Have you ever wished there was a directory of archives and libraries within the United States that held genealogically related collections? I’ve sung the praises of the FamilySearch research wiki in the past, but it is time to do that once again.
An important step in the process of completing a “reasonably exhaustive” genealogical search is to identify repositories which might have documents, books and/or other resources that will aid us in that hunt.
Creating a research plan for each and every family in our tree isn’t a realistic goal and, often, isn’t even needed. However, for a family who remained in one location for decades, or even centuries, or for others who have presented us with brick walls, a personalized research guide is an essential tool which can be used to contact organizations from home or to plan an on-location genealogy trip.
Identifying available resources is probably the most important step in developing one’s plan because we don’t want to overlook the one source that might have the elusive record we are seeking!
State libraries and archives are often passed by in our research with the thought that our ancestor or family “wasn’t that important” and so we think it wasn’t likely that records about them would be at the state level.
I used to think that way, but having learned more about what state-level repositories have to offer in the way of specialized collections, I now include them on my “to do” lists.
Locating these institutions and organizations isn’t always easy, but FamilySearch has a wiki page devoted to United States Archives and Libraries!
This wiki page is chock full of information and links to national, regional, state and local archives and libraries.
Exactly what types of archives and libraries are in the wiki article? Major U.S. repositories are in the list and most even have their own separate articles:
After the major repositories, there are a number of other categories:
I generally find libraries much easier to navigate than archives because there is a card catalog with the holdings.
However, archives, maybe realizing the difficulty in locating resources, have all created finding aids. NARA has a set of finding aids, given that the collection is massive.
Guides and Finding Aids help the researcher identify the specific collection that may have items of interest. The screen shot above is only a partial list of NARA’s finding aids.
There is even a short list of digitized records online, including DPLA, the Digital Public Library of America.
What types of items did I find for Passaic? First, Passaic wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1873. Before that time, it was classified as a village. Take a look at this stereoscope image from 1860:
Source: DPLA, Public Domain
This isn’t exactly my idea of a village and it turns my perceived view of early Passaic upside down. It was a thriving city long before it officially called itself that.
NARA has a collection of city directories, including one for Passaic, which dates to 1929-1930.
Yes, I know Ancestry and other sites might also have them, but no one website has a complete collections. This might be the directory from which I can glean a new fact about my family.
My paternal grandfather’s family was living in Passaic when his older brother died c1901-1903. A link on the wiki page took me to a four-page PDF of New Jersey records:
I’ll have to wait a bit longer, but death records up through 1896 have been indexed and are searchable online. (Since I don’t have the exact year, I decided not to make a request by mail.)
I don’t have any Dutch ancestors in New Jersey, but if I did, the Library of Congress has a collection that would pique my interest:
This is the table of contents for a 48-page PDF!
In summary, the United States Archives and Libraries in the FamilySearch wiki contains a huge assortment of links to about every imaginable collection.
It’s definitely a genea-gem!