United States Archives and Libraries
United States Archives and Libraries
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.
- 1 National Archives and Records Administration
- 2 Digital Public Library of America
- 3 Allen County Public Library
- 4 Daughters of the American Revolution
- 5 Family History Library
- 6 Library of Congress
- 7 New England Historic Genealogical Society
- 8 New York Public Library
- 9 Newberry Library
- 10 Other major United States libraries with genealogical collections
- 11 University Libraries with special collections
- 12 Federal Repository Libraries
- 13 State Archives and State Libraries
- 14 Archives and Libraries in each State
- 15 County and Town Courthouses
- 16 Historical and Genealogical Societies
- 17 Inventories, Registers, Catalogs
National Archives and Records Administration
Pennsylvania Avenue at 8th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20408
Internet address: National Archives
The National Archives (NARA) 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.
- 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 and Original Records
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 - 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.
Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America provides a one stop access to the best of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science.
Allen County Public Library
P.O. Box 2270
Fort Wayne, IN 48801
Internet address: Allen County Public Library
The Allen County Public Library has a very large collection of sources for all states, including U.S. census records, periodicals, and local histories.
Daughters of the American Revolution
1776 “D” Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-5392
Internet address: Daughters of the American Revolution.
Daughters of the American Revolution is a national society. Its library in Washington, D.C. has one of the largest genealogical collections in the United States.
Family History Library
35 N. West Temple Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400
Internet address: FamilySearch
For more details see Family History Library.
Library of Congress
Genealogy and Local History Reading Room
101 Independence Ave. at First Street, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20504
Internet address: Library of Congress, Local History and Genealogy Reading Room
The Genealogical and Local History Reading Room of the Library of Congress has a 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.
New England Historic Genealogical Society
101 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116-3087
Internet address: New England Historic Genealogical Society
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
Internet address: New York Public Library
The New York Public Library has collected many published sources, such as local histories, city directories, maps, newspapers, and genealogies.
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610-3394
(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 major United States libraries with genealogical collections
The following libraries also have exceptional genealogical collections. These libraries collect major national sources as well as records of the states they serve.
- American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, Massachusetts)
- Harold B. Lee Library (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah) Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
- Dallas Public Library
- Detroit Public Library
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
- Los Angeles Public Library
- Mid-Continent Public Library (Independence, Missouri) Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center
- Wisconsin Historical Society (Madison, Wisconsin)
- Sutro Library (San Francisco State University)
- Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, Ohio)
- Mountain West Digital Library
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. (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.
- 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.
- 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. (FHL 973 J54u 1988; 1978 Edition on fiche 6010080-89.)
- Directory of Genealogy Libraries in the United States offers addresses, phone numbers, and web links to libraries with varying degrees of genealogical holdings; arranged by state.
University Libraries with special collections
Most large universities have a special collections division of their university 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 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 topics, such as pension lists, private land claims, veterans' burial lists, and individuals' petitions to Congress.
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 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 the state Archives and Libraries wiki articles (links below) for more information on these and other archives in each state.
Archives and Libraries in each State
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 county Wiki articles 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. (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, 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.