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Making effective use:
The local Archive Office

Local Archive Offices are a great source of information for genealogical researchers and should definitely be included in your studies. These offices contain a vast wealth of data and could possibly unearth some valuable clues to aid you in your research and even provide elusive links between your sketchier pieces of data.

Local Archive Offices typically host a comprehensive database of census records, newspaper articles, property records and many other important documents.

Here are some important tips to consider to help make your visit to the Local Archive Office a more productive experience.

Most archives will require you to have a Reader Card or Reader Ticket in order to begin your research. You will need to bring 2 current passport sized ID pictures for these cards. A document with your signature on it such as a driver's license, passport or credit card will also probably be required. These Reader Cards will allow you access to the documents in these archives and are normally valid for several years.

Many Local Archive Offices still utilise the old system of Reader Cards but many are increasingly moving over the CARN or County Archives Research Network system. The benefit of this system is that once you have a CARN card you can use it to access records from any other offices that use the CARN system.

An open clipboard with an A4 sized pad of paper and a couple of pencils are the most commonly accepted writing materials for use in archive offices, although some institutions have started to restrict the use of A4 pads in favour of smaller reporter's notebooks to help guard against the possibility of theft of important documents. Still, other Local Archive Offices will allow you to bring only a few loose sheets of paper. Markers, ball point pens and felt pens are generally not allowed in order to protect the documents from markings which may inadvertently be left on them.

Remember that many people will want to access the archives and as such your allotted time to do your research may be limited. You can make the best use of your time by planning out a course of action on a piece of paper before you begin your research; preferably before you even get to the Local Archive Office. You may wish to tackle the easier searches first in order to get a better gauge of where you want to proceed next, or you may want to cover the difficult searches first in order to maximize the amount of useful data you will be able to gather. In any case a good plan of attack will help ensure that your search is a fruitful one.

Many of the documents in these archives are recorded on microfilm so obviously you will need access to a film reader. These are usually very much in demand by researchers so you will probably want to call the Local Archive Office beforehand to reserve one for your own use. A reading table will come in handy as well so don't forget to book one in advance.

Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: Nicola Norfolk
Updated On: 06/02/2007

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