Eastern Shore Public Library

Library Updates

The Frances Bibbins Latimer Collection Available Online

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The Frances Bibbins Latimer Collection Available Online

Eastern Shore of Virginia history recently became more accessible thanks to the digitization of Frances Bibbins Latimer’s archives. Mrs. Latimer was a local history researcher and collector, with much of her activities focused on African American history. The Eastern Shore Public Library was the recipient of her collections when she passed away. Virginia Humanities, the statewide foundation that supports humanities research and education, awarded a grant to digitize the collections. George Latimer, her husband, continued the funding with a personal donation to ensure the project is completed. It is expected that all items will be digitized by August 2020, however, the public can search online what is available now for free through the library’s website.

Digitization involves the scanning of documents into a computer and then organizing the records These digital images are then made available and searchable on the Internet. Cataloging is the more time-consuming task of the process as each image must be individually identified, subject terms and descriptions entered into the catalog software, and then connected to the scanned image. A team of volunteers have been scanning the images. The grant funding is paying for the trained staff to catalog.

Scanning documents preserves the image, as papers and photographs deteriorate over time. Scanned documents are not very useful, however, unless you can find them, which is what the cataloging accomplishes.

The digitization project is not only about preserving images of valuable historical records. A Latimer Project Committee also meets to plan how the collections can be used to improve access to African American history. Programs and outreach activities are planned to educate the public as to the value of African American history and the resources available. It is hoped that this digitized collection will inspire others to take up where Frances Bibbins Latimer left off. New books need to be written about Eastern Shore of Virginia history. Historical documents need to be preserved. Genealogies need to be researched.

When the new Eastern Shore of Virginia Heritage Center is operational, new equipment will be available to train the public how to digitize their own family collections. The recent National Endowment for the Humanities grant award will support the purchase of this equipment. Other ESPL collections might be digitized as well. To search the Frances Bibbins Latimer digitized collection, go to www.espl.org, click on the “Genealogy” tab. The link is found under “Digital Collections” then “Eastern Shore Public Library Digital Archives.”

For more information about how to sign up for a library card, please call the library at (757) 787-3400 or go to the ShoreCat homepage and sign up online. The Eastern Shore Public Library System has four libraries in Accomac, Cape Charles, Chincoteague and Nassawadox. Your ESPL library card can be used at any of the four libraries. To learn about the regional library building project and ESVA Heritage Center in Parksley, opening in 2020, or to donate, visit www.shorelibrary.com. For more information about your library services, library hours of operation, or your library account, visit www.espl.org, “like” us on Facebook and Twitter, or call the library at (757) 787-3400.

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Ancestry Library Edition available for home use to ESPL patrons until June 30!

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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ProQuest has extended its offer of home access to Ancestry Library Edition to all Eastern Shore Public Library patrons until June 30!

Simply go to this page on our website: https://espl.org/ancestrylibrary/

The password is the first 5 digits of your library card number. If you have any trouble with access, call us at 757-787-3400, or email espl@espl.org.

Besides some limitation of records, one of the main differences between Ancestry and Ancestry Library Edition is that with Library you cannot create a tree. It functions strictly as a record database.  But there are billions of records to search! Family history is a great way to teach history to kids as you research what life may have been like for your ancestors. It’s personalized history!

Some hints for basic searches on Ancestry can be found here: https://support.ancestry.com/s/artic…/How-to-Search-Ancestry

Just getting started with genealogy? Great tips can be found here: https://www.americanancestors.org/…/le…/read/getting-started

Happy searching!

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Make history come alive with local resources

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Local history exploration is a fun way to spend time with children.  Studies show that children who know stories about the relatives who came before them show higher levels of emotional well-being (Emory University, 2010).  Stories about family and their homeplace provide children with a sense of identity and of their place in the world.

From home, families can learn more about local history with the help of ESPL’s online family history resources.

Make history come alive with photos, maps and stories.

  • Browse the Countryside Transformed online archive. Hundreds of historic photos of Accomack and Northampton county people, places and events from several ESVA museums, all in one place depict life from the coming of the railroad to the Great Depression.  Historic maps show how the Shore looked in the past and buildings and roads that no longer exist.  Search by town, or use the interactive map and discover some place names you may never have heard of!
  • Read the Peninsula Enterprise newspaper. Though ESPL owns microfilm of all Eastern Shore newspapers from 1881 to the present, the Peninsula Enterprise from 1881-1922 is the only one that is digitized and searchable.  Search for your town or family names and see what was happening on the Shore 100 years ago.
  • Research your family on the MilesFiles genealogical database. With over 90,000 names from the Eastern Shore of Virginia (including a few from the rest of the Delmarva Peninsula), most ESVA surnames are represented.
  • Listen to oral histories. ESPL has recordings from the Cape Charles Rosenwald School Initiative and Chincoteague oral histories.

Want to get out of the house, while still practicing social distancing? 

