Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Library subscription databases - HeritageQuest

Why spend money on expensive genealogy databases when the library already provides access?  Two of the most heavily used databases we subscribe to are HeritageQuest and Ancestry.com.  Each have their own strengths and weaknesses but together, they provide quality resources for any genealogist.  (I'm leaving the primary discussion of Ancestry.com for a future posting.)

One of the greatest features of using HeritageQuest (yes, it really is one word) is its availability to patrons for home use, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It's available whenever you are.  While away the night performing searches if you can't sleep or maybe you're stuck inside during inclement weather, it's available for you to use!  It must be accessed through our website with your library card number. (Don't have a library card? Find out how to get one here.)  Links to access HeritageQuest are available on the databases webpage and the genealogy webpage.  Once logged in, you have access to:
  • Census records - images are available of all published censuses but not all are searchable. 1830, 1840, and 1850 censuses and the majority of the 1930 census are NOT indexed for searching but are available for browsing.
  • Revolutionary War pension records - title says it all!
  • Freedman's Bank - this was set up after the Civil War for African-Americans.
  • Book Search - keyword searchable.  Most are items no longer under copyright and are now in the public domain.
  • PERSI - (PERiodical Search Index) - Index of articles available from many sources.  The Butler County Genealogical Society's publication, Area Footprints, is indexed here!!
  • U.S. Serial Set - The United States Congressional Serial Set, commonly referred to as the Serial Set, began publication with the 15th Congress, 1st Session (1817). Includes Private Relief Actions, Memorials, and Petitions. The collection also includes content from the American State Papers, the predecessor to the Serial Set. The documents in the collection are from the years 1789-1969. (Okay, I had to do some research on that one!!)
Depending on your point of view, the following can be a weakness or a strength: These databases are tightly focused, eliminating hundreds of extraneous "hits" you might find when using Ancestry.com which is more all-encompassing, so you lose the possibility of that lucky hit that shatters the brickwall you keep running into but aren't overwhelmed with results.

To me, the largest weakness of HeritageQuest is the lack of indexing availabe for four of the censuses, especially the 1850 (the first every-name census) and the 1930 census (the most recent release to date, but not for long!).  This is where Ancestry.com clearly comes out ahead.
Another area that I feel conflicted about in using HeritageQuest for census research is its "exact" search only feature.  It will only search for exactly what you put into the search box.  If you mistype something, if there are possibly alternate spellings, or if the transcriber made a mistake due to poor image quality, you may come up empty handed.  Ancestry.com can be configured to do exact searches only or "fuzzy" searches, therefore giving you alternate leads. But if you're convinced someone is located in a specific state and/or county, HeritageQuest is great for given-name searches. 

For example, you can search all the residents of Butler County Missouri in the 1870 Census with the name "George". There are 11,421 in Missouri but only 36 in Butler County.  It's a great alternative for searching misspelled surnames. Searching for "George" in our example reveals how this can help.  There are two George's with similar surnames, PEDIGO and PETIGO.  They may or may not be related but searching with only an exact search would have eliminated one (or both if you consider neither spelling correct).
If you have any questions or problems accessing HeritageQuest, please give us a call at 573-686-8639 or stop in to see us and we'll help you get connected to those relatives of long ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment