This library/archives is a research center for Pennsylvania Mennonite and Amish history, genealogy, and theology. It also holds a significant collection of historical/genealogical materials pertaining to southeastern Pennsylvania with a special focus on Lancaster County. The Society is a nonprofit, educational organization and is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of books, papers, and artifacts related to the Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage.
Nonmembers of the Society pay a $5.00 per day fee to use the library, but students may use the facilities free of charge. Most genealogies and local histories are shelved in the reading room, where researchers have access to open shelves. Additional books, maps, and archival items are housed in adjacent, limited-access areas, which require staff assistance for retrieval. Books are cataloged according to the Library of Congress classification system. Wi-Fi and public computers with Internet access, including Ancestry.com, are available in the reading room. Microform readers, a reader-printer, and photocopier/printer are available for use.
Tips for Beginning Genealogy
Remember these three elements:
- Start simple: Talk to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins about family birth dates, death dates, marriages, etc. Also ask them about more personal matters, such as what grandparents were like or what life was like when they were young.
- Find research that has already been done related to your family: books, periodical articles, online resources, genealogical card file at Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, etc.
- Use other resources at libraries or online: census, church records, cemetery records, diaries, obituaries, etc.
- Document, document, document. Keep track of what you find so that you can refer to your sources at a later time.
- This can include notes, photocopies, photographs, audio, and video. Be sure to record what family members tell you—notes, oral history interviews, etc.
- Your recorded notes, photocopies, etc. will accumulate and it becomes important to organize these in some systematic fashion. Different people use different organizational schemes, such as file folders, notebooks, computer files, cards, etc. Find something that works for you.
- In addition to organizing your research materials, it is necessary to organize all of that family history information to make it usable for yourself and others. Again, there are different approaches that may be employed, such as family history charts or computer programs.
These three elements are not exactly sequential steps. To a certain extent the research, recording, and organizing is happening simultaneously. The end product of all of this could include a book, scrapbook, an audio-visual presentation, a website or page, etc.