for microfilmed copies of original records from the localities where your
ancestors lived? The first place to look is your nearest LDS Family History
Library. Search the Family History Library Catalog under the heading for
the town, county, state, and other jurisdictions you have found using
the gazetteers and atlases discussed in Tip 6.
If you find that there are few records listed for the localities where
your family lived, it's time to discover where the records are.
First, check with the government agencies that might have the information.
In the United States, local, state, and national government agencies
keep their records until they are no longer in demand or until space
is depleted. Before destroying old records, officials normally decide
which records warrant preservation. Records judged useful for future
agency needs or records of historical value are then transferred to
an archive or records center.
The archival arm of the federal government is the National
Archives and Records Administration. This agency maintains two archives
in the Washington, D.C. area and regional archives in several states.
To learn more about these archives check at your local library for The
Archives: A Guide to the National Archives Field Branches (Loretto
Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, Salt Lake City: Ancestry,
1988) and Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives
(Rev. ed., Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1985).
To remain current with the many changes taking place at the National
Archives, read Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records
Administration. Check your local library's periodical collection
to learn if they subscribe to this important journal. The National Archives
has a home page on the Internet and will also respond to reference questions
by telephone. The National
Archives E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also write them at: National Archives and Records Administration,
User Services Division (NNU), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
Researchers commonly turn to the National Archives to look for censuses,
military service records, land records, selective service records (draft
records), ships' passenger lists and naturalization records. Remember
that the passenger lists and many censuses are available only as microfilm
copies. The original records may have been destroyed or given to other
All state governments fund a state archives. Sometimes they may be
part of a state historical society or a state history division. An Internet
search may turn up home pages for state agencies in states of interest
to you. Information on state archives can be found online or in the Genealogist's
Address Book. States often conducted censuses
at intervals that fell between federal decennial censuses. Ann Lainhart's
Census Records (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company,
1992) contains details about these important records.
State military records are key family history resources. Researchers
may forget that before World War I, the standing army in the United
States was small. Most of the men under arms were part of state or local
militias. State archives generally have preserved the records of these
units, some predating the Revolutionary War. State historical societies
are also important repositories of newspapers, local histories, biographies,
and genealogies. Both Eichholz and Bentley devote space in their books
to addresses of state historical societies.