Around Town

Discover your ‘roots’ via Ancestry Library

WESTFIELD-As 350th anniversary celebrations continue this spring, many people have had a “renewed interest” in Westfield and their family history, according to Liz Cashman, head of reference at the Westfield Athenaeum.

“For novices coming in to do local history and genealogy research related to Westfield, the reference librarians can help get anyone started with some basic resources,” said Cashman.

Cashman noted she has used the Ancestry Library database as well as the local history and archives collections, mostly assisting patrons with their research or working on special library projects. 

Liz Cashman, head of reference at the Westfield Athenaeum, holds one of the older Westfield city directories in the newly renovated Reference/Nonfiction/Local History area. The public computers in the background are where patrons can access Ancestry Library. (Submitted photo)

Ancestry Library, an online database that the Athenaeum subscribes to, has national information while the print collections at the Athenaeum focus on Westfield history and families.

“This is the library version of the popular fee-based website,” said Cashman. “Ancestry Library Edition covers nationwide genealogy information including census, church, court, and immigration records, as well as record collections from Canada, Europe, Australia and other areas around the world.”

Cashman explained that the database is not specific to Westfield, but does include a lot of genealogy information relating to Westfield.

“Westfield patrons can use this database in-house free of charge and can be used anytime the library is open via our public computers,” said Cashman, adding there is no time limit on usage.

In addition to the Athenaeum’s subscription to Ancestry Library, a local history room is also available with Westfield-specific historical and genealogical resources.

The Local History and Genealogy Collection includes Westfield newspapers on microfilm from 1782 to the present; miscellaneous Westfield records on microfilm from 1658 to 1850;  Westfield directories and street lists; Westfield annual reports; Westfield historical maps; Westfield histories; genealogical information including vital records, family histories, cemetery records; selected residential building information; business and industry details; high school yearbooks; historic Westfield photographs; area town histories; diaries and journals, and church records. 

“This collection is available anytime the library is open,” said Cashman. “No appointment is necessary, however, items in the Westfield history collection may not leave the library.”

For the more experienced researcher, there is also access to the Westfield Athenaeum Archives: Donald Blair Research Center.    

“The Archives preserves unique materials on Westfield history,” said Cashman. “The Archives has over 500 linear feet of maps, drawings, papers, manuscripts, stereoscopes, Mayoral papers, diaries, business ledgers and ephemera.”

Cashman noted that appointments are required to access archival materials and a wait time of several weeks for an appointment is possible.

For more information on any of the genealogy resources at the Athenaeum, call (413) 568-7833, visit, or stop in during library hours.

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