Sunday, May 27, 2012

Those Book Places - Beatrice Public Library

Beatrice Public Library
Beatrice, Nebraska
While in Beatrice, Nebraska over the weekend to visit the Homestead National Monument of America, there were some other places I wanted to visit during this day trip.

On the top of the list was the Beatrice Public Library. The main reason is because this library houses the book collection of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society.

Saturday's visit did not have a research plan. I just wanted to stop in and browse through the collection so that I would know the lay of the land for a future research day.

I was thrilled with what I found here! A very helpful librarian directed me to the Heritage Room, the Nebraska State Genealogical Society collection as well as the other genealogy reference books offered by the library.

For matters of full disclosure, this is where I have to admit that over the past decade, the majority of my genealogy research has been done online. As much as I love libraries, I've managed to remain quite busy just with my online resources and sorting and scanning the documents in my family archive. I've never been to a major library or archive before, so in my limited experience, I was very pleased with what greeted me!

A portion of the collection of
the Nebraska State Genealogical Society
I've always said that I am quite fortunate that my ancestors settled and lived in about a 200 mile radius of where I live. Local resources are bountiful. In the NSGS collection, I found county histories, centennial history books, city directories from what appears to be every county in Nebraska. There's a variety of little gems, family histories, indexes and resources I would never have thought about before.

Heritage Room
Climate Controlled with a glass enclosed rare books section

My first stop was to visit the Heritage Room, which is a climate controlled environment. If you love that smell of an old bookstore (or perhaps an area of your own personal library!), you'll get the adrenalin rush as you walk in. The room is dark and there are four computers and a microfilm reader and microfilm reels. The computers were being used by fellows watching You Tube videos and surfing the net. I felt like I was the outsider here, actually looking through some of the books!

My father's grandparents lived in Beatrice in the 1930s and 1940s. I had discovered the addresses of their residences in city directories on, but thought I would look through the city directories. My browsing turned up a third address in Beatrice where my great grandmother had lived!

I spent the rest of my time looking through the NSGS collection. My eyes popped when I saw a thick book with "Amherst" on the binding. Anytime I come across anything relating to Amherst, I have to take a look because my friend and fellow geneablogger, Jenna Mills (Desperately Seeking Surnames) has ancestors who lived there. I've been following her stories about tracking down Mary Evingham for a couple years now. As I looked through the book, I sent Jenna a message on Facebook to get some specifics on names and dates. She responded within a couple minutes and I was on the amazing race through this book! Ah! I found not only references but a lengthy bio of her Thomas N. Smith. I took some quick photos and emailed them off to Jenna.

Now - if you'd told me a couple months ago that I'd be using an iPhone for library research, I'm not sure I would have thought that possible. So Jenna and I messaged and emailed back and forth with each of my new discoveries on her family. I was every bit as excited as if I had been researching my own family. Now, I've got to convince her to make a research trip to Nebraska one of these days!

After lunch, I drove around Beatrice to the addresses where my great grandmother lived. The first was a house which could have been there for 70 years. The next address turned out to be a vacant lot. The third address is that of a Baptist Church. So that means I need to dig deeper to find out how long the church has been at that address and what was located there before.

I returned to the library to do some browsing in Lancaster, Cass and Nuckolls county books. My only "hit" was a photograph of a first cousin, once removed and he was barely visible in this photo of about 50 men.

I used the online card catalog in the library to search resources in the collection. Even as tech savvy as I am, I couldn't find a way to click "back" to go back to my search results after I located a book in the catalog. So I again turned to my iPhone and searched the catalog from there.

Now that I know the lay of the land, I will do some more searching of the online catalog and make a list of the books I want to look at on my next visit. I will definitely have a much better defined task list ready for my next day trip.

Overall, I thought the library was very inviting, comfortable and the staff quite helpful. Although, I think that ALL libraries need to stop shelving books within 12 inches of the floor. Eyes that are six decades old with bifocal correction just can't read those Dewey Decimal numbers at that angle! And the knees don't bend as well as they used to!

As Arnold said, "I'll be back!"

Beatrice Public Library
100 N. 16th Street
Beatrice, Nebraska

Search the catalog and get hours of operation here


  1. I've driven by, but haven't stopped. Thanks for sharing! ;-)

  2. Thanks, Dr. Bill! Next time you're in the area, check it out!