Tag Archives: DAR Library

Visiting the DAR Library in Washington, DC

Not long ago, I had an opportunity to visit the DAR Library in Washington, DC. I have been there before as I’ve been a Daughter for 35 years and I have been lucky enough to visit our nation’s capital multiple times. However, I am always amazed by both the beauty of the building and the quality of the library.

The DAR Library is located at 1776 D Street, N.W. and there is little chance that you would miss it.

The entrance to the library is actually just to the right of the steps where the DAR banners are hanging.

The NSDAR library website has the following description of its holdings:

The DAR Library collection contains over 225,000 books, 10,000 research files, thousands of manuscript items, and special collections of African American, Native American, and women’s history, genealogy and culture. Nearly 40,000 family histories and genealogies comprise a major portion of the book collection, many of which are unique or available in only a few libraries in the country.

There are a couple of misconceptions about this gem. You do not have to be a DAR member to use the library. Until a couple of years ago, there was a $10 fee for non-members to research there, but that fee has been dropped. Access is free to all; the only restriction on public visits is in late June-early July during Continental Congress, which is the DAR national convention. During that week, only Daughters may use the library, simply because of numbers.

Upon entering the building, you will check in at the security window and receive a visitor’s badge. As you enter the library, the reference desk is on the left.

You can already get a sense of how beautiful this library is. The library was the original meeting room for the ladies before they outgrew the space and moved into the larger Hall.

The library is just about jaw-droppingly beautiful.

One view

See those white rectangular things on the second floor? Those are actually rolling book shelves, full of fabulous genealogy books!

After taking in the room, it is sometimes a bit difficult to settle down and work, even for genealogy, but the work space is also beautiful:

Researcher Seating

The chairs are comfy modern, while the tables are vintage old wood with lots of new lighting.

While this is very much a “book” library (as in brick and mortar building), some of its holdings are becoming accessible online. Although its online databases are somewhat limited, they are growing.

How do you find anything here? At the library entrance, there are a series of handouts and brochures about the library. Among the most important are the floor maps:

Since the organization of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 125 years ago, members have regularly canvassed friends, family and neighborhoods gathering genealogical data from Bible records, letters, and other types of unique resources.

While the library has an impressive book collection, many of the books are not unique or hard to find at other genealogical repositories. Those unique records gathered by the Daughters through the years – the membership file documentation,  research files, manuscripts and special collections are what makes this library stand out.

Research help is also available. In addition to the books, the library presents Genealogy 101 classes on an itinerant schedule:

And, since you are already in the building, take some time to visit the world-class DAR Museum:

Not only are there rotating exhibitions, there are period rooms representing many of the states. Docents give frequent tours.

 If you find yourself in Washington, DC, make a note to yourself to visit and tour the DAR buildings at 1776 D Street, N.W. Allow yourself plenty of time to learn about their history and to do some research at this wonderful library.

Photos were all taken by me in April 2016. Library and museum brochures and papers are available free at the DAR Library.

DAR Library Resources

The DAR Library in Washington DC is one of the premier genealogical libraries in the world. Until recently, non-members had to pay an entrance fee of $10. However, the library is now free for all to use so if you are lucky enough to live nearby or be visiting our nation’s capital, be sure to visit the library.

For those of us who live too far away, the Daughters of the American Revolution has some limited free database indexes on line that can be accessed by the public.

First go to the DAR home page.

Next, look towards the top right hand side of the page and click on “Library.” I couldn’t screen capture the dropdown menu, but click “ONLINE RESEARCH” towards the bottom left side. The DAR Genealogical Research System page will open:

The Genealogical Research System contains several types of databases. The first choice is “Ancestor.” If you think you have an ancestor who gave service (they didn’t have to be a soldier – they could have given patriotic or civil service, too), enter his/her name and state.

Ancestor Search

I tried “Mathias Williams,” but got no hits. I then tried “Matthias Williams” and three different men came up, one from Virginia and two Matthias Williamsons from New Jersey. I also tried “Mat*hias Williams” and the same three men came up. If you aren’t sure of the spelling, wild card searches do work.

If your person doesn’t appear in the Ancestor index, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she didn’t support the American cause. It just means that no one has joined under that person.

The second choice is “Member.” The description points out that privacy of members is protected and, although it says searches can be done by national number, name and other fields, the only field choice here is national number. If you have a family member who is/was a DAR member AND you have her national number, enter it here. The page that opens up does NOT give the member’s name unless the member is deceased. Then the member’s name is given and the state in which she belonged along with a number code indicating the local chapter. There is also a list of any ancestors documented by that member. If the member is living, then only a list of documented ancestors appears. The “Member” database is really only useful if you want to be sure that your family member was a DAR member and know which ancestor/s have a proven descent to your family.

The third choice is “Descendants.” I find this to be the most difficult database index to use because one must know the name of a non-living direct descendant or the spouse’s name to make a connection to the Revolutionary War patriot.

