Local History Thursday: Starting Your Genealogy or Local History Research

Do you have a burning local history topic that you’d like to investigate, or a family history mystery that you want to solve? Mesa County Libraries and other libraries have some great resources for the beginning researcher.

Patrons often come in looking for an article about a family member or ancestor. If you have a citation for the article (date of publication and page number), you might try going directly to our microfilm reels to search both The Daily Sentinel and the Grand Junction News (Grand Junction’s first paper). Our microfilm computers, located downstairs in the Central Branch, also give you access to recent Daily Sentinel editions as PDFs.

If your article is from the turn of the century (the 19th century, that is), you might try searching the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. There you can look at Daily Sentinel articles from 1897-1903.

Don’t have a citation for a specific article? Try searching the Daily Sentinel index or the Western History Subject Index for articles in Colorado newspapers to see if you can find information about your person, place or thing.

Are you looking for an obituary for a loved one? Search for obituaries directly in our catalog. Our dedicated volunteers are adding more all the time. If you don’t know the person’s date of death but know where they are buried, try contacting the cemetery to see if you can get a date of burial. Then, you can search backward in the microfilm reels from that date for an obituary. You can also search the Colorado Obituary Project index, located on the website of the Western History and Genealogy Department at Denver Public Library. It contains obituary citations for the Daily Sentinel, Delta County Independent and other newspapers from the 1970’s through 1990.

For further information about your ancestor, you might try searching the Grand Junction City Directories, located in our Rashleigh Regional History Room, downstairs at the Central Library. These directories give more information than your normal phone book, including, often, a person’s occupation. Find out where your ancestors lived and what they did for a living. You can also use the directories to find out what kind of business or building existed on a property in the past. Many city directories are also available in Ancestry Library Edition (in-library use only at any library location).

Ancestry Library Edition can be a great resource for local history and family research, with marriage, census, immigration, and military records, along with many other resources. Heritage Quest is another genealogy database we offer, which can be accessed from home with your library card. It doesn’t have all of Ancestry’s bells and whistles, but has many of the same resources. All of our genealogy databases can be found in our eResources A-Z list.

Was your ancestor an early Mesa County resident? You might check our Mesa County Oral History Project digital archive to see if they were interviewed or mentioned. You can also learn more about the history of this place from local people as they saw it. The Journal of the Western Slope also investigates local history with a more scholarly but no less approachable bent.

Finally, don’t forget about books and people! Our History Room and circulating collection contain many books on Western Colorado History. Our friendly staff can also help you with your research. Come to Reference Help in the History Room for one-on-one help, request a Book-a-Librarian appointment, get research help from the Mesa County Genealogy Society, or, if you cannot do the research yourself, contact a paid researcher.

These resources are just the tip of the iceberg. Contact Mesa County Libraries to begin your search in genealogy or local history today.

Posted in General, Local History.

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