So I just read a post that I thought was a good idea,
we’re looking for genealogists worldwide who are bloggers, Facebookers, and/or Twitterers (hmm, should that be Tweeters?) to join in us in taking the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.
My “A” would be Archives. I love going to the State Archives. The hunt and capture of of people, places and events always makes me smile and feel I have accomplished getting closer to someone.
I have been visiting the archives for about 20 years, mostly going to the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh and the past couple of years in Richmond, Virginia at the State Library. I hope one day to go to Illinois state archives and in a couple of weeks I will be at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
The people that work at the archives are like gold to me. For the most part they are very helpful, even for those who have no clue what they are looking for. I have respect for the patience they have and the exhaustive knowledge that gives them the ability to put their fingers on just what you need. I have had a couple of experiences with some overworked state employees, but if you treat them with respect and thank them for their help, they tend to warm up to you and before you leave you are calling each other by first names and the next visit is much smoother.
The archives are a wealth of information. I always tell people who are just beginning their search, that they really ought to check out their state archives as soon as possible. I can still remember my first visit to NC and how intimidated I was. I had no idea what I was looking for, this is prior to the internet, or what I would find. I was overwhelmed when I came inside and saw rows and rows of books, cabinets, card files and the microfilm room. Where do I even begin?
Then I met some really great people, one in particular who took me by the hand and walked me around the room explaining what the holdings were, how I could request to look at documents and files in the back and where I should start. I loved the fact that I could put my hands on a letter that was written in 1775 by my 5th great grandfather and I could look at the papers involved in a court case from 1810. I reviewed maps, files, folders, microfilms and books until the very last second the room was open and I was back again the first one through the door in the morning.
Even now as a seasoned archives visitor I can still find surprises. Although I have family in Virginia now, our family is not from Virginia, but North Carolina on my fathers side and Illinois on my mother’s. However, my husbands family are all from Virginia, for the past 250-300 years, so I began research in the state archives on his family. Then I had clients whose families are from Virginia and my trips became more frequent. The attendants at the parking garage now remember me and ask me how I am doing when I come in and always ask me to drive safely when I leave. One even asked me how my grandson was, she remembered he came with me on one visit.
The thought that funding is a problem for a lot of states makes me sad. The holdings that are there and the service they provide are invaluable and everyone should make sure that their State Archives are given the funds necessary to keep our past safe for the future.