Newberry Library, Chicago

I thought I’d bring my Covey friends along on my family research trip to Newberry Library.

Chicago’s subway is called the el, which is short for ‘elevated.’ Most of it is above-ground but, as you approach downtown, it burrows underground. There are several different lines stretching all directions and all named after colors. I took the Brown line and transferred to the Red line, so that’s what my pictures are of. An el ride is $2.25 one-way. Most of us locals use a Ventra card, which is akin to a debit card that links up to your checking account and takes money out $20 at a time. You just flash your card in front of a circle on the front of the entrance gate (which I forgot to take a picture of) and you’re on your way. Visitors buy a ticket at the station. The card works the same way to pay for bus fare.

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I live in a neighborhood north of the city about 15 minutes by train from The Loop, which is the central district marked by theaters and a literal loop of the El. I work just a 10-minute walk from where I live, so I don’t leave my neighborhood most days. Every Chicagoan will tell you that the city is made up of dozens of distinct neighborhoods that feel like small towns unto themselves. So even though I live relatively close to skyscrapers, I’m surprised by them when I go into the City proper.

It’s my first visit to the Newberry Library, a private library founded in 1887. A private library does not lend out its assets. Everything stays in house. Its holdings revolve around the humanities— which is what brought me here. I found out in my genealogy research that it held several of my ancestors’ birth, marriage, and death records. And I love digging into old books and microfiche! I’m weird that way. I’ll let this link explain the library’s history, if anyone is interested in learning more. After a very patient librarian showed me where I could find my records, I spent a few hours zipping through microfiche and gathering my documentation. A perfectly nerdy way for me to spend a Saturday afternoon! Stomach growling I left very pleased to find out they offer a tour for genealogists the first Saturday of every month and special classes throughout the year.

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