Where do you go for local genealogical information when online resources don’t offer what you need? Whether genealogy is your hobby or consumes your every waking hour, the Willis L. Miller Library’s Heritage Room can supply you with a considerable amount of local information you need to get you started and keep your search going.
As you enter through the two glass doors labeled Heritage Room, you find silence and a soft, soothing sound of a light hum. Books line the walls ahead and to the right. There are a few reading chairs, a table to the left, and a few tables with computers and other machines also to the left. The feeling in the room is calm and relaxing, a place that is well-suited for research with plenty of room to spread out papers and books.
While online genealogy pages are a great resource, they do not always offer information for which you are searching. Much of the local records are not digitized and therefore are not available online.
It pays to be an old-fashioned, dig-in-the-documents, detective in the Heritage Room. You will be sure to find a wealth of knowledge from single family records, to city and county records, to state records in forms of papers, books, microfilm, or microfiche. Included are document types such as history, yearbooks, church records, DAR yearbooks, cemetery records, city directories, marriage documents, military records, newspapers, slave narratives, indexes, land lottery documents, wills, obituaries, passenger lists, research guides, personal family books, Judge Huxford’s collection and so much more.
Most documents and books in the Heritage Room are for use in the library and may not be checked out except a few because many are not replaceable. There are no membership requirements to use the Heritage Room and the library staff is friendly and helpful. Phillip Williams, a library assistant who maintains the genealogy collection and conducts genealogy classes regularly is happy to answer any questions you may have and show you around.
Williams recommends researchers bring a jump drive with them. “With the new microfilm machine we got this summer, you can save images to a jump drive.” This machine enables researchers to get clearer pictures than any of the older methods of copy. Plus, you can also use microfiche as well as negatives with this machine. The machine works best in black and white and is free to use.
Williams has some advice for people new to genealogical research. “Start with your own brain, your own knowledge of your family. Start writing what you know about your parents and their parents,” he says. He suggests starting with a chart with the information you have. He advises, “You have to start with yourself and work your way back. You shouldn’t go forward with someone because all sorts of mistakes happen.”
The Heritage Room is equipped with accessibility machines for sight-impaired researchers. One machine reads any document placed under it, and another machine is a magnifier which projects the image on a computer screen with contrast, color, and zoom functions.
If your genealogical needs reach beyond online resources, stop by the Willis L. Miller Library and visit the Heritage Room.
Willis L. Miller Library
2906 Julia Drive, Valdosta, GA 31602
Mon – Thurs: 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Fri: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat: 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sun: 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Visit their website at http://sgrl.org/locations/willis-l-miller-library/