Libraries and Archives


Hello. We are going to discuss the importance of using the collections and services of libraries and archives when conducting genealogical
research. You can find a lot of family history resources
on the Internet but keep in mind not everything you need to successfully do your genealogy
will be online. Both libraries and archives can play a vital role in conducting genealogical research. Libraries are always a good place to start
when doing your research. Many public libraries have local history/genealogy rooms so visit both your local public library as well as the one where your family originated. You never know what great information you may discover! When visiting a repository with a genealogy or local history collection or with original records, you may find materials that are unique to the geographic area or family you are researching. You will also encounter staff who are knowledgeable in the collections and subject matter and who can guide you in the right direction with your work. Just be sure to ask! Some libraries and archives provide basic reference assistance by email, mail or telephone. If you are unable to do research in person, check their website for guidelines on what
kinds of requests they accept and their fees. Before visiting, it is always a good idea
to contact the repository ahead of time to learn about services, materials, hours and
guidelines. You can usually find this information on their website. Besides scouting out information about the organization or repository, you can usually search online catalogs or finding aids to learn about what materials they have. If you prepare prior to your arrival, you can maximize your research time while you are there. Also, there are other libraries that are dedicated to genealogy such as Family History Centers, and don’t forget special collections in private or academic libraries. State libraries can be great resources. Some of them provide genealogical research services and collect
materials from across their entire state. Here at the State Library of NC, we also have a strong collection of resources on other states, mostly the eastern half of the country. Check to see if your state library has genealogical resources that you can use. In North Carolina, the State Library of North Carolina encompasses the Government & Heritage
Library’s Genealogy Research Room and is located in the same building as the State Archives of North Carolina. This organizational arrangement may be different for other states – just do your homework before you visit. You can find a complete list of the state
libraries online through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Every library collection has its own unique materials but in most libraries with a local history collection, you can find newspapers, family histories or files, published abstracts, genealogical periodicals and free access to online databases. Some repositories might have digitized materials
that are helpful to genealogists. Also, check to see if the library participates in an Interlibrary Loan program that allows the public to borrow materials through the mail. Archives are repositories of mostly unique primary source materials that are generated by the activities of governmental agencies, organizations, or individuals. These documents are collected and preserved because they have been determined to contain information of permanent value. Records produced by individuals usually are known as manuscripts, and some repositories include both archival and manuscript collections. Even though the purpose of state archival institutions is not to collect genealogical records, you will find a wealth of information for the average genealogist since most of our ancestors generated records – such as wills, deeds, or bonds – that were the result of activities required by law. A complete list of state archives can be found through
the National Archives site. The National Archives and its regional facilities
and universities, organizations, and religious institutions also have archival collections
of value to genealogists, so be sure to investigate these kinds of repositories as well. Now we hope that you will visit your local libraries and archives as you begin your research and then explore all the treasures that other repositories have to offer. Thank you.

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