Institutional Directories

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This article originally appeared in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.


Institutional directories lead researchers to libraries, archives, historical societies, and similar research facilities. This type of reference source opens new avenues of research and can be found in most libraries nationwide.

An entry from the American Library Directory showing the special collections held by the Shelbina Carnegie Public Library in Shelbina, Missouri.

The American Library Directory (New Providence, N.J.: R. R. Bowker, annual) lists more than thirty-seven thousand public, academic, government, and special libraries in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Each listing includes the library’s address, telephone number, number of volumes, and special collections held. This last point is important for genealogists because library special collections are often identified as local history or genealogy. The attached figure illustrates the special collections held by the Shelbina Carnegie Public Library in Shelbina, Missouri. The staff of this library is sufficiently proud of its special collections to include them in the library’s entry in this directory. Resources found in smaller, local libraries are unique and should not be overlooked as local records found in them are often not available in larger libraries. The American Library Directory will help one find them.

This directory should be consulted when planning a research trip; it will direct one to small-town libraries to visit in the area where ancestors lived. The American Library Directory is also helpful when searching for the name of a library to contact for information about local sources and the names of local researchers.

Another important directory is the biennial Directory of Special Libraries and Information Centers: A Guide to More Than 20,800 Special Libraries, Research Libraries, Information Centers, Archives, and Data Centers Maintained by Government Agencies, Business, Industry, Newspapers, Educational Institutions, Nonprofit Organizations, and Societies in the Field of Science and Engineering, Medicine, Law, Art, Religion, the Social Sciences, and Humanities, 16th ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1993). This directory’s subtitle aptly describes its scope and content. Use this source to locate research collections on specific topics. For example, to learn if there are special library collections on Polish Americans in the United States, consult the directory’s index under Polish Americans. References show three collections: one in New Britain, Connecticut, at the Central Connecticut State University in the Elihu Burritt Library, Special Collections; one in Buffalo, New York, at the State University of New York at Buffalo in the Lockwood Memorial Library Polish Collection; and one in Chicago at the Polish Museum of America in the Archives and Library. All three entries give addresses and telephone numbers and indicate that each is open to the public.

The Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the United States, published by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, directs researchers to institutions that hold historical records. Descriptive information concerning each repository includes address, telephone number, and hours of operation. Additionally, information on copying facilities, materials solicited by the repository, holdings by total volumes, inclusive dates of those holdings, and a brief description of the holdings are included. Also noted is the existence of any guides published by the institution. A detailed subject index cites personal names, subjects, and geographical terms used in the descriptive narrative of each repository’s holdings. An updated version of this source is now available on CD-ROM in ArchivesUSA (Alexandria, Va.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1996).

Locating archives and research institutions on the international level is best accomplished by using the annual World of Learning (London: Allen & Unwin, 1947). Arranged alphabetically by name of country, this classic reference work lists libraries, archives, learned societies, research institutes, museums, and other institutions of higher education in nearly two hundred countries. Each listing provides an institution’s address, telephone number, fields of interest, number of volumes held, catalogs published, and director’s name.

The questionnaire (left) sent to more than four thousand libraries in the United States and Canada for the Directory of American Libraries with Genealogy or Local History Collections. From the Terrebonne Parish Library in Houma, Louisiana.
Printed response from the questionnaire sent to more than four thousand libraries in the United States and Canada for the Directory of American Libraries with Genealogy or Local History Collections shown above. From the Terrebonne Parish Library in Houma, Louisiana.

Genealogists should be aware of two directories compiled specifically for family historians. The Directory of American Libraries with Genealogy or Local History Collections, by P. William Filby (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1988), provides information on genealogical holdings within certain libraries in the United States and Canada. This useful directory provides information on each library’s operating hours, approximate number of books and microfilm in genealogy departments, whether the library lends its collection, and whether it answers telephone and mailed inquiries. Filby, a former librarian with the Maryland Historical Society and compiler of several major genealogical reference works, saw the great need for a directory of genealogical collections and sent a two-part questionnaire to more than four thousand libraries in the United States and Canada. The first part of the questionnaire was designed to provide information about each library’s genealogical collections and their use and accessibility. The second part asked librarians if their collections contained certain genealogical books and periodicals. An example of the questionnaires used by Filby and the entry for Terrebone Parish Library in Houma, Louisiana, appear in the attached image.