HOWEVER, let’s say you suspect that you may have a Revolutionary War line, but you are stuck in the 1776-pre 1850 census gap. For example, I have come across the surname “Scripture,” which is fairly unique, while searching for my family in New England. One of the Scripture men I’ve seen in print is Oliver Scripture. Let’s say someone is a Scripture descendant and has proven her family back to Oliver.  She is having difficulty proving his parents’ names because he was born in 1796 (according to his gravestone inscription) and married with a grown family by 1850, but she  hasn’t been able to find a birth record.

I entered his name in the Descendants database and found that someone has joined DAR under Joses Bucknam, James Scripture and Samuel Scripture. It appears that Oliver Scripture married Mary Goddard Bucknam and that both Oliver and Mary are proven children of Revolutionary War patriots.

The next search box is for the GRC, which indexes the work of the DAR Genealogical Records Committee. Local DAR chapters from 1890 up through today transcribe and index unpublished local records, which many times include family Bible records.

Since Oliver Scripture isn’t a common name, I entered it in the GRC box. Two hits came up.

Unfortunately, GRC records haven’t yet been digitized and are only available at the DAR Library. However, at least I know that the NH Oliver Scripture may relate directly to Oliver born in 1796. The other man I would bet is part of the same Scripture family as they all seem to descend from Samuel Scripture in Massachusetts by about 1675.

Next is the “Resources” tab. There are four live tabs here – an Analytical Card Index, Revolutionary War Pension Index, the Forgotten Patriots Research Guide and  Suggested Websites. A description is given for each tab; they are basically alternate ways of searching for some of the same information using the first four databases. Some of these tabs overlap with library catalog search features. However, if you are really at a brick wall and haven’t found your ancestor using the other databases, I would recommend continuing on with these before giving up.

Even if you are not interested in joining a hereditary society, but just find yourself in the black abyss of record keeping between the 1790 and 1850 censuses, I highly recommend giving the DAR online resources a try. You might just find another brick wall has been opened!


My Top Genealogy Free Websites

When I moved to Tucson four years ago, one of the first things I did was look for a local genealogy society. Finding none, but having joined a ladies’ welcome club, I decided to organize one through the club. Four years later, I am proud to say that I have created new genealogy addicts. We meet regularly once a month and, while all except me were newbies when we organized, we now have a nice mix of somewhat seasoned researchers who have learned how to search for the next person in their family trees.

Aside from having lots of time to research together when we meet, I also teach a mini-lesson on a general genealogy topic each month. I am often asked about both websites and research books that I would recommend. Today’s post covers my top ten recommendations, in no particular order, for free research:

1. Familysearch.org – It goes without saying that this should be a starting and continuing resource for any serious researcher.

2. Cyndi’s List – Cyndi’s List is a reference guide for finding websites of for any particular genealogical topic or area of interest.

3. US Gen Web – US Gen Web, organized by state and counties, has varying amounts of fabulous information contributed by volunteers. Some information is readily found elsewhere, while other tidbits are unique to the site. The categories of information vary widely from locale to locale because the site is volunteer-driven. However, a visit to places of interest is well worth the time.

4. Chronicling America – The Library of Congress project, Chronicling America, digitizing historical American newspapers, is worth frequent visits as more newspapers are added to the project. Newspapers have traditionally been underused as a genealogical resource because it if often difficult to access them. Chronicling America has removed that problem.

5. Olive Tree Genealogy – This website has tons of links, many of which go to free websites, covering many less easily found sources of information. The highlight, in my opinion, are all the sources for ships’ passenger lists for both the U.S. and Canada.

6. DAR Library – The DAR Library is one of the premier genealogy libraries in the United States. Even if you has no ancestor who gave service during the American Revolution, the library likely has records for places where your family lived. The GRS (Genealogical Research System) database is available on line. If you think you might have a patriot, the ancestor database can also be searched on line. If you are able to visit the library in person, DAR recently dropped the admission fee for non-DAR members, so entrance is now free.

7. Google Books – Google Books is a terrific way to read genealogical books whose copyright has ended or whose author/compiler has given permission to share the work digitally. Obscure volumes often found only in libraries might well be found on Google.

8. FindAGrave – FindAGrave is a terrific resource, particularly for finding family members who lived in the 20th century. Care should be taken to note whether a gravestone has been transcribed and a photo posted or whether someone has simply created a memorial to a person who may or may not be buried in a particular cemetery.

Two slots on this list should be reserved for topic- or place-specific information often used by the family historian. In my case, I would include:

9. PANB (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)- I have so many New Brunswick connections that I would be light years further behind in my Canadian research without this site.

10. Statens Arkiver (Danish National Archives) – The Danish National Archives is another site on which I have found so much information and which is free. It contains digital images of Danish parish registers covering time spans well into the 20th century, along with Danish census images. Probate files are currently being added. I would not have found my great grandmother’s family in Denmark without this website.

I have posted a number of articles covering free resources, including some spectacular state libraries and archives  and local government level sites. Check them out and please comment on your own Top Ten Favorite Free Websites.

Come back tomorrow for my recommendations of Top Ten Genealogy Books for a basic reference collection.