Skip Navigation Links The Library of Congress >> Especially for Researchers >> Research Centers
Local History & Genealogy Reading Room
  Home >> Before You Begin

Before You Begin

  1. All researchers at the Library of Congress must obtain a Reader Identification card to gain access to the Library's reading rooms and collections. Some form of current, valid picture identification (e.g. driver's license, passport) is required. More information is available on the Library's Reader Registration home page.

  2. Reference staff is available in the LH&G Reading Room to assist readers. The staff helps readers identify publications that relate to the subjects of their research, chiefly by explaining how to use the indexes and catalogs in the room.

  3. The staff of the Library of Congress cannot undertake research in family history or heraldry. In order to perform work of this nature satisfactorily, it is necessary to identify a particular branch of the family concerned, and, because of the time and effort involved, searches for this kind of information usually require the services of a professional genealogist or heraldic searcher. Some assistance may be obtained from the Board for Certification of Genealogists, Post Office Box 14291, Washington DC 20044. Names of professional genealogists can also be obtained from the advertisements of their services carried in many genealogical periodicals. A convenient list of these periodicals appears in Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory, a standard reference work available in many libraries.

  4. Readers who have never undertaken genealogical research are urged to study the subject before coming to the Library. Several introductory books are now available in paperback and can be found in large bookstores; public libraries usually have books on genealogical research methods. A basic knowledge of procedures will allow readers to make better use of their time and improve their chances of success.

  5. A complete transcript of the Family Name Index in the LH&G Reading Room, as of December 1971, was published in two volumes in 1972 by the Magna Carta Book Company. Entitled Genealogies in the Library of Congress, A Bibliography, and edited by Marion J. Kaminkow, it lists over 20,000 genealogies, including many in foreign languages. One-volume supplements, issued in 1977 and 1987 list works added to the Library's collections from January 1972 to June 1986. An additional supplement entitled Genealogies Cataloged by the Library of Congress since 1986 was issued by the Library in 1992. These works are available in many public libraries.

  6. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress, a Bibliography, also edited by Marion J. Kaminkow and published by the Magna Carta Book Company in 1975, lists in five volumes some 90,000 works, arranged according to the Library's classification for U.S. local history, which is primarily geographical (regional, subdivided by state and further subdivided by period, county, and city). Many of the works listed in the bibliography provide information on early settlers, the establishment of local government, churches, schools, industry and trade, and biographical sketches of community leaders. This compendium also may be available in large libraries.

  7. Inquiries for information on ship passenger lists and on census, land, naturalization, and military service records should be directed to the National Archives, Washington, D.C. 20408.

  8. The Library does not permit its books on genealogy, heraldry, and U.S. local and state history to circulate on interlibrary loan. However, material in microform for which the Library holds the master negative is available for loan (or purchase). Since the Library has microfilmed most of its books relating to United States genealogy published from 1876-1900, a significant part of the genealogical collection is available for loan. Consult with a local reference librarian about the possibility of identifying and borrowing microfilmed material. More information is available on the Library's Interlibrary Loan home page.

  9. The Library does not have copies of genealogies for sale. Dealers in books, including out-of-print materials, may be able to assist in securing copies of publications or consult an online database with information on purchasing books, such as Bookfinder. It also may be possible to purchase photocopies of out-of-print items; for details about the Library's Photoduplication Service see below.

  10. The Library’s Photoduplication Service routinely supplies photocopies of items located in the Library’s collections if there are no copyright restrictions. The Service, which is a cost-recovery operation, assesses a non-refundable $12.00 advance payment for each order to cover identifying and assembling material to be copied. You must provide specific citations (title, author, number of pages, and LC call number) for materials you wish copied. For further information, consult the Photoduplication Service home page or send your request to the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service, Washington, D.C. 20540-4570 (phone 202-707-5640, fax 202-707-1771, or email

  11. The Library of Congress provides many services over the Internet. These include the Library's online catalog, information about the reading rooms and collections, guides to the collections, and links to other Internet information resources. The Local History and Genealogy Reading Room reference staff has compiled a list of searching tips for locating genealogical resources in the Library's online catalog.

  12. The Humanities and Social Sciences Division distributes free upon request short bibliographies related to genealogical research.


Top of Page Top of Page Search the Library's Catalog
  Home >> Before You Begin
  The Library of Congress >> Especially for Researchers >> Research Centers
  June 2, 2006

Contact Us:
Ask a Librarian