds of resources you would use for genealogy research, and we’ve just built on that,” Gronlund said.
In 1929, the library became the official repository of the Florida State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The collection now contains more than 25,000 books and periodicals, 10,000 microfiche and more than 15,000 reels of microfilm.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].
WHAT'S IN THE GENEALOGY COLLECTION?
• Federal census from 1930
• Census indexes, various years and states, mostly 1790-1870
• Population schedules, all states, from 1790-1930
• Enumeration district descriptions from 1880-1930
• Slave schedules from 1850 and 1860
• Special census of Union veterans and widows, 1890
• State census: Florida, 1885, 1935 and 1945; California, 1852; and Mississippi, 1792-1866
• Florida vital records indexes: deaths, 1877-1997; marriages, 1927-1997; and divorces, 1927-1997
• City directories: Orlando, 1887 to date; and major U.S. cities, pre-1860 and 1890
• Orlando births and deaths, 1910-1922
• Passenger list indexes: Baltimore, 1820-1897; Boston, 1848-1891; Galveston, Texas, 1869-1906 and 1906-1951; New Orleans, pre-1900 and 1900-1952; New York, 1820-1846 and 1897-1902; and Philadelphia, 1800-1906
• Military records
• Sanborn fire insurance maps for Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia