Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bad Machines and Unfair Genealogy: A Library Visit

Yesterday was another long day at the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research. I still have the same client-issued task: find all I can about a guy named Henry within the parameters of a specified deadline.

I've had some success in the microfilm section. Mainly in the 18th century order books. My previous library visits were spent looking at microfilm frame by frame. There are a ton of machines that read film, and two machines that capture film. Etiquette says that you use a reader first to search so you don't hog the image capturing machines. When I found a "hit" I'd write it down so I could capture an image of the record at a later date.

Yesterday was that date. I got to the library a minute after opening and marched right up to the second floor. I was a lady on a mission. I had a list of films with page numbers and I was going to use the microfilm reader that took pictures and put them on my flash drive.

The machine had other plans.

It didn't recognize my flash drive. When it did, I could only scan one image, then it wouldn't recognize it again. I had to take the flash drive out when I was preparing to capture an image then put it back in and wait for the machine to recognize it. Cumbersome, but not a big deal. This was a quirk I discovered on my own. I wonder how many patrons just gave up?

Also, I could only capture one page at a time, each an individual file. It would be nice to gather multi-page records as a single file. This machine said NO, though the instructions implied otherwise. After many failed attempts, I just saved a page at a time, each its own file. Cue sad trombone.

This machine also gave a generic name to each file. I prefer to change the file names asap so I don't forget where the images came from. This machine again said NO. Now I have a bunch of files labeled scan01, scan02, etc. and I have to figure out which is which.

The whole process of scanning and capturing an image was long, and I had to do it over and over again. The silver lining is that I've finally mastered all of this machine's quirks. It did not defeat me.

The good news is that this machine is on borrowed time. The library staff are currently shopping for new machines. Yay!

When I was done with the bad machine, I browsed the surname books. I am really envious of those that have their own books of genealogical information for their given names. There is no Lenertz surname book. No Baerecke. No Menou. No Joszt. These are my surnames. They have no books.

You know who does have books? These people:

You should know that the only surname I don't research is the one I married. Why? Because everyone else has already done so. Look at all the surname books they have!

Genealogy is not fair, and microfilm machines are mean. These are the lessons I learned at the library.


  1. I have a true love hate relationship with the new(er) digital scanners. Sometimes it makes me dream of the good ole days, you know, print paper!

  2. Great post! At the archives in downtown Jackson, MS, they have two different machines. The one you showed here and then the one that is lightening fast and hard to zoom into. I get so lost for hours and researching is a long task.....but heck, I love doing it!