Sturgis Library Adds New Resource to Genealogy Holdings

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Sturgis Library Director Lucy Loomis, right, and Assistant Director Antonia Stephens discuss the library's genealogical holdings.

Sturgis Library Director Lucy Loomis, right, and Assistant Director Antonia Stephens discuss the library’s genealogical holdings.

BARNSTABLE VILLAGE – The Sturgis Library has long been known as a premier site for genealogical research in the region, but it has added a new extensive database to its offerings.

The Sturgis Library’s Lothop Genealogy Collection is used by people from all across the country who are searching for their roots to the Cape Cod region.

But as of this spring, Sturgis is now a FamilySearch Affiliate Library, meaning that patrons will be able to use the library to access genealogical resources in the Family Search database.

Family Search, part of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, contains the world’s largest repository of free genealogical records.

“Less than five percent of the world’s genealogical records are available online, and most family history researchers cannot afford to travel to an archive nationally or worldwide to find the historic records they are seeking,” said Paul Nauta, FamilySearch Public Affairs Manager. “If FamilySearch has filed the records they need, then as far as they will need to travel to view them is Sturgis Library.”

FamilySearch has over 200 camera teams filming historic records in 45 countries in any given day, according to Nauta. These records are then circulated through FamilySearch centers, like Sturgis Library, worldwide.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is behind FamilySearch, which was historically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah and was founded in 1894. The website for the service states, “Our commitment to helping people connect to their ancestors is rooted to our beliefs that families are meant to be central to our lives and that family relationships are intended to continue beyond this life.”

Sturgis Library itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the library’s history, the building that forms the original part of Sturgis Library was constructed in 1644 as a meeting house for the Reverend John Lothrop, founder of the town of Barnstable. That makes it the oldest library building in the United States, in addition to being one of the oldest houses on Cape Cod.

Reverend Lothrop used his front room for worship, and it the oldest structure still standing in America where religious services were held.

In February 1782, William Sturgis, a descendent of Lothrop, was born in the house. He went to sea at age 15 and later founded Bryant and Sturgis, a clipper ship company engaged in the China trades.

In 1863, Sturgis willed his home for the establishment of a village library. The library opened in 1867 with 1,300 volumes, many from Sturgis’s private collection.

The library today has over 65,000 volumes, in addition to its special collections.

The Lothrop Genealogy and Local History Collection includes Mayflower Society records, an extensive list of local and regional town histories, and hundreds of published individual genealogies of Cape Cod families.

Sturgis Library Director Lucy Loomis said the library’s extensive genealogical collections began more than 100 years ago with library patrons. “It’s a series of acquisitions and donations at the turn of the century,” she said.

There is also the Stanley Smith Deed Collection, which comprises deeds for land, property, wharfs, salt works, church pews, and more. The deeds were collected by Stanley Smith through his research into Cape Cod genealogy and history.

Sturgis Library Assistant Director Antonia Stephens said that through a program of the Boston Public Library, the Stanley Smith collection has been digitalized so it can be an online database. “Pretty soon, people will be able to do a search for these deeds,” she said.

Listen below as Sturgis Library Director Lucy Loomis and Assistant Director Antonia Stephens discuss Sturgis Library’s genealogical research materials.
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