Nothing beats a trip to the nation’s capital for putting you in touch with history, family and otherwise. And don’t let your research quest keep you from seeing a bit of the city while you’re there. Washington, after all, is perhaps the only city in the world to list government and tourism as its top two industries.
Maybe you’ve been to one of the National Archives’ regional facilities, but you’ll want to make a trip to the National Archives Building, which holds our government’s most cherished documents: the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Unfortunately, the building — located at 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — is under renovation, so you won’t get to see those original documents and other exhibits in the Rotunda until the summer of 2003. But the research rooms will be open, and there’s plenty of information to keep you busy. There’s also plenty of information to get lost in, so you’ll want to plan ahead. Click onto NARA’s Genealogy Page <www.nara.gov/genealogy> to view the archives’ holdings. For research tips, see the National Archives Building’s Web site at <www.nara.gov/nara/dc/Archivesi_directions.html> or call (800) 234-8861.
When visiting Washington, it makes sense to leave your car at home. Parking is tough to come by legally and the city’s good things come in clusters. Plan to walk a lot and use the city’s subway system, the Metro. The Metro is clean, cost-efficient ($5 for an all-day pass) and will get you to most places that you want to go. The National Archives Building is right off the Archives/Navy Memorial stop on the yellow or green line. You can find a map on the Metro’s Web site <www.wmata.com>. The only drawback of the Metro is that the system shuts down around midnight on most weeknights. Late nights will require springing for a cab, which charge by an archaic zones-traveled-through system instead of a time or distance fare.
Some monuments — such as the new FDR memorial — are a hike from the Metro, though. Your best bet for these is a Tour-mobile pass, which lets you get on and off at any of its 24 stops <www.tourmobile.com>.
Other must-sees for family history buffs are the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. The library holds more than 120 million items on 530 miles of bookshelves in its three massive buildings, which are named after Library of Congress founder Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams. It’s located at 101 Independence Ave. SE; researchers should use the Second Street entrance to the Jefferson Building (202-707-5000, <www.loc.gov>). Admission is free. Use the Capitol South Metro stop (blue and orange lines).
The Smithsonian <www.si.edu> includes 14 museums in Washington, DC, and the National Zoo. Its National Museum of American History (14th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest, 202-357-2700, <americanhistory.si.edu>), has a collection ranging from the “Star-Spangled Banner” flag to Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. It’s truly “the nation’s attic.” Admission is free. Use the Smithsonian or Federal Triangle Metro stops (blue and orange lines).
Take time to explore the 150,000 volumes and 53,000 microforms of genealogical material at the Daughters of the American Revolution Library (1776 D St. NW 202-879-3229, <dar.library.net>). The library is open to researchers weekdays and Sunday afternoons for a fee of $5 (except during the group’s annual meeting in mid-April and holidays). Use the Farragut West Metro stop (blue and orange lines).
Among the city’s newer museum attractions is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (100 Raoul Wallenberg Place Southwest, 202-488-0400, <www.ushmm.org>, Smithsonian Metro stop), which offers a somber but important look at history. Admission is free but timed. Since all tickets are frequently gone by noon, consider calling ahead (<tickets.com>, 800-400-9373) to reserve them (a small fee is charged). Please think twice before taking small children to this powerful, harrowing museum.
Another popular new museum is across the Potomac in Arlington, Va., the Newseum (1101 Wilson Blvd., 888-NEWSEUM, <www.newseum.org>). This museum chronicles the history of news through interactive exhibits. You can try your hand at being a news anchor or test your journalistic ethics. Admission is free and museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Use the Rosslyn Metro stop (blue and orange lines).
Check out <washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/entertainment/art/museumlist.htm> for a handy guide to Washington’s cornucopia of museums.
After a hard day of research or museum-hopping, you’ll need to eat. Fortunately, Washington is a glutton’s paradise. Food of any origin — Thai, Ethiopian, Indian and Vietnamese among many others — can be found in this international town. To hobnob with the city’s journalists and congressional staffers, try the Hawk and Dove (329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 202-543-3300), which has a pub-like atmosphere and food and prices to match. To dine with political power brokers, try the pricier Monocle (107 D St. NE, 202-546-4488).
For those who don’t understand what a gourmand is but know the letters B, B and Q, the Capital Q (707 H St. NW, 202-347-8396) will hit the spot. The local city magazine, The Washingtonian, named it one of the best bargains in town. (But go for lunch, not dinner, as it’s not the best neighborhood at night.)
