Visiting Libraries Archives and Historical Societies

Earlier in this chapter, we discuss getting information from living relatives. But your kinfolk aren't the only people who can help you advance your research. There are some "institutional" type resources you don't want to forget.

Inevitably a time will come when you need to visit public (and possibly private) libraries in the areas where your ancestor lived. Although local history sections are not generally targeted toward genealogists, the information you can find there is quite valuable. For example, public libraries often have city directories and phone books, past issues of newspapers (good for obituary hunting), and old map collections. Libraries may also have extensive collections of local history books that can give you a flavor of what life was like for your ancestor in that area. And, of course, some libraries do have genealogy sections that have all sorts of goodies to help you locate records and discover interesting stories about your family. For a list of libraries with online catalogs, see The Library Index site at

Archives are another place to find good information. They exist at several different levels (national, state, and local) and have different owners (public or private). Each archive varies — some may have a large collection of certain types of documents, whereas others may just contain documents from a certain geographical area. To find archives, see the Repositories of Primary Sources page at

A third place to find additional information is at a historical society. Generally, historical societies have nice collections of maps, documents, and local history books pertaining to the area in which the society is located. They are repositories for collections of papers of people who lived in the community. Often, you can find references to your ancestors in these collections, especially if the person whose personal documents are in the collection wrote a letter or transacted some business with your ancestor. You can find links to historical societies on the Yahoo! site at ical_societies/

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