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A Genealogist In The Archives: It's Not All Online! Using Archives to Find Your Ancestors

Monday, October 1, 2018

It's Not All Online! Using Archives to Find Your Ancestors

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #1

It's Not All Online!

Today is the first day of "31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady". The next 31 days will be filled with tips on researching in archives and records preservation. My hope is that these tips help you be a better genealogist and home archivist.

The first tip is the most important. It's Not All Online! 

Today, genealogists can access tons of genealogical records online in the comfort of their own homes. Why would anyone have a need to go to an archive? Here's why!

There are literally thousands of archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, libraries and museums that have genealogical records sitting on their shelves, not online and waiting for the genealogist to dig into them. All genealogists reach a point in their research where they are coming up empty with online records and the next step is to contact or visit an archive.

Records Not Online in the Houston County, TN. Archives

Statistics say there is about 10% of the world's genealogical records online. I believe that number is more like 3-5%. The records of your ancestors could be sitting in boxes at an archive just waiting for you to discover them!

Where to start? Start at a wonderful website, Cyndi's List and the listings for "Libraries, Archives and Museums" ( There are over 9,000 entries for libraries, archives, historical societies, genealogical societies and museums. Find the ones that are located in the areas where your ancestors lived. Contact them by email or phone and ask about what kinds of records they have in their collections. If they have a website, check it out. The archive website could have record indexes or an inventory of the records they hold. Plan a visit to do onsite research at the facility in records that are not online. If you cannot travel to the archive, e-mail them with your genealogy records requests. 

Archivists are there to help find the genealogy records you need. They are knowledgeable about the records collections in their archive, especially the records that are not online. Please keep in mind, archivists are not there to do your research for you, so be as specific with your records request as possible.

Records Not Online in the Houston County, TN. Archives

Here is an action item that you can do at home. Take a sticky note and write the words "IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE" and place it by your computer. This will be a visual reminder, as you do genealogy research, to contact or visit an archive!



For more about researching in archives and finding records that are not online, check out my Legacy Family Tree Webinars:

Researching in Libraries and Archives: The Do's and Don't s



It's Not All Online: Researching in Archives