Researching archives for genealogy is an approach for additional family information you may have overlooked. Old letters, diaries, documents, and photos are just a few items one can expect to find in an archive. Special thanks to The Archive Lady, Melissa Barker, for her work in educating the genealogy community about the power of the archives!
I learned a valuable lesson. Going to the archives offers a wealth of special information for family history that can’t be found anywhere else. Here’s what you need to know.
How Does an Archive Differ from a Library
In my own experience, I was awed at how visiting a local county archive differed from the public library. I asked Melissa Barker, a Certified Archives Manager, what she would say when someone asked the difference between a library and an archive. She says:
There is a great deal of overlap between archives and libraries. An archives may have “library” as part of its name or an archive may be a department within a library. The difference between a public library and an archive is a library is normally a collection of books and other printed materials that are available to be checked out by their patrons. Archives also exist to make their collections available to the public, but differ from libraries in both the types of materials they hold and how those materials are accessed. An archive can hold published and unpublished materials. Usually the materials in an archives are unique and one of a kind such as letters, scrapbooks, photographs, etc.”
I would agree! My visit to the Fisher Family Library and Archive in Clark County, Ohio provided some very unique finds. One of my favorite finds were the photographs of my third great-grandparents that none of our family had ever seen. My dad enjoyed meeting them for the first time! The pictures were in the back of a county atlas, which is somewhere I would not have considered to look for pictures!
Melissa’s most treasured find was in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives. It was an original letter written by John “Jack” Hinson of Tennessee Civil War fame. The note was dated April 3, 1873 and was written in Jack Hinson’s own hand in pencil and signed by him. It was found folded and tucked into one of the large court record books and had not seen the light of day since the 1870’s.
I Still Don’t Get It: How Can I Use an Archives for Genealogy?
Don’t just take my word for it. Family Tree Webinars is now offering their Summer Spectacular for 2017 which include two webinars about archives. These webinars are different than most of the others. They are sets of webinars that really go in-depth about the topic.
Right now, Melissa Barker has four webinars available for subscribing members. Her classes are:
- Using Archives to Fill the Gaps in Your Ancestor’s Timeline
- Scrap Paper and Orphan Documents in Archives
- Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family
- Disaster Planning for the Genealogist: Safeguarding Your Genealogical Records
If you are already a subscribing member of Legacy Family Tree Webinars, then Melissa’s classes are free to you! If not, give yourself a gift that lasts all year and sign up for a year subscription for $49.95…a far cry less expensive than going to a genealogy conference! AND, you get all the same great speakers and topics as if you had created the perfect conference for yourself!
Need Help Finding an Archive for Your Targeted Area?
Try these Google tips:
- Google your county, state, and the word archives. [Clark County Ohio Archives]
- Google your state and the word archives. [Tennessee Archives]
- Contact a county or state level genealogical or historical society and ask where the closest archives would be.
Happy hunting, friends!
The Genealogy Reporter has an affiliate relationship with Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Links contained on this page provide commission to The Genealogy Reporter.