Friday, February 15, 2013

The National Archives, the State Archives, and the Family History Library

The records at the National Archives are EXPENSIVE and they take a long time to get to you after you have made a request.  There is a cheaper, easier and quicker way to get records from the Archives.  Hire someone to pull the records for you onsite.  I have someone I consult when I need something.  He just pulled two land entry files for me.  One of those files was quite lengthy.  My total cost for the two files, including the copying and mailing fees, was $30 and I got them in less than a week.  If I had ordered them from NARA directly it would have been $100 and I would have gotten them in 4 to 6 weeks.  If the one file had been shorter, he would have emailed images to me instead of mailing hard copies so my cost would have been even less.

I also have someone that pull records for me at the Family History Library.  I can’t even tell you how much time this has saved me.  It costs me $7.50 a roll to order the microfilm which isn’t bad but it takes 4 to 6 weeks for the rolls it to come in.  The Family History Center in Augusta does not have a copying microfilm reader so I have to take digital photos of the screen.  The readers they have are old and in bad condition with no plans to replace them.  It only costs me $15/hour to have someone pull records for me at the FHL and I get great images via email.  She can pull several records in an hour and I have them in less than a week usually.

If I need something from a state archive, I contact the archive and ask them for a list of persons who pulls records there.  I then contact one of them and I get my records.  There are also people that do this at large genealogical libraries and at courthouses.  I usually write to the courthouse directly and request the records but some courthouses won’t copy records for you.

Paying someone to do your leg work will save you time, money and aggravation. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Great advice. I am curious. How did you find oyur contacts at NARA and FHL?

  2. Great question and I should have put that in the blog post. I asked for recommendations on the Transitional Genealogists Forum (TGF, a mailing list for those who what to bring their research up to the next level) and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) mailing list (you must be a member of the APG to join this one). Here is the link to the TGF and here is a link to the APG

  3. I don't know what their time lag will end up being, but the FHL recently started offering free document pulls and emailing of digital images. They explain it better than I can...

    1. I have just recently been in contact with the FHL about this service and they have informed me that turn around is about 6-8 weeks. They only have 4 missionaries working who do the work and have something like 800 requests at the moment.

  4. I hadn't seen this blog post and it is pretty new so I called the Family History Library to get some clarification. They said that they would copy images from microfilm and from books completely free of charge BUT you have to give them VERY specific info. They cannot do any research for you at all. You can't make a request like, "copy every Simmons." They also won't check an index AND the actual film in the same request. You need to make a request to locate your ancestor in a microfilm index roll and then when you have that, make a request for them to find the person on the correct roll.

    They are not sure what the turnaround time will be since this is brand new. The service is geared more for items that are not in circulation. She said that if people stop ordering the circulating microfilms and use the service instead, they will have to put limits on what they will be able to do.

    In short, if you know exactly what you need off of a specific microfilm and can provide all of the details, you can send a request to the FHL. If they get too many requests for circulating materials they will put limits on what you can order.

  5. WOW, Zoey! Only 4 workers! That is worse than I thought! I asked the lady on the phone about the number of requests and she didn't know. I told her that I could only imagine that they would get thousands of requests. 800 in 12 days since that blog post came out is incredible!