25 October 2012

Library Vertical Files: an overlooked resource

In the early days of my interest in family history, searching for a document left by Ezekiel Stone Wiggins, I made a significant breakthrough by finding a vertical file at a New Brunswick public library.

Vertical files are folders containing material grouped by subject. If you're looking for information of significance for the local community, and sometimes beyond, a quick check of the local library's holdings of vertical files may be productive. They are rarely comprehensive, usually made up of clippings from newspapers and magazines, but you may find other material including, as I did with Wiggins, a several page unpublished manuscript.

Unfortunately, budget constraints mean that fewer libraries now compile vertical files but most still maintain their legacy collection. They are little publicized.

Even if your ancestor was not sufficiently prominent to merit a vertical file for him or herself they may have played a part in a company or event documented in such a file. The reference librarian in the community where an ancestor lived can be your best friend in searching out these resources.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Verticalo files are a marvel. I discovered files in the Hamilton Public Library special collections. Two fat files stuffed with letters from G-G- Grandfather to his sons in SW Ontario - letters from sons seeking their fortunes in Saskatchewan, even a letter from a Mayo ancestor written to his wife from the Battle of Hernani, Spain, 1837. A letter from a g-g uncle describing being lost in a winter storm on the prairies. (He and his brother and others did survive.)Vertical files, especially to be found in local libraries, are gems.

judith madore