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Utilizing the Library of Congress Genealogy Website

library of congress

The US Library of Congress (LOC) is the greatest repository of published works in the country including genealogy, local history books and periodicals.  Whether or not you are planning to visit the LOC, located in Washington, DC, in-person soon, it will benefit you to visit its website.

To get on the LOC site, start at its homepage: Allow yourself time to browse the site as a whole. For example, at the American Memory collection you will find a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the U.S. The site offers more than seven million digital items from more than 100 historical collections – from Ancient Greece to Athens, Ohio. Other popular items that can be accessed from the LOC home page include online exhibits, like one on Bob Hope’s vaudeville career (just to break up your family history research), world cultures, congressional legislation, and a link to an explore and discover area of the Library.

After you tear yourself from the aforementioned diversions (thank goodness for the “back” button), return to the Library of Congress home page. Now scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click on “Especially . . . for Researchers,” which will take you to the Resources and Reference Services page. Next page down to the link, “Local History and Genealogy,” which will bring you to the home page for the Local History and Genealogy Reference Services.

While much of the Local History and Genealogy site is designed to prepare researchers to work in the Library, you can also do some of your investigating right on the site. For instance, you can learn how to optimize a search of the online Library catalogue for a book among its collection of 40,000 published genealogies and 100,000 local histories. You will also find a page of links to genealogical collections at other libraries, as well as to a selected list of popular genealogy sites. Staff members of the Local History and Genealogy Reference Services have prepared more than a score of bibliographies or guides to a range of genealogy topics that you can access or print out for free. And if you are about to finish a genealogy or local history, you can learn what the procedures are for depositing a copy at the LOC.

On the other hand, if you are contemplating a trip to Washington, here are some reasons to visit Local History and Genealogy in advance. The staff of the Local History and Genealogy Reference Services conduct tours of the reading room and research seminars to orient new users to LOC resources. You’ll want to book one or both of these opportunities in advance. Similarly, a page of procedures should give you a pretty good idea of what to bring, the Library’s circulation policy, and generally how to make the best use of your time at the LOC. Finally, if you are accustomed to using a commercial genealogy database, like Ancestry, you can find out in advance which ones are available at the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room.

Whether you’re planning to travel to the Library of Congress or want to find something online among its 29 million books and printed materials, 2.7 million recordings, 12 million photographs, 4.8 million maps, and 57 million manuscripts, a visit to the website at promises to be rewarding.

Image credit: By TheAgency (CJStumpf) 01:36, 9 April 2007 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons