United States Archives and Libraries

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The following record repositories have major collections and services helpful for genealogical research. Before you visit an archive or a library, contact the organization and ask for information on the collection, hours, services, and fees.

National Archives

Pennsylvania Avenue at 8th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20408
Telephone: 202-501-5415
Fax: 301-713-6740
Internet address: www.nara.gov

The National Archives has a vast collection of documents created by the federal government. The records most often used by genealogists are census, military, land, and immigration records.

Microfilm copies of many of the records at the National Archives are available at the Family History Library, other major archives and libraries, and at regional branches of the National Archives. You may purchase microfilms from the National Archives or request photocopies of the records by using forms obtained from the Archives.

List of NARA Microfilm Publications and Original Records Digitized by Our Digitization Partners

The National Archives has table of links on their webpage to the digital images of the records.as of March 2010. It includes pay sites.

  • Eales, Anne Bruner and Robert M. Kvasnicka, ed. Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States. Third Edition. Washington, DC: Nathional Archives and Records Administration, 2000. Explains records collections used most by genealogical researchers: Census, Passenger Arrivals and Border Crossings, Naturalizations, Military, Land, Native Americans, African Americans, and more.
  • A National Archives (NARA) descriptive pamphlet (DP) provides helpful information about a microfilm set such as an explanation about the records on the film set, their origin, and a roll-by-roll descriptive list. Reviewing a DP prior to using a film set can increase a researcher's ability to use it successfully in a time-efficient manner.  The Special Collections of the St. Louis County Library has placed on their web site full-text or PDF versions of DPs for some of the NARA microfilm sets.

Footnote.com has made available, through their partnership with the National Archives, original source documents that include information about an individual's birth, marriage, occupation, death, and other dates and places.

National Archives—Regional Branches

Regional branches of the National Archives collect records of federal government offices and courts within the area they serve. These branches are located in or near Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York (moving soon), Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Allen County Public Library

P.O. Box 2270
Fort Wayne, IN 48801
Telephone: 219-424-7241
Fax: 219-422-9688
Internet address: www.acpl.lib.in.us/genealogy/index.html

The Allen County Public Library has a very large collection of sources for all states, including U.S. census records, periodicals, and local histories.

Family History Library

35 N. West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400
Telephone: 801-240-2331
Fax: 801-240-1584
Internet address: www.familysearch.org

For more details click here.

Library of Congress

Genealogy and Local History Reading Room
101 Independence Ave. at First Street, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20504
Telephone: 202-707-5000
Fax: 202-707-5844
Internet address: www.loc.gov/rr/genealogy/

The Genealogical and Local History Reading Room of the Library of Congress has a very large collection of published genealogies, manuscripts, histories, directories, maps, and newspapers.

The Library of Congress site has a wonderful American Memory page that links to more 60 collections, searchable by keyword or time period in a variety of media.

National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution

1776 “D” Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-5392
Telephone: 202-879-3229
Fax: 202-879-3227
Internet address: www.dar.org

New England Historic Genealogical Society

101 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116-3087
Telephone: 617-536-5740
Fax: 617-536-7307
Internet address: www.newenglandancestors.org

The society's collections of New England family and local histories and manuscripts are especially helpful. Members can borrow printed resources from their lending library.

New York Public Library

Local History and Genealogy Division
Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018
Telephone: 212-930-0828
Fax: 212-921-2546
Internet address: www.nypl.org

The New York Public Library has collected many published sources, such as local histories, city directories, maps, newspapers, and genealogies.

Newberry Library

60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610-3394
(312) 943-9090
(312) 255-3513  fax

The Newberry Library was established in 1887 with a bequest from the estate of Walter Loomis Newberry.  A privately endowed independent research library, their collections are free and open to the public.  The library's Genealogy Collection includes more than 17,000 published family histories, and an extensive collection of local histories, military records, published indexes and abstracts, manuscripts and published sources.

Other United States Libraries

The following libraries also have exceptional genealogical collections. These libraries collect major national sources as well as records of the states they serve.

Your local public library can help you locate these and other archives and libraries. Directories include:

  • American Library Directory. 53rd Edition. New Providence, New Jersey: R. R. Bowker, 2000-2001. (Family History Library book 973 J54a 2000, 2 vol.) Alphabetical by state and town. Lists addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and describes each library's holdings and special interests.
  • Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. The Genealogist's Address Book. Fifth Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2005. (Family History Library book 973 D24ben 2005.) Includes national, state, ethnic, religious, historical, adoption, computer interest group, and vendor addresses with telephone numbers, E-mail addresses, supervisors, and repository hours.
  • A directory of many repositories and manuscript collections is:
  • The National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the United States. Second Edition. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press, 1988. (Family History Library book 973 J54u 1988; 1978 Edition on fiche 6010080-89.)

State Archives and State Libraries

Each state has a state archive or a state library. Many states have both. These serve as the repositories for state and county government records. They often have some federal records as well, such as the U.S. census schedules for the state. Addresses are available in the state research outlines and at your public library.

A comprehensive list of each state's archives and web address has been organized by the State of Georgia. This is a great resource for anyone trying to check on what is available at a specific state archive.

County and Town Courthouses

Many of the key records essential for genealogical research were created by local county or town governments. These include court, land and property, naturalization and citizenship, probate, taxation, and vital records. The county and town courthouses are the primary repositories of these valuable records. (However, some courthouse records have been destroyed or transferred to state archives.) The Family History Library has copies of many of these important records on microfilm.

The individual counties have organized their records and offices in many different ways. The state research outlines provide further information on how to obtain these records.

Easy-to-use sources that list the various county offices in each state and the types of records at each office are:

  • Bentley, Elizabeth Petty.County Courthouse Book. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1995. (Family History Library book 973 D24bena.)
  • The Handy Book for Genealogists: United States of America. Tenth edition. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishing, 2006. (Family History Library book 973 D27e.) The Handy Book also lists the county seat and zip code.

Historical and Genealogical Societies

Historical and genealogical societies have been organized in each state, most counties, and some towns. These societies collect many valuable records and offer various helpful services to researchers. Addresses of local societies are listed in:

  • Carson, Dina C., Directory of Genealogical and Historical Libraries, Archives and Collections in the US and Canada. Niwot, Colorado: Iron Gate Pub., 1002.
  • Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada. 15th Edition. Nashville, Tennessee: American Association for State and Local History, 2001. (Family History Library book 970 H24d.)

Federal Repository Libraries

The federal government has designated at least one library in each state (generally a major university library) to receive a copy of published federal records. These include a wide variety of information, such as pension lists, private land claims, veterans' burial lists, and individuals' petitions to Congress.

Inventories, Registers, Catalogs

Most archives have catalogs, inventories, guides, or periodicals that describe their records and how to use them. If possible, study these guides before you visit an archive so that you can use your time more effectively. Many of these are available at the Family History Library, at your public or university library, or through interlibrary loan.

An example of a helpful guide is:

  • Schaefer, Christina K. The Center: Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Capital Area. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996. (Family History Library book 975.3 A3sc.) This describes the records and services of the National Archives, Library of Congress, Daughters of the American Revolution Library, and other repositories in the Washington, DC area.