The role of the genealogical research library is sometimes called into question. Many of the most important records that researchers rely on are available online and comprehensive databases help researchers quickly make connections. But it’s helpful to remember that numerous genealogical collections haven’t been digitized yet. Whether they’re extensive niche collections or records stored at the local level, it’s useful to researchers to understand how to prepare for a visit to a genealogical research archives. Here is a quick guide to help you get started.
Have a clear research agenda
Many of today’s genealogical libraries offer access to digital databases and other resources that are difficult to access on your own. But the vast majority of these libraries rely (at least in part) on old-fashioned systems of indexes, stacks, card catalogs, and microfiche. As a result, visits tend to be more successful when you have specific guidelines on what you’re looking for. For example, you might be hoping to locate the birthdate or marriage records of a specific ancestor.
The more specific you can be about what you need and the more supporting information you bring with you, the easier it will be for the archivists or librarians on site to help you. Consider batching your requests and having several different potential records or questions in mind for a visit, in case you run into a dead end. The more questions you’ve mapped out in advance, the best chance you have of a successful genealogical archive visit.
Confirm logistics before you visit
Digital genealogy offers the convenience of looking up records anytime and anyplace. But a visit to a genealogical library requires more planning. Find out where the records you’re looking for are being stored. In many cases, a city or state archive may divide records into different physical locations by year or by type. All the birth records for your state, for example, may be housed in different buildings with the only differentiating fact being a specific cutoff year. Call ahead to confirm the locations.
Some archives require that you make an appointment or come during specific research time windows. Others charge fees for ongoing research privileges, individual visits, librarian assistance, or to make copies of records, so clarify costs in advance and know whether you need to have cash available. Onsite assistance can often dramatically reduce the time you have to spend looking, but may require an advanced appointment.
Planning a visit to a genealogical research library can help expand your research horizons significantly. But it’s not always easy to get started. Do you need assistance navigating a records search as part of your genealogical research? Contact Price & Associates today to arrange for a personalized consultation and to discuss how our team can assist with visits to any genealogical research library.