The Genealogist’s Address Book, by Elizabeth Petty Bentley provides information on a variety of genealogical libraries and societies and ethnic, patriotic, and religious organizations. Also listed are major research centers, lineage and hereditary societies, computer interest groups, and genealogical lending libraries. Bentley’s work also includes an index to genealogical periodicals and newsletters by title. Of special interest to family historians is the section on ethnic and religious organizations. The Polish section includes references to twenty organizations and research centers nationwide, with addresses, telephone numbers, society publications, and hours of operation. These Polish references do not duplicate those found in the Directory of Special Libraries and Information Centers, mentioned previously.

Another important directory compiled by Bentley is the County Courthouse Book. Based on information received in response to questionnaires sent to 4,700 courthouses throughout the United States, this directory provides the address, telephone number, and record holdings of each courthouse. It also gives dates of each county’s organization, names of parent counties, and the types of record searches available. Costs for searches and photocopies are also given (although, as Bentley states in her introduction, all such charges are subject to change). Arranged alphabetically by state and county, this excellent guide furnishes the family historian with information needed to conduct an armchair search of county courthouse records.

Both of the above directories are now available in CD-ROM format under the title The Genealogist’s All-in-One Address Book. This CD combines Bentley’s Address Book, the County Courthouse Book, and another of Bentley’s address directories, the Directory of Family Associations. Genealogists can now search all three titles quickly and easily on one CD-ROM. Keyword searching provides access to names and words that might not appear in indexes in the printed editions of these books; thus, researchers using the CD-ROM format can access information that might not have been found when using the printed format.

Another well-known and respected source for locating courthouse records is The Handy Book for Genealogists: United States of America. Arranged alphabetically by state, the Handy Book features excellent state maps, data on county origins, and holdings of county courthouses. This source is often called the bible of genealogists because it provides basic information on counties, their origins, and the census information available for each county. The Handy Book belongs in every genealogist’s personal library because it offers worthwhile information in an easy-to-use format.


Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records


Publication Information:

Introduction - By Kory L. Meyerink

Origin of InformationCategories of Research Sources and ToolsEvaluation of Printed SourcesDocumentation and CopyrightLearning What Printed Sources ExistPublishers and DistributorsRepositories of Printed SourcesEffective Use of Libraries and Archives

Chapter 1: General Reference - Martha L. Henderson

Unique Resources in Public LibrariesDewey Decimal Classification SystemReference SourcesEncyclopediasGeneral History SourcesSocial History SourcesAlmanacs, Chronologies, and Statistical SourcesUsing DirectoriesLocal DirectoriesPrinted Professional DirectoriesInstitutional DirectoriesDirectories of Groups and AssociationsSource GuidesGeneral Language DictionariesHistorical and Etymological DictionariesSlang DictionariesSubject DictionariesSurname DictionariesGovernment DocumentsUsing BibliographiesElectronic SourcesReferences for Printed Sources: Chapter 1

Chapter 2: Instructional Materials - Sandra Hargreaves Luebking

Introduction to Instructional MattersHow-To Guides and Manuals for AdultsHow-to Guides and Manuals for Young PeopleGenealogy Technologies and Refinement of SkillsCourses and Programs of StudyPeriodical ArticlesIdentifying and Obtaining Instructional MaterialsEvaluating Instructional MaterialsSelecting Textbooks for Classroom UseThe Future of Instructional MaterialsReferences for Printed Sources: Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Introduction to Geographic ToolsIntroduction to Maps and GazettersMapping of a New NationRoutes to the WestCanals and WaterwaysRailroadsPolitical MapsNineteenth-Century MapsUSGS Topographic MapsOrdering Topographic Map Names and NumbersOrdering Topographic MapsDigital Topographic MapsOut-of-Print Topographic MapsFact Sheets and General Interest PublicationsOther Types of USGS MapsNineteenth-Century National GazetteersTwentieth-Century National GazetteersPostal Guides and Shipping GuidesMaps, Gazetteers, and the ComputerFinding Geographic ToolsUsing Geographic ToolsReferences for Printed Sources: Chapter 3

Chapter 4

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Chapter 5

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Chapter 6

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Chapter 7

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Chapter 8

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Chapter 9

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Chapter 10

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Chapter 11

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Chapter 12

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Chapter 13

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Chapter 14

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Chapter 15

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Chapter 16

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Chapter 17

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Chapter 18

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Chapter 19

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Chapter 20

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Appendix

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