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The Library Of Congress Genealogical Resources

There are some 10,000 genealogical indexes, guides, and other reference works available, all arranged by family name.


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The Library of Congress has a genealogical collection that rivals that of the New York Public Library in size and scope. Established as a legislative library in 1800 and celebrating it's 200th anniversary, it grew into a national institution in the 19th century. Since 1950 the size of its collections and staff have tripled, and its annual appropriation has soared from $9 million to more than $330 million. With collections totaling more than 100 million items, a staff of nearly 5,000 persons, and services unmatched in scope by any other research library, the Library of Congress is one of the world's leading cultural institutions.

There are some 10,000 genealogical indexes, guides, and other reference works available, all arranged by family name. The reference collection and catalogs are intended to facilitate research in U.S. rather than foreign local history and genealogy.

The staff of the Library of Congress cannot undertake research in family history or heraldry. It's necessary to identify a particular branch of the family concerned, and, because of the time and effort involved, searches for this kind of information usually require the services of a professional genealogist or heraldic searcher.

Beginning genealogists should study how to research their family histories before coming to the Library. A basic knowledge of genealogical procedures allows researchers to make better use of their time and improve their chances of success.

A complete transcript of The Family Name Index in the LH&G Reading Room is available in two volumes. Entitled Genealogies in the Library of Congress, A Bibliography, and edited by Marion J. Kaminkow, it lists over 20,000 genealogies, including many in foreign languages. One-volume supplements, issued in 1977 and 1987 list works added to the Library's collections from January 1972 to June 1986. An additional supplement entitled Genealogies Cataloged by the Library of Congress Since 1986 was issued in 1992. Researchers will find these books in many public libraries.

United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress, a Bibliography, also edited by Marion J. Kaminkow, lists in five volumes some 90,000 works, arranged according to the Library's classification for U.S. local history, which is primarily geographical (regional, subdivided by state and further subdivided by period, county, and city). Many of the works listed in the bibliography provide information on early settlers, the establishment of local government, churches, schools, industry and trade, and biographical sketches of community leaders. This compendium also may be available in large libraries.

The Library doesn't permit its books on genealogy, heraldry, and U.S. local and state history to circulate on interlibrary loan. However, material on microform for which the Library holds the master negative is available for loan or purchase. Since the Library has microfilmed most of its books relating to United States genealogy published from 1876-1900, a significant part of the genealogical collection is available through interlibrary loan.

The Library's Photoduplication Service routinely supplies photocopies of items located in the Library's collections if there are no copyright restrictions. The Service assesses a non-refundable $10.00 advance payment for each order to cover identifying and assembling material to be copied. The advance payment also covers photocopying of short articles of up to 25 exposures (one exposure includes two pages) and serves as partial payment for larger orders. The Library provides cost estimates for orders exceeding 25 exposures. Photocopy rates are 50 cents exposure. Payments may be made by MasterCard or Visa, an international money order, or a check drawn on a U.S. bank. Requests should be directed to the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service, Washington, D.C. 20540-4570.

The Library is also the Congressional library, however, and every Congressperson has the right to withdraw materials, which means researchers can't always find the books they need.

The Library of Congress isn't an easy library in which to do research. Because books seem to be mis-shelved frequently, researchers are often told a book isn't available when in fact it's just not where it should be. A double check of a request should always be requested. Despite these drawbacks, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the United States, and it would be a mistake to ignore its enormous genealogical collection, which includes many resources not available elsewhere.

The Local History and Genealogy (LH&G) Reading Room is on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, Room LJG42. It's open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 8:30 A.M.-9:30 P.M. and Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday 8:30 A.M. -5:00 P.M. Closed Sundays and all federal holidays. For more information, call (202) 707-6400.

Source Information: Everyday Genealogy, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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