Research in original records

Yesterday when I was at the Minnesota Historical Society I noticed something that made me smile. I saw more than a dozen people sitting at tables researching in original records. Most of them stayed at it for many hours, going through file folders of records or multiple volumes of records. Others arrived later in the day to stay through the evening hours. I have no way of knowing exactly what they were working on, but it was exciting to see so many boxes of original records being used.

So often today, researchers including genealogists, historians, editors, writers, and others turn to online resources. I do that too. But the gems in those millions of files and record volumes at historical societies, archives, courthouses, and libraries are also waiting for us. I have no official statistics, but I would venture a guess that only a smidgen of those items have been microfilmed and/or digitized.

Even better is that this is a great time of year to do this type of research. Others are busy being in the holiday mood and that opens up lots of space and staff assistance time for dedicated researchers. Keep this in mind for 2011. From Thanksgiving week through New Year’s Day is a great time to research. Many of these places have an online presence that includes a catalog, other finding aids, and some other clues to the records they hold.

© 2010 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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1 comments on “Research in original records

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Paula. Although many of the most popular records in The National Archives have been filmed or digitised, we are still producing as many original documents as ever.

    Although we have plenty of readers who are not genealogists, many of the originals that we produce are still for people tracing their families. The easy availability of basic records like the census just means that you can get to the more challenging stuff sooner.

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