Recently we heard from Jennifer, who wondered what kinds of genealogy resources she might discover in a state capital.
“I’m tagging along on my husband’s thesis research trip to Columbus, Ohio. I have some ancestors from other parts of Ohio. I was wondering what exactly I could look for in a state’s capital collections/archives that could save me a trip to the city or county? I was thinking that the state capital may have a “gem” that I couldn’t find elsewhere, or even duplicated information [from local repositories]. Do you know?”
Yes, Jennifer is definitely thinking along the right lines! Here’s our advice:
At the state level there are often two key resources: the state library and the state archives. These might be combined. One might be called the state historical society. You just have to look for each state. In Ohio, the Ohio History Connection serves as the state historical society and official state archives. But there is also a state library that serves as a repository for government documents and a resource for other libraries. Each has resources for genealogists, online and in-house. (Click here for digital genealogy content at the state library and here for resources at the Archives/Library of the Ohio History Connection).
In addition, public libraries of major cities often have excellent local history and genealogy collections. This is definitely true of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio’s state capital!
We suggest you contact librarians before you go and ask what they have that can’t be found anywhere else, both on a state level and for locales you are researching. Often times that will include photograph collections, company (business) collections, and my favorite newspapers on microfilm. If you can formulate specific genealogical questions that you want to try and answer and share those ahead of time with the librarian that will help her guide you toward the unique gems. Every state library and archive is unique, so consulting by phone with the reference librarian is the best way to go.
Here are a few articles on my website that can help you prepare to find genealogy records in a state capital repository or in any major library: