I have to admit that, for me, identifying my favorite place to do genealogical research – has no one answer. Instead, my favorites have evolved through time and I need to mention both ancestral homes and research facilities.
Way back in the beginning, in 1980, when I was just a neophyte genealogist, I have to admit that New England was my favorite area in which to research and my one visit to the New England Historic Genealogical Society probably got me hooked for life.
I was so spoiled by my New England ancestors as they left such good records that I could easily trace multiple lines back to an immigrant ancestor in Massachusetts or Connecticut. Researching those ancestors was a great introduction because I learned to track families as they moved away from the Boston area and the research success rate was very high.
I do have to admit that I like a good challenge, though, and as I began delving into my husband’s side of the family, some Southern favorites appeared, namely, Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas. Yes, homes to the hundreds of burned counties, but they became favorite places to research because of (1) the great local interest and support for family history and (2) the top notch state library collections.
The earliest visit I made to any of these places was to Little Rock, Arkansas to the Arkansas History Commission & State Archives.
These were still pre-internet days and I was astounded by all the easily accessed census records and family histories. I had only a short time to spend there – a day – but I made great progress tracking some of the families.
This is the room I remember from yet another one day visit. However, it fueled my interest in discovering more records at the county and local level to tell the stories of ancestors’ lives. Again, in spite of all the burned and/or missing records, local organizations and societies made it possible to piece together more information than I had ever dreamed was possible.
A third favorite for research, Virginia, is on the list for the same reason. One of my most favorite websites ever, the Library of Virginia Chancery Court Records on Virginia Memory, is a great example of the depth of Virginia collections.
After a number of years, I had traced many families, both my own and my husband’s, through many states and some of the European lines were new brick walls. I guess they had always been brick walls, but I didn’t have access to resources that might help crack through them.
That leads me to my all-time favorite place to research. You’ve probably figured out where I am going with this. Yes, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This is my opportunity to heap the mountains of praise on the volunteers there that they so deserve. My current favorite ancestor places to research are Denmark and Sweden. However, my successes would not have happened without intense help from the Scandinavian staff on the international floor.
Not only have I learned to navigate Danish and Swedish records, many hours of hard work have paid off in bundles. To that end, I would like to thank Ruth, in particular, along with Naomi, Anka, Liv and all the other staff who help Scandinavian researchers.
Luckily, I live in the western United States so plane flights are a quick and easy way to reach the Family History Library. I haven’t kept count, but I have likely visited that library 15-20 times, often for 4-5 days at a time and, as everyone knows, it is not only the Scandinavian department that is outstanding. The Family History Library is definitely my overall #1 favorite facility for research due to the worldwide collections it houses.