Library Corner: Discovering family history with your library card |

Library Corner: Discovering family history with your library card

Anna Szczepanski
Grand County Library District

Upcoming Grand County Community of Writers Events

All events are free and open to the public.

Sunday, March 11 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Granby Library: Monthly Critique Group

Wednesday, March 14 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Granby Library: Book Packaging and Publishing with Ann Douden and Betsy Armstrong

Wednesday, April 18 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Granby Library: What local media outlets are looking for, a panel discussion

On Aug. 14, 1978 my grandfather, Adrian Winkel, was in a plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Guam. At the time he was serving as the high commissioner of the United States trust territories for the Northern Marianas Islands. He was traveling on a Navy plane when one of the two engines failed. Two of the people on board were killed in the crash. I have read his personal account of the harrowing experience, but since I was only a toddler at the time, I have no memory of the event. My grandfather has since died, so I can no longer hear first-hand about what happened that day.

Thanks to MyHeritage, a new family history site available with a Grand County library card, I can read the accounts of the crash printed in the Toledo Blade, the Youngstown Vindicator, and the Indiana Times-Union. Looking at an old piece of newsprint, albeit a digital version, transports you back in time and brings history to life. The headlines read “Navy Plane Crashed Near Guam” and “30 Survive Plane Crash Near Guam,” and I can imagine picking up a paper in 1978 and wanting to know more. Below the story the advertisements for a $22 cassette tape recorder—cutting-edge technology at the time—pique my interest as well. Newspapers capture moments in time.

MyHeritage is a new tool that Grand County Library District added in 2018. In addition to newspaper articles, the database aggregates census records with more than 8 billion historical records from around the world, including birth death, marriage, census, immigration, military, and gravestone photos. Documents go back to the 1700s.

For some people, researching the family tree is a passion; for others it is a casual interest. MyHeritage has tools that work for both: the easy search interface can be as simple or complex as the user: enter just a name or search a specific region using a map. Search by category or view family trees built by others. MyHeritage is easy to use, and the results may surprise you.

There is a growing trend of ancestry sites that collect a DNA sample and require fees. While the results from such services are very rich, the lack of privacy can be alarming. Since library card users access MyHeritage with a library card, it is completely anonymous and no personal information is captured. So you can do the searching without any information being collected about you or your search history.

To access MyHeritage, go to and click on “Ebooks and Learning Tools.” Scroll down to the “MyHeritage –Library Edition” link and start discovering new things about your family history. MyHeritage is available from home with a library card, or on any computer at our five Grand County Library Branches.

I knew that my grandfather was in a plane crash, but there are many other things I have found out about him in MyHeritage: what he looked like in his freshman yearbook, a photo of him as a young history teacher the year my father was born, and the picture of his gravestone, which I have visited many times.

Who do you want to find on MyHeritage? Start searching today.

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