United States Archives and Libraries

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Archives and Libraries

These archives, libraries, societies, and musuems preserve sources, maintain indexes, and provide services to help genealogists document their ancestors who lived in the area. Before you visit an archive or a library, contact the organization and ask for information on the collection, hours, services, and fees.
  ● For more about repositories in the national capitol area, see also: District of Columbia Archives and Libraries.

Wiki Articles on Major Repositories in the USA

National Archives I · National Archives II · National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) · Allen County Public Library · Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library · Family History Library · Library of Congress · Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center · New England Historic Genealogical Society · New York Public Library · Newberry Library

Online Records

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State-by-state links to online databases and indexes that may include vital records, biographies, cemeteries, censuses, histories, immigration records, land records, maps, military records, naturalizations, newspapers, obituaries, or probate records.

National Archives and Records Administration

National Archives I

Pennsylvania Avenue at 8th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20408
Telephone: 202-501-5415
Fax: 301-713-6740
E-mail: Contact Us form
Internet: National Archives

Archives I has nationwide censuses, pre-WWI military service and pensions, passenger lists, naturalizations, passports, federal bounty land, homesteads, bankruptcy, ethnic sources, prisons, and federal employees. The National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives I), houses textual and microfilm records relating to genealogy, American Indians, pre-World War II military and naval-maritime matters, the New Deal, the District of Columbia, the Federal courts, and Congress.[1]
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.
  • 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. (Worldcat) 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.
Digitized NARA Microfilm Publications
"US National Archives To Upload All Holdings To Wikimedia Commons"
The National Archives has a list of digitized records and links to access them through online databases. It includes pay sites such as Ancestry and Fold3.com that have partnered with the National Archives to digitize many of the archives' records. Read more about the digitization program at the National Archives.
National Archives II at College Park, Maryland

National Archives II

8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
Telephone: 866-272-6272
Fax: 301-837-0483
E-mail: I have a question form
Internet: National Archives at College Park, Maryland

Archives II houses documents created after 1900 at the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury, modern military records, passport applications, and District of Columbia records.[2]

Regional Branches of the National Archives

Regional branches of the National Archives collect records of federal government offices and courts within the area they serve. Most have complete sets of federal census records, military records, and ship passenger lists.[3] Each region also has specialized records, for example, the Chicago branch has records about the auto industry, Abraham Lincoln, and Al Capone. National Archives regional branches are located in or near:

• Anchorage, AK now closed. See Seattle. Denver, CO for CO, MT, NM, ND, SD, UT, and WY. Philadelphia, PA for for PA, DE, WV, MD, and VA.
Atlanta, GA for AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, and TN. Fort Worth, TX for AR, LA, OK, TX, and American Indians. Riverside, CA for southern CA, AZ, and Clark County NV.
Boston, MA for CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, and VT. Kansas City, MO for IA, KS, MO, and NE. San Francisco, CA for northern CA, HI, NV (except Clark County), and Pacific islands.
Chicago, IL for IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, and WI. New York City, NY for NY, NJ, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Seattle, WA for AK, ID, OR, and WA.
National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri

National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)

1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
Telephone:  314-801-0800
Fax:  314-801-9195
E-mail: MPR.center@nara.gov
Internet: National Personnel Records Center

The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It is the central repository for both the military and civil services personnel-related records. It maintains military personnel records for servicemen and servicewomen discharged from 1912 to 1952* (*i.e. 62 years after discharge). Use Standard Form SF-180 to order files.  Records prior to WWI are in Washington, D.C.[4] [5]
Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Allen County Public Library

Genealogy Center
900 Webster Street (P.O. Box 2270)
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Telephone: 219-421-1225
E-mail: genealogy@acpl.info
Internet: Allen County Public Library

The Genealogy Center houses the second largest genealogy research collection in the United States, and the largest in a public library. It is primarily a North American collection, with some complementary resources for the British Isles and other European countries. One of America's best genealogical libraries. They especially shine in genealogical periodicals, printed county histories, and printed family histories.[6] See:
  • Karen B Cavanaugh, A Genealogist’s Guide to the Allen County Public Library, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, 3rd ed. (Fort Wayne, Ind.: Cavanaugh, 1983). WorldCat 10295892; The Family History Library has the original 1980 edition titled A Genealogist's Guide to the Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Public Library, FHL Book 977.274/F1 A3c.

Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library

DAR Constitution Hall in Washington DC
76 “D” Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-5392
Telephone: 202-879-3229
Fax: 202-879-3227
Internet address: Daughters of the American Revolution.
The DAR Library houses one of the largest genealogical collections in the United States. Its book collection includes more than 150,000 volumes concerning people and places throughout the nation. The collection focuses primarily on the generation of the American Revolution, but also includes substantial resources for studying people from the colonial period and the nineteenth century. "Through the efforts of local DAR members and chapters nationwide approximately 15,000 volumes of Genealogical Records Committee Reports have entered the Library and constitute a unique source for family histories, cemetery record transcriptions, and Bible records."[2] [7]

Family History Library

Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
35 North West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
Telephone: 801-240-2331
Fax: 801-240-1584
E-Mail: fhl@ldschurch.org
Internet: FamilySearch Family Tree pedigrees, Memories photos, Search historical records, Genealogies, FamilySearch Catalog, and FamilySearch Wiki
450 computers, 3,400 databases, 3.1 million microforms, 4,500 periodicals, 310,000 books of worldwide family and local histories, civil, church, immigration, ethnic, military, and Mormon records. Many microfilms are also at branch FamilySearch Centers in local LDS churches, and described in their online FamilySearch Catalog.[8]
The following guide book will help in using the library. It gives suggestions on preparing to visit the library, genealogy research tips, and helps in using the library.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.
101 Independence Ave. SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ G4
Washington, D.C. 20540-4660
Telephone:[9]  Reading Room: 202-707-5537
Fax:[9]  202-707-1957
E-mail:  Ask a Librarian[9]
Internet: http://www.loc.gov/rr/genealogy/
Use this library for its outstanding genealogical guides and indexes. They are part of the world's largest library including 50,000 genealogies, 100,000 local histories, and collections of manuscripts, microfilms, maps, newspapers, photographs, and published material, strong in North American, British Isles, and German sources. The "Local History and Genealogy Reading Room" has moved to the main reading room, but services are unchanged.[10] [11]
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.

Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Geneal Center

Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri
Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center
3440 S. Lee's Summit Road
Independence, MO 64055-1923
Telephone: 816-836-5200
Fax: 816-521-7253
E-mail: ge@mcpl.lib.mo.us
Internet: Midwest Genealogy Center
The collection covers the entire United States and includes over 80,000 family history books, 100,000 local history items, 565,000 microfilms and microfiches, and 7,000 maps. Significant holdings include all federal censuses 1790-1930 and many indexes, federal land sales in Missouri 1818-1903, the Draper Manuscript Collection, Kentucky tax records, Missouri State Penitentiary Records 1836-1931, papers of the St. Louis fur trade, Records of Antebellum Southern Plantations, indexes and Compiled Service Records of MO Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers, Civil War Union and Confederate unit histories, selected passenger arrival lists, Native American sources, partial state vital records for AL, AR, CA, GA, IL, IN, KY, OR, TX, WA, Massachusetts original town records, city directories, the Independence Examiner, and Kansas City Star and Times, other newspapers (primarily Missouri), American Biographical Archives, Black Biographical Dictionaries, UMI Genealogy and Local History Series, and the United States Serial Set.[12]
NEHGS 101 Newbury St in Boston

New England Historic Genealogical Society

101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116-3007
Telephone:  617-536-5740; Library 617-226-1231
Fax:  617-536-7307
E-mail:  info@nehgs.org
Internet: AmericanAncestors.org

Best overall collection for New England vital records and probates, and excellent collection for Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and Europe. The manuscript collection for members only has diaries, letters, account books, business papers, church and town records, sermons, maps, wills, deeds, unpublished town and family genealogies, photos, and papers of the region's best genealogists since 1850.[13]

New York Public Library

New York Public Library in Manhattan

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

The New York Public Library's collection is one of the largest in the world with over 14 million titles. The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy has an outstanding collection of American history at national, state and local levels; international genealogy and heraldry in Roman alphabets; the Dorot Jewish collection; photos; New York censuses, directories, and vital records. The Milstein Division acquires materials beyond the local region. The United States town, city, county and state history collection is national in scope.[14] Books requested in the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room are delivered to the Rose Reading Room. The open shelf dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographies, and indexes alone include 25,000 volumes.
The library has computers with Internet access including the most popular genealogical databases, and free Wi-Fi for personal computers of visitors. The Milstein Microfilm Room gives access to New York State censuses, New York City directories, and indexes to New York City vital records (births late 19th century-1982; deaths late 19th century-1982; and marriages 1869-1937), coroner's inquisitions 1823-1898, divorce index 1784-1910, 1890 New York City “Police” Census, New York City historical newspapers, NYC land and property records 1654-1857, 18th and 19th century wills for many counties.
In addition, the Manuscripts and Archives Division, 3rd floor, has about 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) of archival papers of individuals, families, and organizations mostly from the New York area. The Rare Book Division, 3rd Floor, has 130,000 titles from Europe, England, and the Americas. The Art, Prints and Photographs Division, 3rd floor, has 200,000 prints.
The New York Public Library now houses the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society's collection. All of their collection has been cataloged and is located in the New York Public Library's online catalog.

