Explore your family history with the Ann Arbor library’s expanded archives

ANN ARBOR, MI — Those digging into their family history now have access to a plethora of information through the Ann Arbor library’s newly expanded archives.

As of Oct. 19, the Ann Arbor District Library now has digital copies of city directories available, with records spanning from 1868 to 2001.

“A lot of people think of (city directories) as being phone books before there were phone books, but city directories had a lot more information than that,” said Andrew MacLaren, AADL archives manager. “City directories have information about what people did for a living, what companies they worked for, their marital status, whether they were homeowners.”

The archives expansion follows another new resource added to the library’s system earlier this year. In July, AADL became a FamilySearch affiliate library, which allows researchers to access a broader number of documents than what is available on the FamilySearch website. FamilySearch is a nonprofit that helps people find information on their family tree.

Although FamilySearch is available online to anyone, some documents are restricted to affiliate libraries. Information can be accessed either by logging into a library computer or using library Wi-Fi.

“There is a lot of material that they don’t make openly available to everyone and, in a lot of cases, that is images of historic documents that are not available on the open web, but they are available at FamilySearch affiliate libraries, which is what we’ve just become,” MacLaren said.

The library is highlighting the new resources as part of National Family History Month, which takes place in October, MacLaren said. Between the newly uploaded directories and recently released 1950s census data, Ann Arbor historians now have a wealth of information to sort through.

Librarian historians are always available to help researchers, MacLaren said.

“We love being able to digitize this material; we love being able to get new resources out there, but we’re here to answer questions,” MacLaren said. “We hope that we can help people find those answers themselves, but they don’t need to find the answer themselves. We are here to help.”

For more information about FamilySearch, city directories or researching a family tree, visit the Ann Arbor District Library online.

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