Washington, DC: NARA Genealogy Fair


Chief Genealogist Daniel Horowitz was recently in Washington, DC, for the Eighth NARA Genealogy Fair. Here’s his report.

Credit: archives.gov
The National Archives, Washington DC (Credit: archives.gov)

On my recent visit to Washington, I met with representatives of the National Archives and the US Holocaust Museum, but also spent time at the Library of Congress and do some genealogy research.

Although MyHeritage didn’t have a table in the exhibit tent, it was nice to see long time friends including geneablogger DearMyrtle (and Mr. Myrtle), members of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, the Fairfax (Virginia) Genealogy Society, and those from other genealogy companies.

Talks were scheduled in three tents outside the NARA building and were always at full capacity. This free annual event attracts attendees from DC and surrounding areas, as well as many who just walk by and discover the program! The diverse variety of topics covered everything from basic research steps to different record types and the already-famous 1940 Census.

A group of expert genealogy volunteers also dedicated their time to work one-on-one with many attendees to help with brick wall questions, point them in the right research direction or provide leads as to where needed information may be lurking.

During my meetings, I learned about digitizing and indexing projects that the National Archives is working on with different partners. Some are Civil War documents, photos, videos and government personalities’ personal correspondence.

I also met with the people behind NARA’s social media, including Facebook, blogs, Twitter and Foursquare. This archive is one of the most advanced in exploring all media possibilities to communicate with their users. I’m sure we’ll be seeing even more material very soon.

At the Library of Congress (LOC), I discovered an essential and often-neglected resource: City directories and phone books.  The library has a large collection and researchers can find almost every country and year represented. I even found some family members listed and could track their different addresses through the years.

Of course, I didn’t dial those numbers to call them today. Most were so old that the numbers had fewer digits than today. However, it was a fascinating experience to travel back in time and explore this great resource.

In fact, I spent so much time at the LOC that I was almost locked in overnight. They finally asked me to leave at 9.30pm, when the library closed.

If you’re in Washington, DC at some time, do make plans to visit NARA and the LOC.

Have you already visited NARA and LOC? If so, share your experiences and what you discovered.  We look forward to reading your comments.

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  • Ronny

    May 22, 2012

    Ač mám ve státech žijící prapředky, nedaří se je kontaktovat. Pokud se to jednou podaří, o mnohé se obohatí můj rodokmen. Snad čas a píle protrhne mlčení :o).