Marieta's Retirement Ramblings

Burlington Public Library, Burlington, Iowa


Burlington Public Library
210 Court Street
Burlington, IA 52601


The first time I saw this library I accompanied a genealogy friend to a conference here (thank you, Ruth, for inviting me!). Each April the library brings in a nationally-known genealogy speaker for a one or two day conference experience. Often, the fee is nominal, little more than the price of a box lunch. The 2015 conference will be the 13th in the series. Since that first conference, I always watch to see who the featured conference speaker is, though April is not always a good time for me to attend.

When I walked in that first year, I was amazed with the spacious, new library. Then, when I saw the local history section, I was flabbergasted. This was the first time I had ever seen such a research-friendly, genealogy environment. I only had a few minutes over lunch to peruse the collections, but knew I wanted to come back, as I had someone I could research here.

A couple years later we made it back and we’ve been back since, including our recent visit. I am amazed every time I come. I’m intrigued by this library’s location: travelers can see its sign and building from Interstate-80 at the last exit prior to crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. How convenient is that?!

Be sure to check the online card catalog for the resources; it is very complete, so I don’t need to list them here. From the home page, select the “Resources” tab and you will see the option for “Local History and Genealogy.” Users can also type “genealogy” as a subject in the card catalog.

For me, the gold mine was the city directory collection. I found that my ancestor attended a bookkeeping school in Burlington, then worked for many years as a bookkeeper for a local company. I could have found some of this on census records, but the city directories provided considerably more detail and addresses. As we drove around town, we found the approximate location where he lived. We saw that he could have walked to work every day, though the walk would have been invigorating; this is a river town with many hills, including very steep “snake alley.” On a previous visit we drove down the well-known alley, on our recent visit, it was closed for the winter.

The local historical society’s Heritage Center is housed in the old public library, a short distance from the new library. While we did not visit this facility on our recent visit, we have visited it and found it interesting.

People with Des Moines County, as well as surrounding county heritage, will find a visit to this local-history-and-genealogy-friendly public library a very pleasant experience!