Once you’ve made a few trips to regional facilities, you’ll be ready to tackle research at one of the United States’ genealogy meccas: the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) <www.archives.gov> in Washington, DC, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library (FHL) <www.familysearcb.org> in Salt Lake City.
NARA is the central location for US government records, including federal census schedules, passenger arrival lists, military service and pension records, and much more. You’ll find some of these records on microfilm at other facilities, but not all documents have been filmed. For an in-depth guide to visiting NARA, see the June 2004 Family Tree Magazine.
Don’t worry: You don’t have to go all the way to DC NARA has regional facilities around the country. Most facilities have all surviving US census schedules, Revolutionary War pension files and other microfilmed military documents, plus records for the geographical areas they serve. Find the locations and holdings of these facilities at <www.archives.gov/facilities>.
The FHL has been microfilming the world’s records since 1938. The main library houses millions of rolls of microfilm from all over the United States, Canada. Great Britain and several other countries; a nearby repository stores microfilmed records from more nations around the world. You must request the films stored at the second location before your visit to the FHL.
See if the FHL has records on your ancestors by searching the online catalog (from the home page, click on Library). Though some material doesn’t circulate, you may be able to borrow the film through a branch Family History Center. For tips on researching at the FHL, read Your Guide to the Family History Library by James W, Warren and Paula Stuart Warren (Betterway Books).