  • Visit a cemetery. If you have family buried nearby, especially ancestors that passed away before your children were born, this is a good way to “introduce” them. Share pictures and stories before going or on the drive there.  Be sure to coach them on cemetery etiquette and safety. Graves should be respected, tombstones are not for climbing and graveside plantings and mementoes should not be disturbed. ESPL has cemetery/tombstone guides available but you can also find them here http://easternshorestuff.com/cemeteryproject/cemintro.htm  and on Find a Grave https://www.findagrave.com/.
  • Take a driving tour. ESPL has collected online driving and walking tours for Eastern Shore locations on our website here: https://espl.org/genealogy/walking-driving-tours/

But perhaps the best thing that you can do is record your stories. 

Tell stories with family artifacts: letters and photos of course, but also things like sports trophies, military medals, artwork or quilts.    As part of the study mentioned above, researchers asked children a list of 20 questions about their parents and grandparents lives.  You can find the original list of 20 questions here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-stories-our-lives/201611/the-do-you-know-20-questions-about-family-stories

So ask those 20 questions, and record the answers on your smart phone or write them down.

To read about the Emory study on the value of family stories, visit https://ncph.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-power-of-family-history-in-adolescent-identity.pdf

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Freading eBooks for Children and Teens (and Parents)

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If you are hoping to keep your children stocked up with reading material while they are out of school, the library’s Freading eBook app can help. With thousands of eBooks for children and teens, both fiction and nonfiction, Freading has something for every age and interest. Freading also has tons of eBooks for adults, including some excellent titles on parenting. All eBook titles are available to download at any time, are checked out for a 4-week period, and return automatically. No waiting, and no fines. Perfect. You just need to download the Freading app and Adobe Digital Editions. With your library card number and a PIN, you’ll be ready to read. Find Freading at  espl.org under the eResources tab. Questions? Need to set up or reset your PIN? You can reach us at (757)787-3400 or espl@espl.org. Freading also has an excellent help section for getting started: https://esplva.freading.com/questions/index

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Explore nature with a nature backpack from ESPL!

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Thanks to a partnership between our library, the Library of Virginia, Virginia State Parks, and the Science Museum of Virginia, we are able to offer sixteen nature backpacks for checkout! The backpacks are designed to help children and their families learn about nature — backpacks are available at Accomac, Nassawadox and Cape Charles.

Each backpack comes with:

  • Pocket guides about mammals, animal tracks, bugs and slugs, Virginia birds, and Virginia trees and wildflowers
  • A pop-up bug cage
  • A dip net
  • A magnifying glass
  • A “Leave No Trace” card
  • Sheets of suggested activities
  • A parking pass for all Virginia State Parks

They’ll also come with a short paper survey (in English and Spanish) about the backpacks.  Please encourage patrons to fill out the survey as the feedback will help the Library of Virginia in creating more great programs like this. The completed surveys can be returned to the Main Branch and we will send them to the Library of Virginia. Be sure to place a blank survey form in the pack to be completed by the next patron.

The backpacks are checked out just like any other library item, and can be renewed if there are no holds on the backpack.

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Cool websites for kids

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The first few days of an unexpected “vacation” from school can be lots of fun for everyone, but quickly families find themselves searching for ways to keep everyone busy in productive ways. It is good to remember that there are many different types of activities. Variety is not only the spice of life but also very important in meeting all the developmental needs of children. Below is a list of some great websites that provide kids with some educational fun. Make good use of them, but remember to include other fun activities in the day. Embrace the arts with crafts, scrapbooking, rock painting, decorating glass windows with dry erase markers, or creating crazy creatures from recycled items from around the house. Get some exercise by taking a nature walk, dancing to music on the radio, having a treasure hunt, visiting the park, or riding a bike. Create family time by playing board games, watching a favorite family movie, or cooking together. Try to maintain routines and make sure everyone is getting enough quality sleep. And please don’t forget to continue reading good books together!

We’ll be posting resources on our Youth Services Facebook page, so check us out there too!

Cool Websites for Kids

Best Websites for Kids – Common Sense Media


Storyline Online – Featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books


Children’s Storybooks Online – Illustrated children’s stories for kids of all ages


Reading is Fundamental


Starfall – lots of fun educational online activities for kids in PreK through Grade 3.


PBS Kids


National Geographic Kids


Scholastic Kids Site



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  • Eastern Shore Public Library
    23610 Front Street
    P.O. Box 360
    Accomac, VA. 23301
    Phone: (757) 787-3400;

    Cape Charles Memorial Library
    201 Mason Avenue
    Cape Charles, VA 23310
    Phone: (757) 331-1300

  • Contact Us

  • Northampton Free Library
    7745 Seaside Rd
    P.O. Box 729 Nassawadox, VA 23413
    Phone: (757) 414-0010

    Chincoteague Island Library
    4077 Main Street
    Chincoteague, VA 23336
    Phone: (757) 336-3460

This site is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is managed by the The Library of Virginia Library Development and Networking Division.