4 Hints for Visiting a Repository for Your Genealogy Research


A repository commonly refers to a location for storage, often for safety or preservation. This is where more than half of the documentation we are searching for is held. These documents are not “online” but are safely put away inside a brick and mortar building. We will have to, at some point in our search for answers, visit a few of these places. Genealogy is not the primary purpose of the repositories that keep documents. Their main purpose is to retain, recover and archive documents. Genealogy is a secondary thing for them so they do not feel the urgent need to upload all their files for those of us seeking answers. They are generally more than happy to help you find whatever you are looking for but this is a “side business” for them. In order to obtain some of the important documents you may need you will have to either write to the repository and pay a fee for them to find it and send it to you or you can make a trip there yourself.

If you do decide to go to the repository yourself here are some helpful hints:

  1. You will want to call each place you will be visiting before you leave on your trip to ask a few pertinent questions. Be sure you have a pen and paper ready so you can write down all the information you get. First you need to ask for their days and hours of operation. Even in a larger City some repositories may have short days or close one or two days during the week.


  1. You can explain to the clerk or receptionist what you are looking for just to verify that they do indeed have the type of document you are looking for. Yes you can look up the repository on their website and find out this information but websites are not always accurate and changes of what is available are not always made immediately on the website. One of my friends called ahead to a Historical Society in a small Town. Although the site gave their hours as being open daily she found out that they were only open two days a month. Because she called to inquire the woman agreed to open up for my friend so she could get the information she needed. All this happened because of a phone call.


  1. You should ask what information they will need from you in order to find the document you are looking for. This way you can be sure you have that is needed.


  1. This would also be a good time to ask about their policies and procedures. Make sure you know if you can bring your own scanner or even a camera into an archive and what their policies are regarding usage. Also ask if there is a charge for using their Research facility. I have found some repositories that will charge $5 per day for using their files.


It always pays to be organized and prepared. It will lead to a more productive search and a better chance of finding that “golden nugget” of information we all seek.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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