For family history enthusiasts, it’s now been one full year since the subscription genealogy database Heritage Quest updated its search features to more closely match those of industry leader Ancestry.com.  Alamance County Public Libraries subscribes to both, but many library patrons have a special fondness for Heritage Quest since it may be searched from home by entering a library card number.

Although federal census records are the items most often viewed on Heritage Quest, my personal favorite is the library of scanned family history and local history books that may be read online using Heritage Quest.  It’s like having access to your own personal bookshelf of American history books about various areas of the United States.  Many are books published prior to 1923 that no longer fall within the restrictions of copyright law.

Some examples of titles on Heritage Quest that may be of local interest include:

“The History of Alamance” by Sallie Walker Stockard.  This was the first full length history of our county around 1900 by a local historian whose main claim to fame was being the first female to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1898.

“Confederate Memoirs: Alamance County Troops of the War Between the States” is a troop roster of all the local residents who served the Confederacy in the Civil War including their Regiments and dates of service.  It was compiled by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

“A Brief History of Alamance County, North Carolina with Sketches of the Whitesell Family and the Huffman Family” by William Thornton Whitsett.  This is a thin pamphlet on the county’s early history written in the 1920s by the boarding school headmaster and amateur genealogist who is the namesake of the community of Whitsett in eastern Guilford County.

Another feature of the Heritage Quest database that has wide appeal is the ability to view old city directory information via Heritage Quest.  The Burlington and Graham, NC city directory is available on Heritage Quest between the years 1920 and 1960 with a frequency of about every other year.

Library patrons who search the city directory via Heritage Quest may either use the search function to browse for personal names or they may choose the “U.S. City Directory” tab and then select “Learn more about this database”.   At that point, Heritage Quest allows the user to browse page by page within the directory for a specific year.  This feature is useful for finding homeowners on particular streets as well as looking up businesses from prior eras.  It also shows yellow-page type advertising and sometimes gives a brief description and history of the community.

Other major record groups searchable in Heritage Quest include American Revolutionary War pension files and an index to African-Americans who used the Freedman’s Bank during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.

For more information about how to log into Heritage Quest from home via the Alamance County Public Libraries website, please contact your nearest Alamance County Public Library branch location.

Lisa Kobrin is a Reference Librarian at the May Memorial Library.  She can be reached at lkobrin@alamancelibraries.org.