If you’re looking for a restaurant within a mile or so of the National Archives, longtime Washington Post critic Phyllis Richman recommends:
• Café Atlantico (405 Eighth St. NW, 202-393-0812) — Caribbean and Latin American
• DC Coast (1401 K St. NW, 202-216-5988) — seafood
• Georgia Brown’s (950 15th St. NW, 202-393-4499) — Southern cooking
• Jaleo (480 Seventh St. NW, 202-628-7949) — famous for tapas
• Morrison-Clark Inn (1015 L St. NW, 202-898-1200) — American
• Ruppert’s (1017 Seventh St. NW, 202-783-0699) — inventive seasonal specialities
(Most require reservations. Expect price tags to match the quality; these are a splurge.)
For lodging not far from the archives, try the Hotel George (15 E St. NW, 800-576-8331). The adjoining restaurant, bis, is popular with politicos and TV journalists.
Also handy to the archives is Lowe’s L’Enfant Plaza (480 L’Enfant Plaza SW, 202-484-1000). This mainstay of both business travelers and vacationing families has an extensive fitness center, the respected American Grill restaurant, a brewpub and its own Metro stop.
Cost-conscious visitors might try the Best Western Downtown near Capitol Hill (724 Third St. NW, 800-242-4831). The rooms here are standard hotel fare but offer a good deal for nearly the same convenience.
Safety is a concern near Capitol Hill, especially at night. Your best bet for lodging might lie in someplace like nearby Rosslyn, a quick Metro ride away.
For more travel information, check out the Washington Post’s Visitors Guide at <www.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/local/longterm/tours/guide2.htm> and extensive restaurant and entertainment guide at <eg.washingtonpost.com>. Time Out offers another helpful guide at <www.timeout.com/washingtondc>.
– Jim Faber
• New York Family History
<geocities.com/~agiroux>: Links to New York City and Long Island churches, cemeteries and vital records.
• New York GenWeb Project
<rootsweb.com/~nygenweb>: Links to state and county resources.
• New York Mailing Lists
<rootsweb.com/~jfuller/gen_mail_states-ny.html>: State- and county-level mailing lists.
• New York Resources at RootsWeb
<resources.rootsweb.com/USA/NY>: GEDCOMs, queries, Bibles, records.
• Tribes and Villages of New York
<hanksville.org/sand/contacts/tribal/Ny.html>: Links to Native American reservations.
• Vital Records Information — New York
<vitalrec.com/ny.html>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
• Cape Vincent
Cape Vincent French Festival
French food and a parade at the scenic spot where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. (315) 654-2481
Long Island Carnival
Watch the parade and join in street activities that showcase Caribbean culture.
• Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania
215 S. Broad St., Seventh Floor Philadelphia, PA 19107
• The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
1300 Locust St. Philadelphia, PA 19107
• Pennsylvania Genealogical Research
by George K. Schweitzer (Genealogical Sources Unlimited, $15)
Start spreading the news: New York is a genealogist’s dream.
Washington, DC, may hold the keys to our nation’s political history, but New York City embodies our nation’s character. Tens of millions of immigrants passed through the Port of New York in search of a better life, which means at least 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots to the Big Apple. There is plenty of research to be done here, but save time to visit some of the outstanding sites that provide a glimpse into what life was like for your immigrant ancestors in this ever-evolving metropolis.
Begin your trip as more than 12 million immigrants did, with a ferry ride to Ellis Island ($8 ferry ticket). Go early because, in addition to doing research at the American Family Immigration History Center ($5 admission, 212-883-1986 for reservations, <www.ellisisland.org>), you’ll want to spend a few hours perusing the exhibits at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum (212-363-3200, <www.nps.gov/ellis>). At the history center; you can search ships’ passenger records from 1892 to 1924 and obtain reproductions of original ship manifests and photos of ships of passage. The museum takes visitors through the very rooms immigrants were shuffled through, which are now full of photos, artifacts, text and recorded interviews chronicling their journeys from their homelands to the lives they found in America.
