Libraries are great resources for researching your heritage. Believe it or not, not everything is online; thus due diligence at a library may pay great dividends in researching your heritage.
Library of Congress
We have the Library of Congress, likely the most prestigious sets of historical collections in the world. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the Family History Library, one of the most comprehensive genealogical research facility located in Salt Lake City. Their members have traveled the world to collect birth, marriage, and death records of millions of individuals.
After traveling to my grandparents' small town in Sicily, wasting much of my time, and finding very little information, I learned that the Mormans had been there and had collected all the generalogical records for the town on microfiche. Though the library in Salt Lake City is open to the public free of charge, you may rent microfiche copies from most local LDS churches. Researching birth, marriage, and death records on microfiche is timecomsuming and exhausting, especially if you are not familiar with the language or the handwriting. The person who recorded the records during my grandparents' time had very unusual, tall and slender, handwriting which was difficult to decipher.
Genealogy Collection at the Orange County [FL] Library System
Our local libraries are also a great source for researching our heritage. Many larger public libraries have the own genealogical departments with local records dating back may years.
Even if a local library doesn't have a section specific to genealogy, they may have unexpected resources which would be helpful in your search.
Since I was a teenager, I've known that our surname was changed sometime in the 1920s or '30s; and there seemed to be as many reasons for this change as I had relatives. All I knew for sure was that my uncle in Tampa and his cousin in New York had legally changed our surname from Scozzari to Adamo. For example, my dad was born Fillippo Scozzari and his name was changed to Philip Scozzari Adamo. Perhaps, I thought, if I tracked the year the name was officially change; I could determine why the name was changed.
About 15 years ago, after someone told me that the library had old phonebooks, I decided to visit the Tampa Library while we were there. Though they now have a genealogy department, I'm not sure if they had a specific department at the time. Regardless, the library had phonebooks (actually address books) dating back to 1902, a year after my dad was born. Interestingly, I found only the name Scozzari prior to 1920 and no Adamo in the directory. In 1920, I found only the Adamo name and no Scozzari names. Interestingly, the directory listed the occupations of the residents. Thus in 1919, my grandfather, Giuseppe Scozzari, was listed as a cigar maker, as were most Sicilians in Tampa. My uncle, in 1920 was listed as a physician which was the year he opened his practice. Though I still don't have a clear reason for the change, at least I now knew when our family name was changed.
What I found more interesting was my uncle's cousin, Lily Scozzari was listed in 1919, but she was not listed, either as a Scozzari or an Adamo in 1920. Also, even more curious was that my grandparents' siblings, prior to 1920, were listed as Scozzara, not Scozzari. They also were not listed as Adamo, Scozzari or Scozzara in 1920.
As is often the case, once we find answers to our curious questions, we now have more questions. Why the different spellings? Why my great-aunt Lily or my grandparents' siblings were not listed after 1919? Questions which may forever go unanswered because of the passage of time and the deaths of our loved ones.
So, don't regret not asking your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles about their stories. For example, how did they meet each other? Where did they marry? Were they separated during WWII and how did they cope? What was it like when they were growing up? My dad started working in the cigar factories and began smoking cigars at a ripe young age of only 9. Later, he worked for the mob selling bolita (similar to today's lottery) and hauling booze to the Tampa Bay area during prohibition. Yet, I have no idea how her turned around, went to college and received a civil engineering degree. My mom lost her father when she was 7 and her mother when she was 10. The 4 siblings were separated and raised in different areas. Oh, how I would like to know how my mom was able to cope with her losses. The same with my aunt and my uncles. How and when did they get together again? Our daughter had difficulties growing up. Perhaps if I knew how my mom handled her difficulties, I could have prevented our daughter from having her own difficulties.
What are your stories you can share with your children, grandchildren, and your future descendant? Stories that could help them cope with their own struggles.
You can submit your stories at www.EmbraceOurHeritage.org. We will add them to your part of our family tree. And for a low monthly or a discounted annual fee, we will edit and proof your stories and combine them with other stories submitted by others.
In the meantime, visit your local library or your local LDS church.