Free guide to the ACPL

Nirvana in Indiana

There are a handful of genealogical meccas in the United States that are simply not to be missed.

The National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The Library of Congress.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

And the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library.

No, The Legal Genealogist hasn’t lost it this morning. Yeah, I really listed a midwestern county library in my top four research meccas. And yeah, it really belongs there.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of using the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, you’ve missed a genealogical treat. You owe yourself a trip — and, by the way, when better than in combination with the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Fort Wayne on August 21-24, 2013, where the lineup of speakers includes (just sayin’) The Legal Genealogist?

If past experience is any guide, the library will have extended hours during the conference. It will be a hubbub of research activity. It will have special events and tours to help you get the most out of its resources.

But why wait?

Go early. Stay late. Research at Fort Wayne online.

And do it all with the help of a wonderful new free online guide, Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist’s Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center,1 by my friend and Indiana genealogist Harold Henderson, CG. [UPDATE: To download, please go to Harold's blog post about the guide and use the download link in the text there.]

This 26-page free PDF guide will take you through everything you need to know about researching at the Allen County Public Library and the astounding resources of its Genealogy Center — its vast collection of city directories, newspapers, books, periodicals, microfilm, and more.

Harold’s reason for writing the guide was his recognition that “this is not a normal library. It’s big, it contains many unexpected resources on and off line,” and, despite many orientation materials from the library itself, “nothing quite gives the whole picture.”2 And so he set out to fill the gap.

And he succeeds very well indeed.

First, in a Before You Go section, he provides a guide to those online orientation materials from the library, its About Us brochure and its blog, for example. Each item he references is hotlinked to its location online.

Then comes what I personally consider the heart of this guide: an in-depth look at the six (yeah, six) catalogs or finding aids to the different elements of the Allen County Public Library Collections: “one catalog for books, another for periodicals, another for microtexts (divided into several parts), another for microfilmed newspapers, another for digitized newspapers, and another for databases.”3

One by one the guide takes you through each catalog, how to use it, even what it looks like, and why you might want to use that one instead of or in combination with another. Because these are all online and so can all be used at home, this know-before-you-go information can save a ton of time when you get to the library — and may well lead you to information available online without the trip.

There’s a When You Arrive section, including maps and a floor plan, and even a section entitled A Few Goodies You Might Miss if You Didn’t Know About Them.

It’s obviously a labor of love, it’s a great guide for any genealogist, and — did I mention this — it’s free to download: Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist’s Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

Kudos to Harold for sharing his knowledge of this wonderful library with all of us.

See you in Fort Wayne!


  1. Harold Henderson, Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist’s Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center (La Porte, IN: author, April 2013;
  2. Harold Henderson, “Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist’s Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center,Midwestern Microhistory, posted 31 Mar 2013 ( : accessed 1 Apr 2013).
  3. Henderson, Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne, PDF at 4.
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14 Responses to Free guide to the ACPL

  1. Judy — your guess about extended hours at the Genealogy Center during the FGS conference was spot on. There will be extended hours Wednesday through Saturday. Specific details are on the FGS Conference site:

  2. Sarah says:

    OMG! A *Midwestern* library. How quaint!

    It’s really hard to forgive such Eastern-chauvinistic, yet strangely antediluvian, thinking.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Sarah, no disrespect intended to the midwest. Had the ACPL been located in the south, I’d have said “southern” — in the mid-Atlantic, I’d have said that. What I meant is local, regional, not “dissing” any particular locality or region.

  3. Sarah says:

    The disrespect is clearly there. You didn’t just describe the library as “midwestern” (usually capitalized). You suggested that you had lost it by recommending a Midwestern library, thus dissing the Midwest.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I understand that you read it that way, and I apologize for my inept wordsmithing, because it was not intended that way.

  4. Venice says:

    Fort Wayne is two hours away from me. I’ve been by the city, heard about the library, but never visited. I’ll have to consider it – both for the conference and for other family research. We’ll see if I can work it in.

  5. Thank you for the thorough review, Judy! We’re agreed on the most important piece of the booklet.

    As to being dissed, no worries. I’m a Midwesterner and when I woke up to genealogy, frankly I too was surprised to learn that I was living within 2 hours of such a great genealogy library . . . so well have we internalized bicoastal thinking ;-)

    I am taking corrections, clarifications, and additions. On page 11 I misstated the normal Sunday hours during the non-summer time; they are 12-5 and not 1-5. As time and change roll on there will probably need to be new editions; in between times I will aim to post corrections, changes, etc. at


  6. Debi Austen says:

    We were in the area a few years ago and, thankfully, someone directed us there as I had no idea it even existed. Unfortunately, we were only able to spend about 2 hours there but I loved every minute of it!

    I don’t think the link to the online guide is working – when I clicked on it I got File Not Found – Error 404

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the heads up on the link, Debi. I think it’s fixed now!

      • Anna O Richter says:

        Unfortunately, no, it’s not fixed. I’m getting nothing but Error 404.

        Someone just sent me a link to your blog-this is my first time here. What a great site! Thank you!

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          Well, drat. This seems to be browser-dependent. Here’s the workaround: drop down to footnote 2 at the bottom here. Click on that link, which will take you to Harold’s own blog where he announced this new work. The link he had there will work for sure!

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