On the ferry to Ellis Island, which departs from Battery Park (by subway, 4,5 to Bowling Green; 1, 9 to South Ferry), you may be tempted to stop off at the Statue of Liberty (212-363-3200, <www.nps.gov/stli>). If you’re devoting only one day to these sites, you might want to settle for taking photos of the statue from the ferry — it takes at least three hours to get through the Immigration Museum’s mesmerizing exhibits.
If your ancestors immigrated through New York before 1892, you can search for their records at the National Archives in the West Village (201 Varick St., 212-337-1300, <www.nara.gov/regional/newyork.html>; 1, 9 to Houston Street; E to Spring Street). The archives’ highlights include ship passenger records for the Port of New York from 1820 to 1957, naturalization records for most of New York state and New Jersey, and census records for 1790 to 1920. Regular hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, plus 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. the third Saturday of each month.
One of the largest genealogical and local history collections open to the public in the country is at the New York Public Library’s US History, Local History & Genealogy Division (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Room 121, 212-930-0828, <www.nypl.org/research/chss/lhg/genea.html>; D, F, S to 42nd St.; 4, 5, 6, S to Grand Central/42nd Street). The division collects materials documenting American history on the national, state and local levels, as well as visual resources and international genealogical materials.
A much different body of materials is accessible at the New York Family History Center (125 Columbus Ave. at 65th St., Second Floor, 212-873-1690; 1, 9 to 66th Street/Lincoln Center). This branch of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City has more than 8,500 microfiche and microfilms and 900 books focusing on British, Eastern European, Caribbean, Puerto Rican and Canadian information.
If your ancestors were among the one-third of Ellis Island immigrants to settle in New York, there are several places to research their stories. Start with the Municipal Archives of the City of New York (31 Chambers St., Room 103,212-385-0984, <www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/doris/html>; R to City Hall; 4, 5,6 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall; A, C to Chambers Street; 2, 3 to Park Place), which houses vital records from 1795 to 1948, various city directories dating from 1796, a wealth of city government records and photographs of every building in all five boroughs taken from 1939 to 1941 by the Department of Taxes.
The library collections at the New-York Historical Society ($5 suggested donation; 2 W. 77th St. at Central Park West, 212-873-3400, <www.nyhistory.org>; B, C to 81st Street) consist of approximately 500,000 books and pamphlets, 2 million manuscripts and more than 10,000 newspaper titles. Visitors can also access one of the world’s largest collections of orderly books from the American Revolution and an array of publications and manuscripts from the Civil War.
It may be worth the $50 out-of-New-York membership fee to join the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (122-126 E. 58th St. between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue, 212-755-8532, <www.nygbs.org>; 4, 5, 6 to 59th Street). The society’s library houses more than 75,000 books, 1,300 periodicals, 30,000 manuscripts and nearly 22,000 microforms, as well as computer media focusing mainly on New York state genealogy and local history.
For an authentic look at how New York’s immigrants lived, visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (90 Orchard St., 212-431-0233, <www.tenement.org>; F to Delancey). There you’ll learn about the lives of actual past residents in the building that was home to an estimated 7,000 people from more than 20 nations from 1863 to 1935. Call ahead for tour tickets ($8 and $9).combine it with a tour of the Merchant’s House Museum ($5 admission; 29 E. Fourth St. between Bowery and Lafayette Streets, 212-777-1089, <www.merchantshouse.com>; 6 to Astor Place). Built in 1832, it is the city’s only family home preserved intact from the 19th century.
If you’re especially interested in a particular neighborhood, consider taking a guided walking tour. Big Onion Walking Tours (212-439-1090, <www.bigonion.com>) and NYC Discovery Walking Tours (212-465-3331) offer a range of interestingly themed tours led by knowledgeable guides.
At $1.50 per ride, the quickest and most economical way to traverse the city is by subway. Tokens are still sold, but most people now use Metrocards, which are also good on buses and can be bought at token booths or self-serve machines in stations. You can put money on a Metrocard or buy a one-day ($4) or seven-day ($17) unlimited-ride card, depending on how much you’ll use the trains.
The lines are denoted by letters and numbers. Directions in stations are almost always indicated by “uptown” and “downtown,” so be sure you know which way you’re going before entering a station and then double-check signs above the platforms. Maps are free at token booths.