Newberry Library

Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Telephone: 312-255-3512
E-mail: Contact a Librarian form
Internet: Newberry Library
A large Chicago repository with genealogies, local histories, censuses, military, land, indexes, vital records, court, and tax records many from Illinois, the Mississippi Valley, eastern seaboard, Canada, and the British Isles.[15] They have over 17,000 printed genealogies. The collection is noteworthy for its colonial America, especially New England holdings. They have church, town, and county histories from all parts of the United States, Canada, and the British Isles. This includes a comprehensive set of New England town histories, and strong collection of county histories from the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. Their Civil War unit histories collection is one of the best.[16] This library has research guides on various subjects related to genealogy and library holdings cataloged from 1978.  See
  • Genealogy Collection Guides and Research Tools for more information about the collections. 
  • A surname index to genealogical periodicals and local history books in the Newberry Library was completed in 1915 and published as The Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library[17] Since this index is old, be sure to use the online guide sheet to this collection before using the source.

Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute

Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
(917) 606-8217
gi@cjh.org
http://genealogy.cjh.org
The Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute at the Center for Jewish History provides access to a wealth of genealogical resources through the Center’s partner collections and the Institute’s extensive reference collection, online databases, and research guides.The partners’ archives comprise the world’s largest and most comprehensive archive of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel. The collections span a thousand years, with more than 5 miles of archival documents (in dozens of languages and alphabet systems) and more than 500,000 books, including family and community histories, memoirs, newspapers, photographs, as well as records of various communal, cultural, political and professional organizations. "

Other Major Genealogical Collections

The following repositories also have exceptional genealogical collections. These libraries collect major national sources as well as records of the states they serve. There is a page in this Wiki for each repository which includes contact information, a brief description of their collection, and list of alternative repositories with related collections.

Other Kinds of Repositories for Genealogists

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

Previously published directories include:

  • American Library Directory. 53rd Edition. New Providence, New Jersey: R. R. Bowker, 2000-2001. (FHL 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.
    • 65th Edition being published May, 2013.
  • Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. The Genealogist's Address Book. Fifth Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2005. (FHL 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.
  • The National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the United States. Second Edition. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press, 1988. (FHL 973 J54u 1988; 1978 Edition on fiche 6010080-89.)

University Libraries with special collections

Most large universities have a special collections division in their library. Some of these repositories have extensive collections of local and state historical documents, including many individual record collections. Carefully search the university library catalog for references to the individuals you are researching. Access to the special collections may be very restricted, so check with the library about any restrictions before visiting.

Federal Depository 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 topics, such as pension lists, private land claims, veterans' burial lists, and individuals' petitions to Congress. For their locations see the Federal Depository Library Directory online.

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. A list of all of the state archives and libraries is kept up to date on the webpage for the Council of State Archivists website. Another comprehensive list of state archives and their websites is available from the Georgia Secretary of State's website for anyone wanting to find a specific state archive.

Also see each state's Archives and Libraries wiki article (links below) for more information on these and other archives in each state.

Archives and Libraries in each State

Territories and Federal District

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. Each county's Wiki article provides 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. (FHL 973 D24bena) (Worldcat)
  • The Handy Book for Genealogists: United States of America. Tenth edition. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishing, 2006. (FHL 973 D27e) (Worldcat) 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. (Worldcat)
  • Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada. 15th Edition. Nashville, Tennessee: American Association for State and Local History, 2001. (FHL 970 H24d) (Worldcat)

Inventories, Registers, and 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. (FHL 975.3 A3sc) (Worldcat) 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.

Archive Finder ($) is a current directory which describes over 220,000 collections of primary source material housed in thousands of repositories across the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

References

  1. Information for Researchers at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC in National Archives (accessed 31 December 2013).
  2. 2.0 2.1 William Dollarhide and Ronald A. Bremer. America's Best Genealogy Resource Centers (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1998), 2. WorldCat 39493985; FHL Ref Book 973 J54d.
  3. Dollarhide and Bremer, 123-34.
  4. Dollarhide and Bremer, 134.
  5. National Archives at St. Louis in National Archives (accessed 18 March 2014).
  6. Dollarhide and Bremer, 43.
  7. About the Library in DAR Daughters of the American Revolution (accessed 8 February 2010).
  8. Dollarhide and Bremer, 1.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Contact Information in The Library of Congress [Internet site] (accessed 12 May 2010).
  10. The Collections in Local History and Genealogy Reference Services in Library of Congress (accessed 2 February 2014).
  11. Dollarhide and Bremer, 29.
  12. About the Midwest Genealogy Center at Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogical Center (accessed 5 May 2010).
  13. Dollarhide and Bremer, 5, 57, and 59.
  14. Irma and Paul Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy in New York Public Library (accessed 16 October 2010).
  15. Genealogy and Local History in The Newberry (accessed 27 February 2015).
  16. Dollarhide and Bremer, 39.
  17. The Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library. Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall, 1960. WorldCat 83367401 FHL films 928135–928137 and FHL book 973 D22n vols. 1–4