Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Using Archives for Your Research

Do you use archives for your research?  Archives generally are established for permanent storage of records that are unique and often unpublished.  They may contain manuscripts, diaries, original records, letters, and other items that are considered to have lasting value.  One example is the U.S. National Archives, which keeps and maintains original records dating back to before the establishment of this country.  When I visited National Archives I in August 2011, I had the opportunity to hold a piece of paper signed by my third-great-grandfather.  That's the kind of experience you usually have only at an archive (unless you are lucky enough to have family heirlooms like that!).

To help researchers use archives more effectively, the Society of American Archivists has published a free guide.  Using Archives:  A Guide to Effective Research describes the function of archives, how to locate archives that have materials relevant to your research, how to use tools such as finding aids and databases, and how to plan a visit to an archive.  You can use the guide online or download a PDF version.

I hope this inspires you to look for material about your family in archives.  If you find something, tell us about it!

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