Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Begin your family research at the library

Need help getting started finding your ancestors? The Warrenton Library's Virginiana Room houses a number of state and local resources, and reference staff is available to assist you in person, on the phone or by e-mail. The library also hosts occasional classes and genealogy one-on-one sessions, so be sure to check our program offerings.

Here are some tips to get you started with your family tree:
  • Start with yourself and work backwards in time; list your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.
  • Consult censuses and vital records. The United States Census records are made available after a 72-year privacy period. Many of these records and more can be found using online resources such as Ancestry Library Edition (library database available at all locations); HeritageQuest (available in the library and from home using your library card) and (website). For more online resources and recommended websites, see our Local History & Genealogy page.
  • Always try to find original records such as marriage certificates, wills, deeds, military records and passenger lists to verify the facts you find. When you do find something, make a copy and note the source; you may need to return to that source later, or you may share your research with other family members.
  • As not everything is on the Internet, you will probably need to look at records on microfilm or paper. Court records are particularly useful. Contact public libraries, genealogical societies or county courthouses in areas where your ancestors lived -- they may have unique tools such as obituary and newspaper indexes, local histories, maps and manuscript collections and clipping files. Virginia and Fauquier County-specific resources are housed in the Warrenton Library's Virginiana Room. Reference staff at the library may also be able to obtain some of these materials for you through interlibrary loan
  • Learn about the times and places your ancestors were living. Historical newspapers can be found on microfilm and in some cases, online. Local libraries and historical societies often index these papers. For example, the library has the Fauquier Democrat/Times-Democrat on microfilm from 1907-present, and staff and volunteers maintain an online index of life events (birth, marriage, death, etc.). The library also subscribes to ProQuest's Historical Washington Post: 1877-1993.
Best of luck on your family research!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Learn computer basics, job skills

Last Friday, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the department's new website,, that provides libraries, community colleges, schools and workforce training centers a variety of resources and tools for teaching computer and Internet skills, including:

Learn the Basics - Access tutorials on using Google Documents, MS Office, text messaging, setting up virus protection and more.

Learn Job Skills - Get help finding a career, build a resume and connect with career resource centers in your region.

If you have a relative or friend who needs help with his/her computer skills, or your job requires you to teach people how to use technology, these online tutorials can help make the job easier.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Databases vs. websites

What is the difference between a database and a website?
Websites can be created by anyone and can contain anything, regardless of accuracy. Databases, on the other hand, are an online subscription (sometimes referred to as "premium") version of reference books, magazine articles, journal articles, data, audiobooks and videos that you won't find with a search engine like Google or Bing. The library subscribes to these databases either individually or through Find It Virginia. You can access these databases in the library (ask reference staff for assistance) or through our website with your library card number (10 digit number on the back of your card).

This is not to say there aren't a lot of informative, educational websites out there. Library reference staff has put together a list of recommended websites organized by subject/category, so be sure to bookmark/refer to these as well as you do your research.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Watch documentaries online for free

SnagFilms provides free online access to documentary films from established filmmakers as well as first-time documentary producers. Films are streamed, meaning there is no software installation or downloading required. All you need is a decent broadband connection. You can browse documentaries by topic, by channel (although I find the channel names somewhat vague), or check What's Hot or the A-Z list. There's also a search, if you know the name of the film you're looking for.

SnagFilms also has a division, SnagLearning, which contains educational videos for teaching and learning. The educational videos and documentaries are organized by grade level and classroom subject. There are also channels that include content from National Geographic and PBS. Helpful "learning questions," and in some cases, lesson plans, are included along with the films/video content.

So how 'bout taking a break from junk food t.v. and watch something a bit more nourishing for the mind and soul?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrates the achievements of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States. Comprising many ethnic groups, including Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, and peoples of more than 20 other ethnicities, Asian Americans enrich the national landscape with their respective histories, traditions and cultural heritage. To learn more, check out these online resources:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Get library notices sent to your mobile phone

Did you know that the library can send you notices (courtesy, hold pickup, etc.) to your mobile phone?
  1. Log in to your account
  2. Click on Update Contact Information
  3. Select to receive your notices by e-mail
  4. In the E-Mail Address field, enter your e-mail address (if one is not currently listed), followed by a comma (,) and NO SPACES and then your cell phone number@cell phone carrier...

No hyphens/dashes should be included and there is no need for a “1” to be included at the beginning of the number – limit to 10 digits.
*Here are the e-mail addresses for the most popular cellular phone carriers, where phonenumber = your 10-digit mobile phone number:
  • AT&T:
  • Cingular:
  • Nextel:
  • Sprint:
  • T-Mobile:
  • Verizon:
  • Virgin Mobile:
An extensive list of cell phone carrier e-mail addresses can be found at You may also call your local library for assistance updating your account.

Things to keep in mind when opting to receive text notices:

Charges may be incurred from your cellular provider for text messaging. Patrons are encouraged to check the terms of their contract for details on charges related to receiving text messages.

Courtesy notices are sent out (automatically) daily at 8 AM EST. “Preferred Search” notices are sent out (automatically) on Sundays at 12 PM EST. All other notices (hold pickup, overdues, etc.) are generated by staff when the library is open and times will vary.

SMS/Text notices are limited to approximately 140 characters. So for a hold pickup notification, for example, you may only get the part of the message that you have a hold to pickup. In some rare cases, your provider may send multiple text messages for each notice. For additional details, such as what the title/author is, you’ll need to check your e-mail.

While e-mail is not required, patrons are strongly encouraged to also have their e-mail address in their record. Because library notices include more information than will fit in a standard text message, patrons will want to check their emailed notices for complete/additional information.

If you have Bulk SMS set to "Disable" on your phone, library notices will likely fail. Some phones may come this way by default; check with your service provider and make any changes before attempting to sign up.

As with e-mail notices, text notices will be generated from the following e-mail addresses:

Jewish-American Heritage Month

May is Jewish-American Heritage Month. Explore Jewish-American history, culture and society with these online resources:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

e-Resource of the Month: Testing & Education Resource Center

With the SATs just around the corner (May 7 and June 8), what better resource to spotlight than the Testing & Education Resource Center (TERC).

In addition to online practice tests covering critical reading, math and writing and test prep e-books such as Peterson's Ultimate SAT Tool Kit, TERC includes:

  • A college search tool with over 4,200 4- and 2-year colleges;
  • An extensive databasse of accredited schools and programs that offer distance learning options;
  • An undergraduate nursing programs search;
For high school students not ready or interested in pursuing college/university, TERC also includes a Career/VoTech Search. Students can explore a specific vocation or trade, search for more than 36,000 non-degree certificate, diploma, and licensing programs offered by more than 4,300 trade and technical schools and colleges.

For more resources for the college-bound, visit the library's website (Teens: For the College-Bound).