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Archives Archives - Genealogy Basics In 30 Minutes

Family research in libraries, archives, and other institutions

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Making your first family research trip to a brick-and-mortar research facility can be fun and nerve-wracking all at the same time. In my case, it’s the anticipation of what I might find that is the problem.

In addition, unlike at home where it’s possible to conduct research in your PJs and bunny slippers, on-site research takes a bit more planning and foresight. Here are a few things you need to remember before you go to a library or archive:

Family research at the National Archives in NYC

Family research at the National Archives in NYC

  • Prepare notes on who or what you are trying to find.
  • Know all of the rules for the institution. Ask staff if you are unsure of a particular policy.
  • Have cash for copies, lockers, or a snack.
  • Bring extra paper and pencils.
  • Have extra batteries if you are using a camera.
  • Bring a light jacket or sweater even in the summer (archives can be cold!)

The Golden Rule for family research

Good behavior extends to strangers you come into contact with in the course of your research. If you know you will be regularly working with a particular repository, treat the staff nicely. When you talk with someone in person, online, or in an email, be gracious and treat him or her with respect. You would be surprised how a little politeness will help you go a long way.