Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Visit to the Library of Congress

I am now the proud possessor of a Library of Congress Reader Identification Card. This last Wednesday, January 7, I was part of a group of 28 members of the Fairfax Genealogical Society which participated in guided tours of three parts of the Library of Congress: the Geography and Map Reading Room, the Newspapers and Current Periodicals Reading Room, and the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room. All three of our librarian-tour guides were excited about their collections and very generous in sharing information, particularly information they felt was relevant to historical and genealogical research, as well as research tips that would be useful in exploiting these collections to the fullest.

Three of us researchers had done some searching of the Library of Congress website beforehand and had written down call numbers for books we were interested in; in the Local History and Genealogy Room we filled out request forms and handed them in before we went to lunch so that after lunch we were able to return and use the books for a couple of hours of research. I chose Jessye Ann High’s John Finley, “Fighting Jack,” 1760-1839, and His Descendants. A John Finley of Greene County, Illinois has been cited as the father of my great-great grandmother Nancy Finley. There were two John Finleys in Greene County during the period in question, and while I was fairly certain this John Finley was not the father, I though he might be the grandfather, as the other John Finley was young enough to be his son. However, High’s book makes no mention of “my guy”; moreover, it includes John Finley’s will, which does not mention a son named John. The alternatives are: some other type of relative such as a nephew or no relation.

An exciting and relatively new (it’s in its third year) program at the Library of Congress, jointly sponsored with the National Endowment for the Humanities, is Chronicling America, “a site produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program, [which] provides free, public access to select digitized newspaper pages and a wealth of information about historic American newspapers held in libraries across the country.” You can find information on Chronicling America at and see what’s available or do a search at

Kudos to Bobbie Leamer for organizing this and other wonderful field trips; the next one is to the DAR Library.

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