Friday, May 17, 2013

Van Buren District Library

If you believe the Van Buren District Library (VBDL) only has records relating to Van Buren county, Michigan then you are in for a treat. If you have ancestors who lived in southwest Michigan then the VBDL may have something of interest to you.

I have been meaning to mention the Van Buren District Library for quite some time. As someone who no longer lives in the area I am very pleased with the amount of information they have made available through their website.

Webster Memorial Library in Decatur is where the local history collection (LHC) of the VBDL is housed. The LHC is not available to researchers during all of the library's hours so you should check with the library before visiting to confirm hours of access. It is also good to know that the collections of the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society for Southwest Michigan are also located here (their holdings deserve another post). Be aware that some items are located in storage so this is yet another reason to call in advance of your visit if there is a particular item you know you wish to examine.

The VBDL collection contains many types of records including area newspapers (most of them from Van Buren county, but not exclusively), government records for Van Buren and adjacent counties, plat books, various military resources, city directories, photographs, the Southwest Michigan obituary index (located in the VBDL, but maintained by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society) and much more. The VBDL website will get you well on your way in preparing for a visit. The site also lists their extensive collection of CDs with everything from local records to immigration records.

Probably the place to begin once you arrive at the library is with the Local History Master Index (unfortunately, only available at the library). Many smaller indexes have been included therein. You can search by name or subject. When the results come up they include the call number and page number of the item so it can then be readily located.

One of their 3 microfilm readers is a digital scanner allowing you to save copies to your flashdrive.

I highly recommend checking their website to familiarize yourself with their collection. Even if you are unable to visit in person you can still receive some information via snail mail. For example, copies of items in the Southwest Michigan obituary index can be requested from the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society.

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