Delaware Genealogy: How Libraries Provide Tools, Training, and Support

Exploring your genealogy is a true adventure. Your Librarians can make it a rewarding one!

Learning about your family tree is a fascinating quest. 

Whether you want to begin tracing your heritage for the first time or if you want to continue building upon your existing knowledge of your ancestors, the help of your local Delaware library is an absolute “must” in the toolbox. 

It’s not difficult to see why studying one’s own genealogy is a captivating hobby that only continues to grow in popularity. When you trace your heritage, you feel more connected to the ancestors who came before you. You also experience a deeper sense of the bond which all human beings share in our increasingly anonymous world today. It’s also a ton of fun to find out where your distant relatives lived, how these individuals earned a living, who they lived with, and so many other details about their lives.

If you have the desire to learn more about your own heritage, your first impulse may be to use a search engine like Google or a site such as While these tools can be helpful, Google searches will not get you very far. Many sites such as charge membership fees to individuals. Your local library, however, can help you kickstart your search for free with several resources and plenty of guidance. And they may even have a subscription for many of the databases ready for you to use.

Delaware Library Resources 

Delaware residents will be thrilled to learn that libraries throughout the state offer a variety of programs to assist with genealogical research. 

Their comprehensive subject guides cover History & Geography, Language, Social Sciences, World Religions, Philosophy & Psychology, and more, allowing you to get a better understanding of the socioeconomic standing of your ancestors and what life might have been like during their time living on earth.

The Delaware Library offers programming beyond the classic summer reading we all loved as children. Delaware Library’s Museum Pass gives access to Delaware museums throughout the year, which can help individuals explore their own genealogy via a hands-on experience of the rich history of their ancestors.

The most valuable resource the Delaware Library offers, however, would be its librarians as well as its vast collection of books. Nonfiction texts and records are easily accessible by just utilizing the assistance of your trusted librarian.

Preparing To Research At Your Delaware Library

As a former reference librarian, I’ve helped several individuals and groups learn more about their family histories than they ever expected to uncover. These are my top tips for getting the most out of your local library when you first begin your research:

1. Make an appointment with a librarian. 

This piece of advice is, without a doubt, the most important tip to keep in mind before your visit. When you call the library ahead of time and make an appointment, your librarian can plan to devote time to you and your genealogy search. Calling ahead also allows your librarian to prepare by gathering relevant materials to use during your visit and to performing research before the appointment. By booking a public librarian, you’ll get individual guidance from a research professional at absolutely no cost. 

To find a library near you and book an appointment, simply view the Delaware Library Map here. To appeal to personal preferences, the list of Delaware Libraries is also available in a list format.

2. Record what you know.

In order to save time during your search and to locate the most accurate information, you should take notes on what you know about your family’s history. For example, if you have information about your parents and grandparents, write down the full name, approximate birth date, and approximate date of death (if applicable) for each individual.

Any information that you have about where your family members have lived is important to write down as well. Try to be as specific as you can, but don’t worry if you don’t have the exact names of towns or cities. If your grandfather was from New Bern, North Carolina, but you know that he was stationed somewhere in Virginia while he served in the U.S. Army, include that information in your notes as well. 

3. Decide what you want to know.

When you research your genealogy, you are like a miner entering a cave that is rich with gems. You will more than likely discover some unexpected treasures along the way. Even though random information and previously unknown connections are likely to arise during your search, it’s best to start with a plan.

List on paper, or at least decide upon, what you are in search of. It’s very helpful to your librarian if you can list exactly what you want out of your visit.

Even if your specific question isn’t answered, you will doubtlessly encounter new and helpful information along the way. You might even uncover some facts which are even more interesting than the answer to your original question! 

4. Do some preliminary research.

If you are able to do so, it’s a great idea to “visit the library” before you actually go. This means going to your local library’s web page and exploring the online resources.

You can access the Delaware Library’s full catalog as well as its available online resources here.

What Can I Expect From My Librarian?

Your librarian is your genealogical genie. She will introduce you to several tools which will help you with your genealogy heritage quest. Some of these tools, which we will take a brief look at, will be online resources. Others will be physical materials held by the library.

When you meet with your librarian, she can teach you to search for materials in the library by using the library’s online catalog. She will also show you how to access the library’s collection of online materials. When introducing each of these materials to you, she will show you what they are for, how to use them, and help you to use them in the context of your particular search.

Often, a library’s collection of physical genealogical materials is not able to be checked out of the library. In order to access these materials, you usually do not need to have a library card, but you do need to be in the physical library. With regard to digital materials, these resources can usually be accessed by visitors in the library building, even if they do not have a library card.

Signing up for a library card with the Delaware Library is incredibly easy, and is not able to be done online. To register, you need only provide your name, place of residence, and preferred library. You will be prompted to create a PIN associated with your account, and then, you will be registered and able to pick up your card the next time you visit your local library. 

Libraries often have open genealogy events and workshops as well. These programs can be awesome, and we’ll get to them later, but booking one-on-one assistance first will help you to get the most information and training out of your experience.

As I tell friends, family, and strangers alike, libraries are extraordinary places with something for everyone! They truly change lives and I wouldn’t want to imagine a world without them. Exploring your genealogy is a true adventure; when you embark on this mission, you are a detective delving into the unknown factors which made you who you are. When you learn about your ancestors and imagine their lives, you feel like you’re reading a historical fiction novel full of plot twists and new characters.

Get a Delaware Library Card Today!

When you sign up online you gain access right away to all eMedia! Download eBooks, read eMagazines, use online resources for FREE! Then, contact your public library to transfer your online account to a full account.

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