Preparing for FGS 2018: Researching at Allen County Public Library

Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega introduces some of the remarkable genealogy resources available at The Genealogy Center, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana, host to this year’s FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) conference. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

Are you going to the FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) conference this month in Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 22-25? Lucky you! Fort Wayne is the home of one of the largest genealogy libraries in the United States, The Genealogy Center (Allen County Public Library). Time at a major genealogy library means the potential to find information on your ancestors that is not available online.

Photo: outside the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Photo: outside the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Credit: Yvette Arts.

So how are you preparing for that trip? What will you do once you arrive? Here are a few suggestions as we get closer to the conference.

The Genealogy Center

The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library is one of those bucket list items family historians are eager to check off. It’s no wonder, since The Center has:

“an extensive collection of 350,000 printed volumes and more than 513,000 items on microfilm and microfiche… and a collection in excess of 55,000 volumes of compiled genealogies…”

Allen County Public Library is also the home of PERSI (the Periodical Source Index) and the 10,000 magazines and journals that make up that index. Consider searching PERSI from home or a Family History Center (PERSI is available on Findmypast) and then making copies of relevant articles during your visit.

To learn more about the extensive collections of The Genealogy Center, see their online brochure. One last thing: don’t assume their collection is just for Indiana ancestors. They have collections spanning the United States and the world, including Canada, Germany, and Mexico.

Photo: The Genealogy Center, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Photo: The Genealogy Center, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Credit: Luana Darby.

What to Do First?

It’s always a good idea to start working on your research from home before you arrive at a repository. Planning is key and lucky for us The Genealogy Center has digitized items, finding aids, and databases that can be accessed from home.

Researching is made easier with finding aids. Finding aids tell you more about a specific collection. The Genealogy Center’s finding aids can be found on their website, on the top toolbar by clicking Pathfinders and then Guides. These online finding aid guides include:

  • Adoption
  • Census
  • Eastern European
  • English & Welsh
  • French-Canadian
  • German
  • Heraldry
  • Irish
  • Modern Research
  • Newspapers
  • Religious Congregations
  • Scottish
  • Swiss

Don’t forget to look at the other Pathfinders, including the State and Subjects Snapshots which lists helpful books for your research by state. Scroll down the Snapshots pages to find additional Snapshots including International and Subject based.

Other places to explore on The Genealogy Center website include the Online Databases and the Online Library Catalog.

In addition to what you can find on The Genealogy Center website, the library has digitized materials available on the Internet Archive website and on the FamilySearch Books collection. Internet Archive’s Genealogy collection currently houses over 137,000 digitized items from Allen County Public Library and other libraries. Internet Archive also holds some of Allen County’s Microfilm collection which includes digitized city directories. Make sure to exhaust everything online first so that your trip to The Genealogy Center can focus on items that can’t be found elsewhere.


This talk of preparation and what can be done from home leads me to the topic of prioritizing. You don’t have to complete all this online research in the short time between now and the conference. But knowing what’s online means that you can concentrate on materials that can only be found at the library. For example, you may want to peruse the catalog and decide which books you will want to take a look at during your trip. Books like family histories and other reference items are not available through interlibrary loan, so it’s important to take a look at them when you have the chance. The same is true for microfilm that is only available at The Genealogy Center.


The librarians at The Genealogy Center are there to help. They know their collection so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make sure to check out the website tab Services and the Tours and Orientation links to learn more about researching at the library before you leave home.

Have a great time at FGS 2018 and may your research time break down a few brick walls!

Note: Special thanks to Luana Wentz Darby, AG; Yvette Arts; and Carol A. Bowen Stevens for providing information for this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.