The Center: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Capital Area

When genealogists think of Washington D.C. and/or federal records, they tend to think of census records and the National Archives. Maybe the Library of Congress comes to mind. Census records are, of course, of great value, which is why so many websites offer digital access to these records. As for the National Archives and the Library of Congress, just how well does the average researcher know about what these repositories have to offer? Thinking of these exceptional resources beg the question, what else does the nation’s capital have to offer genealogists?

The answer to these questions are revealed in The Center: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Capital Area. This guidebook reveals the agencies, departments, and archives in the Washington D.C. area. D.C. plays a unique role as a repository of genealogical material. Collectively, there are more records and materials available through D.C. than the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. As a matter of fact, the Washington area collectively represents the world’s largest holding of research materials.

Like any book which references offices, addresses, and phone numbers, the contact data in this book may have changed. Fortunately, resources like Google make finding new addresses and contact information quick and easy. However, finding a listing of resources like the one compiled in this book, is not as easy. This guide gives researchers not only the name and place of repositories, but also a description, a listing of resources, procedures, and more. The detailed Table of Contents, listed below, provides good overview of what the researcher will find in this valuable guide to the nation’s genealogical records.




Chapter 1: Where Do I Start?

  • About This Book
  • The Gathering Process
  • Getting Around

Chapter 2: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

  • Introduction
  • General Information
  • Room 400, Microfilm Reading Room
  • Room 203, Central Research Room
  • Federal Census Records
  • Military Records
  • Immigration Records
  • Naturalization Records
  • Passport Records
  • Native American/Indian Records
  • Black and African American Records
  • Confederate Records Relating to Civilians
  • Miscellaneous Records
  • Tax Records
  • Work Projects Administration, Historical Records Survey, RG 39
  • The Regional Archives System
  • A Selection of National Archives Publications Available Through the Family History Library System

Chapter 3: Federal Land Records

  • Agencies of the Department of Interior
  • Public Land States
  • The Public Land Survey System of the United States
  • Maps
  • A Selection of Resources Available Through the Family History Library System

Chapter 4: The Library of Congress (LC)

  • Introduction
  • General Information
  • The Thomas Jefferson Building “LJ”
  • James Madison Memorial Building “LM”
  • John Adams Building “LA”
  • A Selection of Library of Congress Materials Available Through the Family History Library System

Chapter 5: National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and the National Genealogy Society (NGS)

  • National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution
  • A Selection of DAR Resources Available Through the Family History Library System
  • National Genealogical Society
  • A Selection of NGS Resources Available Through the Family History Library System
  • Chapter 6: Facilities for Military Records and Research
  • American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)
  • Department of Defense and Related Sources
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • U.S. Government Printing Office

Chapter 7: Federal Government Agencies and Public Facilities

  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of State
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • U.S. Government Printing Office

Chapter 8: Government and Public Facilities, State, County, Regional, and Local, in Maryland and Virginia

  • Maryland
  • Virginia

Chapter 9: Genealogical Sources for the District of Columbia

  • Introduction
  • National Archives and Records Administration, Archives I
  • Cemetery Records
  • Church Archives
  • City Directories
  • Clerk of The U.S. District Court
  • District of Columbia Department of Health and Human Services
  • District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds
  • Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Library
  • Maryland State Archives
  • National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution
  • U.S. Government Printing Office
  • Virginia State Library and Archives
  • A Selection of District of Columbia Resources Available Through the Family History Library System

Chapter 10: Academic Instituions and Private Archives and Libraries with Genealogical Resources

  • Academic Institutions
  • Universities, Colleges, and Seminaries
  • Private Archives and Libraries
  • Family History Centers (FHCs)

Chapter 11: Resources for Ethnic and Religious Research

Chapter 12: Societies and Professional Organizations with Genealogical Resources

Geographical Cross-Reference


Appendix: Selected National Archives Order Forms



The Center: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Capital Area is available at Family Roots Publishing; Price: 25% off at just $14.96


U.S. District Court Records Retention Broadened to Include Some Non-Trial Cases

The following news release was posted by the USA National Archives on September 2. However, I just got around to reading it. It’s rather important as it outlines a basic change in what records are retained by the U.S. District Courts.

National Archives Statement on Appraisal of U.S. District Court Records
Washington, DC… The National Archives and Records Administration is completing a multi-year nationwide reappraisal of the historical significance of our nation’s court records. Recent articles and postings have led to some confusion on what is occurring. In reality, the National Archives has developed objective criteria by which District Court case files are identified for permanent retention.

Archives appraisal staff led a nationwide project, meeting with District Court judges and clerks, legal scholars and historians, reviewing files for each type of civil case to determine the value, having the scholars and historians review the appraisal and recommended disposition, and publishing the schedule in the Federal Register seeking public comment.

Under the previous schedule for District Court civil case files, only the case files that went to trial were scheduled as permanent records. Non-trial cases were appraised as temporary unless they were specifically identified to be “historically significant.” The National Archives believed that non-trial cases often had historical significance, but were not being identified.

Under this new revised schedule, there are now a large number of non-trial case files that are permanent, which previously would have had a temporary designation. Among these are cases involving civil rights, the environment, state reapportionment, patents, selective service, the death penalty, and numerous other categories. In addition, all class action cases and multi-district litigation cases are now permanent, as well as other cases specifically identified by the Courts or by the National Archives. The remaining non-trial case files are temporary with a 15-year retention.

The new schedule will result in a significantly larger number of cases being retained as permanent. For the period of 1970-2009, 1.4 million new cases will now be preserved that would have been classified as temporary under the old system. This represents a 300% increase of permanent records over the old records schedule.