by Janet Meydam
Considering a vacation? Worried that you might miss a genealogy research opportunity if you leave your computer? Well, why not incorporate genealogy into your trip? Before the days of online genealogy research, family historians traveled everywhere in search of their ancestors, and you can too! Whether you’re visiting your favorite ancestor’s hometown, or digging through massive shelves at a well-known repository, the trip will always be worth it. Here are 8 must-visit locations to inspire your next genealogy adventure.
Must-Visit Genealogy Destinations in the USA
The National Archives in Washington D.C.
The National Archives houses federal court records, military records from the Revolutionary War up to 1912, land records, American Indian records from about 1774 to the 1990s, and vessel and station log books from U.S. military and nautical agencies.
Also, who can resist visiting the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom to view the founding documents of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The National Archives are located at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington D.C. Find more information on visiting the National Archives as a researcher here.
Daughters of the American Revolution National Headquarters, Washington D.C.
You don’t have to be a member of the DAR to visit its National Headquarters. The DAR Library offers over 140,000 books, 250,000 research files, and thousands of manuscripts. You and your family will also enjoy touring the DAR Museum, Americana Collection, and historic buildings. The library, museum, and Americana Collection are free to visit and are located at 1776 D Street NW, Washington D.C. Find out more about hours and tours here.
Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York City
Do you have ancestors who immigrated to the United States between 1892 and 1924? Then there is a good chance that they entered the country through Ellis Island. This historic site was the first and largest federal immigration station in the United States. The facilities and grounds are now open as the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.
Within the museum is the American Family Immigration History Center, where you can research the Port of New York passenger records from 1820 to 1957. The symbol of the freedom your ancestors sought in America, The Statue of Liberty, is nearby. For additional information and hours of operation, visit the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.
Castle Clinton National Monument in New York City
If you arrive in Battery Park, New York City for your Ellis Island ferry, also take some time to visit Castle Clinton. Formerly known as Castle Garden, this fort served as New York State’s primary immigration center from 1855 until 1890. If your ancestors came to the United States before 1890, chances are pretty good that they passed through Castle Garden. You can learn more about Castle Clinton here. On the West Coast instead? Consider visiting Angel Island.
The New England Historic Genealogy Society Library in Boston, Massachusetts
The NEHGS is the oldest and largest genealogical society in the United States. Its library offers millions of records pertaining to genealogical research in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Even if your ancestors were not from New England, the NEHGS is worth your time to investigate. Admission is free to members, $20 for non-members. The library is located at 99-101 Newbury Street, Boston, Massachusetts. You can find more information about visiting the NEHGS here.
The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this special section of the Allen County Public Library contains 350,000 printed volumes and over 513,000 items on microfilm and microfiche. The collection includes 55,000 compiled genealogies of North American and European families, as well as numerous other records. The Genealogy Center is located at 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Find more information here.
Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri
Established in 2008, the Midwest Genealogy Center offers 52,000 square feet of records from all over the United States. Included are 80,000 family history books, 100,000 local history items, 565,000 microfilms and microfiches, 7000 maps, and an extensive newspaper clippings collection. The Midwest Genealogy Center is located at 3440 S. Lee’s Summit Road, Independence, Missouri. Find out more here.
Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah
This ultimate genealogy library should be on every genealogist’s travel wish list. The Family History Center is the world’s largest genealogy library. Owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), the library’s on-site collection includes around 1.4 million rolls of microfilm, 600,000 books, periodicals and maps, 550 internet-enabled guest computers and over 200 microfilm and microfiche readers.
In addition, the Family History Center now offers the Discovery Center, a multimedia experience that introduces family history and research to people of all ages, including children and teens. The center is located at 35 North West Temple Street in Salt Lake City. You can find more information about the Family History Center on FamilySearch.
How about international genealogy travel?
Family heritage tour of your ancestral home
If you want to take your genealogy travel plans a step further, why not visit the country where your ancestors came from? Many people are now exploring their ancestors’ homelands through family heritage tours. You can learn more about these exciting genealogy vacations here.
A vacation doesn’t have to tear you away from your family tree. Instead, it can become a part of your genealogy adventure!
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Janet Meydam is a freelance writer who has over 40 years of experience in genealogy as a hobby. Her knowledge includes researching many different records from the United States, Germany and Poland. She is also a co-author of her parents’ family history book “I Come from a Long Line of Dilleys.” Janet works as an occupational therapist. She and her husband Tim have three adult children and live in Wisconsin.
Image: Midwest Genealogy Center at the Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri