Looking up your ancestors can be costly without the help of Johnson County Public Library. Using a home computer to do research will result in most genealogy sites defaulting to “sign up for a free ‘trial’ period.” “Join!” They say. If you are like me, most of these search engine purchases are too expensive for my budget.

Do you have to pay big dollars? No! Ancestry.com Library edition will allow you to access this popular database for free, while visiting the library. No library card? No problem! Ask for a guest pass from the circulation desk.

My favorite genealogy site at the moment is INSPIRE. This database can be accessed from a home computer. INSPIRE allows you to look up data from hundreds of historic newspapers. While doing my own genealogy, I searched several newspapers in the vicinity where my grandmother taught school at the turn of the 21st century. Within seconds of typing her name, clippings appeared from different newspapers. Growing up, I remember pictures of my grandmother circa 1912, standing behind rows of school children lined up for picture day. It gave me such a feeling of excitement to find where these turn of the century small schoolhouses were located.

Ancestry.com Library edition has archives of yearbooks and city directories. I wanted to see my grandmother’s yearbook from 1915. I knew the college my grandmother attended so I followed the instructions, typed in her name, the name of college and approximate year I was interested in looking up. I found several listings for her. I was able to click on the image provided in the search and look at the page on which she was mentioned. From this page, I was able to scroll through the rest of the yearbook, even using the index in the back to locate other pages in the yearbook where she was mentioned.

Johnson County Public Library’s website pageafterpage.org offers Heritage Quest, which allows you access to all U.S. census records from 1790-1930, and more than 25,000 local histories and family genealogies. You can use Indiana Digital Archives (“Family Tree Magazine” named this website “Best State Website” in 2010) to access Indiana’s cultural heritage, military records and other helpful genealogy records. The Indiana History Online database provides you with state and regional histories, and a wide range of primary documents.

Look for the Research and Learn tab on JCPL’s website and use it to make your journey to the past affordable. Simply by using your library card or a guest pass, you can avoid paying for expensive research websites. Browse safely and with ease. You too can find pieces of personal family history. Whether you are doing a serious search or just for fun, I encourage you to explore your own family history!


Pam is the assistant to both the Historical Room and Marketing and Communications Department. She believes history connects the past and the present to give us a feeling of being at home. There are places and activities right here in Johnson County that help us to step back in time for relaxed, off the grid adventures.

Join the conversation at pam@jcplin.org.

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