Research Your Scottish Ancestry

RObert WilbanksHistoric Record Repositories

by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.
Chief Genealogist & Historian, C.S.A.

In this column I’ve discussed a variety of topics related to more successful genealogy research, whether it was general record types, specific records, research strategies, network, and much more. Where possible, I incorporated specific locations, repositories, where these records are or may be found. Here, I will explain in general terms, various types of facilities and repositories where research can, and most likely should, be conducted.

Research facilities, or records repositories, come in a very large variety of types depending on a wide array of factors, such as record types, government entities involved, jurisdictions, private organizations, and much more. Any and all of these have the potential to be a good genealogy resource.

First, lets remember that records themselves can come in two basic types. First, there are Private Records. Records relative to private enterprise, organizations, and various other non-governmental bodies. Second, there are Public Records. These are records almost entirely created by various government agencies, departments, etc. These two types of entities, naturally, will create not only their own kinds of records, but their own repositories for those records. So, knowing if a record is private or public can determine whether the repository, or research facility, will be private or public.

Meanwhile, the type of repositories, or research facilities, created can also be varied. Generally, there are three key types of repositories or research facilities. The first are Libraries. A facility most notable for primarily housing books, though maps, music, and other collections exist in libraries. The second are Records Offices. Facilities for holding, conserving, and organizing records, usually more current in nature. The third are Archives, a repository for the storage and organizing of more historic records; usually over 75 or 100 years old.

Public libraries are most understood for the city, county, or the state where they are located, and the governmental agency that maintains it. Examples would be the City of Phoenix, or Chicago, New York, etc., Pima County (Az) Library and even the Library of Congress, maintained by the United States Government. For most people, private libraries are lesser known or understood. Some examples would be the LDS Genealogy Library in Salt Lake City (with their Centers all around the world), the West Valley (Sun City, Az) Genealogical Society Library, or any locality Historical Society Library, or the Daughters of the American Revolution Library in Washington D.C.

Public Records Offices, again, are simpler to understand. Usually a government facility maintained by city, county, state, and even federal agencies, etc., such as the Arizona Department of Health, or the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs. Private Records Offices are lesser known, and even determining their existence could require research. Often these would be associated with churches, or fraternal organizations, business or financial enterprises, etc.
Lastly, Archives, yet again, can be understood with relation to government jurisdictions and agencies. While the National Archives or a State Archives are most common, there are potentially unique locality Archives, such as the Philadelphia City Archives or the Westchester County (NY) Archives.  As for Private Archives, examples would be the Coca-Cola Archives, the Railroad History Archives for New England, and the Archives of the American Baptist Historical Society in Atlanta. Most Colleges and Universities have their own Institutional Archives.

Be sure to attend the June Meeting of the Caledonian Society of Arizona at the Irish Cultural Center where I will give an in-depth presentation on records repositories, research facilities, how to find them, how to utilized them, and more, for Genealogy Research.

This is another of a series of articles in which I show you the basics of searching for your family history, discussing the use of family records, public records, and online resources nationally and internationally, etc. The previous articles are now available on the Genealogy Section of this website.   See “Genealogy” in the menu options at the top of the web page.