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A Genealogist In The Archives: Why Your Research is Never Done

Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Your Research is Never Done

I have heard it from genealogists before:

"My research is done. I have checked everywhere and there are no more records that exist"

How I wish this statement could be true and we could come to the conclusion that "our research is done". The truth is, our research will never be done.

Our genealogy research will never be done as long as records are being discovered, like this story from the University of Rochester in New York.

"Trove of Susan B. Anthony Letters Found in Man's Barn"

Susan B. Anthony 1820-1906

The records found date from 1869-1880 and include a trove of letters from the famed Susan B. Anthony, among others.

Now, maybe your ancestor isn't Susan B. Anthony but maybe your ancestor is mentioned in her letters or in some of the other letters and documents found in this man's barn. The point is, there are records being found everywhere and all the time.

And what about those records that haven't been discovered yet?

What about those records sitting in someone's basement, attic or barn that will hopefully be discovered and turned over to an archive and then made available to the researching public?

There is so much more to be discovered! Don't be one of those that says your research is done! Maybe, just maybe, there will be a discovery that will include records for your ancestor!

Are you looking for a photograph of your ancestor?

Did you know recently there was a very large photograph collection donated to the Library of Congress?

"Library of Congress Acquires Massive Archive of Civil Rights Photos by Bob Adelman"

March on Washington

This photograph donation contains 575,000 images that include 50,000 prints and hundreds of thousands of negatives and slides.

The collection was donated by an anonymous donor to the Library of Congress which will make the entire collection available to the public.

And what about all those records at the archives, library, historical society, genealogical society, university archives or museum that are just sitting on the shelves?

As an archivist I know all too well the amount of original records sitting on archives shelves waiting to be processed. These records have not been microfilmed, digitized or even seen by the public. While archivists know about the records that sit on their shelves, they are doing all they can do to process each record collection as they have the time.

As a genealogist working as an archivist, I now know that my research will never be done. Not as long as there are records discoveries in barns and as long as archives still have records on their shelves that have not been processed.

You may have to wait but hopefully one day there will be a discovery made that includes records for your ancestor! Don't Give Up!




Metal Paper Clips, Rubber Bands and Tape, OH MY!

Don't Forget to go over to Facebook and "Like" The Archive Lady's Page. Keep up with all the news you can use in the archives world and records preservation!


  1. You are so right, Melissa! I redo my searches regularly because new things are always being posted online or, as you point out, being processed by archives. Great reminder.

    1. Thank You Marian! for reading my blog. I was a genealogist for 20 years before I became an archivist and I never really knew just how much of our records are sitting on shelves waiting to be processed. There is so much more to be discovered and revealed!

  2. Melissa, This was a great reminder! Can you imagine how many wonderful records and "stuff" is out there just waiting to be found? Thanks for sharing. PS..I am putting a link to this article online at The Genealogy Reporter Facebook page. Amie Bowser Tennant

    1. Thank You Amie, for reading my blog! And thank you for sharing my blog post on The Genealogy Reporter Facebook page! I am always on the look out for stories of "stuff" being discovered!

  3. I'm a huge advocate of offline resources.

    1. Me Too! Working in an archive everyday, I know just how much is on our shelves that is not microfilmed or digitized, just imagine how much more is in our archives that is the same way! So much to discover! Thank You for reading my blog.

  4. So true! My family's drawers are full of old documents and photos and I will probably never have enough time to go through all of them... not even taking about online and offline archives.

    1. Margot, I would encourage you to get those documents and photos out of those drawers and archive them! While we have so many stories of discovery, we have even more stories of records being thrown away or destroyed. I always encourage others to archive what you have or donate it to an archive who can do take care of it! Thank You for reading my blog.