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A Genealogist In The Archives: Archived Records That Are Off The Beaten Path

Friday, January 27, 2017

Archived Records That Are Off The Beaten Path

Court records, deeds records, scrapbooks, photographs... these are some of the more well known record groups that most researchers access when they visit an archive, historical society or library.  

But did you know that there are numerous other record groups and types that are housed in archives that are almost never requested to be viewed by researchers. Why is that? Maybe it's because the researcher doesn't know these wonderful collections exist.

Wisdom Lodge #300 Newspaper Clipping, Houston County, TN. Archives

Here are 5 tips for genealogy researchers to learn about and view unique records in the archives where their ancestors lived:

1. Plan, plan, plan! Every genealogist who visits an archives, historical society or library to do research needs to have a research plan in place before they step foot in the door of the facility.  

2. Ask the archivist or librarian what record collections they have that are unique or unknown to the general public. Possibly there is an index of what is in the collection or better yet a Finding Aid.

3. Ask the archivist or librarian to allow you to view all of their records indexes or all of their Finding Aids. Most repositories will have these printed and in notebooks or they will be available on patron computers in the facility.

Election Worker's Payroll Request, Houston County, TN. Archives

4. Specifically ask to view the Vertical File Collection index. This index will be alphabetical and will include surnames as well as subjects such as "Erin United Methodist Church". Each file could contain just about anything. Remember...Vertical Files are like a box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get!

5. Specifically ask to view the index to the Manuscript Collection. Again, this listing will be alphabetical. The titles could be named anything, some of the more familiar titles will look something like this: "John Doe's Family Papers 1812-1900", "Erin Methodist Church 1848-1920". These collections could be contained in one box or in multiple boxes. The Finding Aid for the collection will help you decipher what is in the collection.

The next time you visit an archives, historical society or library to dig up those records on your ancestors, try these 5 tips to help you find those unique records, the ones that will tell more of your ancestor's story, the ones that will put "meat on your ancestors's bones"!



Want to know more about researching in archives?

Get My Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide:

Researching in Libraries and Archives: The Do's and Don'ts

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A Great Companion QuickGuide is:

It's Not All Online: Researching in Archives

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