New York’s continual influx of cultures makes for a stellar culinary scene. If you’re up for Italian, try Little Italy’s II Cortile (125 Mulberry St. between Canal and Hester streets, 212-226-6060; 6, N, R, J, M, Z to Canal St.). Pick any one of the eateries in “Little India” (E. Sixth St. between First and Second avenues) for savory and economical Indian fare. The 2nd Avenue Deli (156 Second Ave. and 10th St., 212-677-0606; 6 to Astor Place) is a New York kosher classic.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, call for reservations at Jean Georges in the Trump International Hotel (1 Central Park W between 60th and 61st streets, 212-299-3900; A, B, C, D, 1,9 to 59th St./Columbus Circle; jacket required). And for the best American mac ‘n’ cheese, take a seat at Chat n’ Chew one block west of Union Square (10 E. 16th St., 212-243-1616; L, N, R, 4, 5, 6 to Union Square). Visit <www.zagat.com> or <newyork.citysearch.com> for more restaurant ideas.
As for lodging, with so many hotels to pick from (and such high prices), where to start? For easy access to Ellis Island, the National Archives and the Municipal Archives, consider downtown’s Marriott Financial Center (85 West St., 800-242-8685) or the Millennium Hilton (55 Church St., 800-774-1500).
Within walking distance of the public library, the literary landmark Algonquin Hotel(59 W. 44th St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues, 212-840-6800) offers 165 rooms that drip with classic New York style. For a more economical choice, stay at Quality Hotel and Suites Midtown (59 W. 46th St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues, 800-567-7720).
Be sure to call before you visit any of the locations mentioned here. Due to the World Trade Center tragedy, some facilities may be closed or have limited visiting hours.
– Amy Leibrock
• Pennsylvania Land Records: A History and Guide for Research by Donna Bingham Munger (Scholarly Resources, $29.95)
• “Ancestors” Pennsylvania Resource Guide
<kbyu.org/ancestors/resourceguide/Pennsylvania.shtml>: Links to societies, archives and records.
• Brenda’s Guide to PA Genealogy
<key-net.net/users/oron/palinks.htm>: Resources for everything from Bible records to the Underground Railroad.
• Pennsylvania Cemeteries
<daddezio.com/cemetery/junction/CJ-PA-NDX.html>: Cemetery transcriptions.
• Pennsylvania Dutch Family History and Genealogy
<midatlantic.rootsweb.com/padutch>: Surname boards and FAQs, plus links to other Pennsylvania Dutch sites.
• Pennsylvania Resources at RootsWeb
<resources.rootsweb.com/USA/PA>: Variety of family and general Pennsylvania-related genealogy links.
• Pennsylvania State Archives
<www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us>: Online access to 200,000 Pennsylvania records.
• Tim’s Tips on PA German Research
<geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/3816/how2.html>: For county records and histories.
• Vital Records Information — Pennsylvania
<vitalrec.com/pa.html>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
Gettysburg Civil War Heritage Days
Re-enactment of the historic Civil War battle.
(717) 334-6274 <www.gettysburg.com>
Does the city of brotherly love ring a hell with your ancestry research?
Home of the Liberty Bell. First capital of the United States. Birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Philadelphia is where our nation began — what better place to uncover your roots? Founded in 1682 by William Penn, an English Quaker, the city grew to be the second-largest English-speaking city in the world during the 18th century. Called the Athens of the Americas, it has remained a cultural center as the fifth-largest city in the United States and the second-largest on the East Coast.
Philadelphia’s old world charm can be found in the cobblestone streets and Colonial-era homes of the Historic and Waterfront District, located a couple of blocks east of the Convention Center between Sixth Street and Penn’s Landing on the banks of the Delaware River. This is where you’ll spend much of your visit exploring your American heritage. Take a day or two to wander around Old City, a historic hub of Philadelphia. Here you’ll find the Betsy Ross House, US Mint and a number of historic churches and synagogues. You’ll also want to stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest residential street. While you’re in the neighborhood, grab a hoagie for lunch. You’ll find coupons for these Philly-born sandwiches — as well as a number of area attractions — at Historic Philadelphia Inc.’s Web site <historic.philly.com>.
Just south of Old City, past Market Street, is Independence National Historic Park, where you can see the Liberty Bell and tour Independence Hall, in which our forefathers created the country’s most important documents. The 45-acre park has some 20 buildings open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, with extended hours for some buildings in spring and summer. Most buildings offer free tours, but some charge a $2 interpretive fee. Independence Hall is a popular tourist attraction, so get there early to avoid the wait for a free tour. For current hours and other information, call (215) 597-8974 or visit the Web site <www.nps.gov/inde>.
Need a break from the crowds? Begin your serious genealogical research with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s extensive Civil War resources and collection of 40,000 published and unpublished genealogies. HSP’s library (1300 Locust St., 215-732-6200) is open Tuesday through Saturday for a fee of $5 for adults and $2 for students with current student identification cards. Check the Web site <www.hsp.org> for detailed directions and library rules.
Another resource is the National Archives and Records Administration’s Mid-Atlantic Region facility (900 Market St., 215-597-3000, <www.nara.gov/regional/philacc.html>), which holds World War I draft registration cards and naturalization records and indexes for Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.
For marriage, naturalization and vital records, as well as city directories, visit the Philadelphia City Archives (Suite 150, 3101 Market St., 215-685-9401, <www.phila.gov/phils/carchive.htm>). But if you’re looking for birth and death records after June 30, 1915, you’ll have to apply to the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records (1400 Spring Garden St., Room 1009,215-560-3054). Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
You won’t want to leave the City of Brotherly Love without visiting at least one of its museums, which will further your appreciation for your heritage or that of your neighbor. In 2000, the National Liberty Museum (321 Chestnut St., 215-925-2800, <www.libertymuseum.org/browse.htm>) was created to celebrate “our nation’s heritage of freedom and the wonderful diverse society it has produced” by paying tribute to more than 350 heroes of democracy from America and abroad. It’s open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students.
Celebrate black heritage at the African American Museum of Philadelphia, (701 Arch St., 215-574-0380, <aampmuseum.org>). It’s open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday for a fee of $6 for adults and $4 for seniors, students, children and those with disabilities. The National Museum of American Jewish History (55 N. Fifth St., 215-923-3811, <www.nmajh.org>) is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday for $3 for adults and $2 for seniors, students and children.
Climb into immigrant ship bunks and chart a course for Penn’s Landing at the Independence Seaport Museum (211 S. Columbus Blvd. and Walnut Street, 215-925-5439, <seaport.philly.com>). With hands-on exhibits and a research library containing maps, ship plans and logbooks, this is the place to explore Philadelphia’s maritime history. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is $8 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and $4 for children.
The best way to see Philadelphia is to walk it, but there are alternatives. You can reach just about any area by public transit, be it bus, subway or trolley. Your best bet, though, is the tourist-friendly PHLASH bus (215-4-PHLASH, <www.phillyphlash.net>), which will shuttle you to 32 stops near area attractions for just $4 a day.
Philadelphia has been named the number-one restaurant city, and for good reason. Whether you’re craving curry or cheese steak, you’ll find it here. Start sampling with these restaurants, which you’ll find near the above attractions:
Fork (306 Market St., 215-625-9425, <www.forkrestaurant.com>) — hip, classy spot for the over-30 crowd
Rococo (123 Chestnut St., 215-629-1100) — multiethnic cuisine recognized by Gourmet Magazine
City Tavern (132 S. Second St., 215-413-1443) — colonial tavern with an impressive selection of beer
Lamberti’s Cucina (212 Walnut St., 215-238-0499, <www.lambertis.com>) — moderately priced Italian near Independence Seaport Museum
Blue Angel (706 Chestnut St., 215-925-6889) — voted “best French fries” by Philadelphia Magazine
Warmdaddy’s (Front and Market streets, 215-627-8400, <www.warmdaddys.com>) — jazz, blues and southern cookin’
While researching your ancestors, why not stay in a restored 18th-century bed and breakfast? Step back into the Federal Period at the Thomas Bond House (129 S. Second St., 800-845-2663, <www.winston-saleminn.com/philadelphia>), the only bed and breakfast in Independence National Historic Park. Rooms run between $95 and $175. You might also try Penn’s View Inn (14 N. Front St., 215-922-7600), a 19th-century bed and breakfast with prices ranging from $120 to $200.
TheBest Western Inn (235 Chestnut St., 215-922-4443) in Old City also offers plenty of charm. It’s in an old Victorian townhouse minutes from landmarks and restaurants with rooms running $135 to $200.
If you’re on a budget, the Comfort Inn (100 N. Christopher Columbus Blvd., 215-627-7900) doesn’t offer a lot of frills, but it does have a great view of the Delaware River. And it’s just a few blocks from Old City.