Each month, this space will be dedicated to a library resource or service available free with your Omaha Public Library card.

A new year is typically a time to look forward, but may also be a good time to think about digging into the past. W. Dale Clark Main Library (215 S. 15th St.) is home to the largest genealogy department between Chicago and Salt Lake City, and offers resources to help you find answers to questions about your family's history. Search everything from birth, marriage and death records to city directories and maps. A variety of online databases are also available to help with your research.

Fire Insurance Maps online (FIMo), for example, can be accessed through omahalibrary.org by visiting the "Resource Center," and selecting the database from the "Genealogy" category. This user-friendly database provides access to high-definition, full-color fire-insurance maps, real-estate atlases, plat books, and other historical maps of locations across Nebraska.

FIMo can be a helpful tool for researching the history of buildings and neighborhoods. The high-definition, color and grayscale images display important historical details not visible on black-and-white map scans. FIMo also includes map research tools and search tips to make finding maps for a specific location easier than ever. FIMo is an invaluable resource for research on urban development patterns, past property uses and occupants, family homes, genealogy and more. Researchers can also learn about a building's structure and design; explore neighborhoods; discover how an area changed over time; discover what life was like during a specific time period; and evaluate current impacts from past land uses.

Getting started with historical research can be incredibly gratifying, but also intimidating at times. Library staff is happy to help you navigate FIMo and the many other tools available to help uncover the past. Learn more about how to use FIMo in an upcoming workshop at Main Library on Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. Registration is required at omahalibrary.org or by calling 402-444-4826.

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