Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Sweden Research in Delaware

Earlier this week I spent two days in Delaware researching my ancestors who came to New Sweden in the 17th Century. Most of my time was at the Delaware Public Archives in Dover. As you are probably aware there is a difference between an archive and a library. An archive primarily contains the official records that are created by an organization as a by product of its doing business. A library is primarily a collection of documents that were created elsewhere but were collected to meet the needs of a particular clientèle. Of course there are some entities that blur the line or actually function as both. Another difference is that since archives contain the original copy of a document, often only pencils (not ball point pens) are allowed in the work areas where documents are viewed.

At the Archives I was able to get copies of the wills and other probate documents for several of my ancestors. The Archives were lightly used, at least on the days I was there, and the staff had time to be very helpful. I was given an orientation when I first arrived that saved me a lot of time later. I didn't retain everything I was told but I remembered enough to go back to the staff members later and ask for some specific details to be repeated.

Most research at this Archive is conducted by viewing microfilm. There were many film viewing stations and three or four reader/printers to make copies. One of the reader/printers was connected to a computer that allowed the film image to be scanned and stored on a flash drive. I prefer this method of saving copies of documents. I can print the document later if I choose. I can also magnify it on my computer screen to make it easier to decipher.

After the Archives closed at 4:15 I decided to take a 50 mile drive into Wilmington to see what the Public Library there might have. The library has a Delaware Room but the librarian on duty told me my time might be better spent a few blocks away at the Delaware Historical Society Library. Fortunately for me I was there on the one night of the week that the library was open until 9:00 PM. This library clearly had more published books of interest to those researching Delaware ancestors than any other I visited. So if you have ancestors who lived in the Delaware area, I recommend you visit the Archives and the Historical Society Library.

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