hi everyone Cristian here with another episode of the barefoot genealogist today we are talking about how to request information from an archive an archive is going to be the the loose term we’ll use today for any kind of record repository so that could be a state or county or local historical archive it could be a library it could be a vital records office it could be just any kind of a record repository I kind of use those two terms a little bit interchangeably what we’re gonna cover today is why you might need to contact an archive to request information where you get the information to be able to contact them where you find them and then some specifics about how to request that information and hopefully along the way I’ll be able to provide you with some really specific examples for some of the most commonly requested record types that we come across as we do family history research so with that introduction let’s go ahead and dive straight in to our presentation we’re gonna talk first about why we might need to order records from archives so for those of you who are new to genealogy in particular one of the things that I often hear from you as well isn’t everything online and of course the answer to that is no it’s not everything is not online and it likely never will be for a few reasons one is that some record repositories only make indexes available because they want you to come to them for the original record for a lot of reasons one of the main reasons is it’s a source of revenue for them these records that we use birth marriage death records census records military records none of these records were created for genealogists they were all created for other purposes and so these archives or record repositories don’t have any kind of an obligation to us as genealogists we use these records to learn more about our family history and to grow our family trees but the the people that hold these records have other priorities and so if they can use what we do as a way for them to generate income so that they can continue to preserve and collect records then they’re many of them are going to do that one of the prime examples of this this scenario is the general registers office in England we talked about this on Tuesday just a little bit but let me just remind you about that if you weren’t here the general registers office in England has made their birth marriage and death indexes available to us they start in 1837 they’re excellent excellent records but it is only an index not only that the index that they provide is very very limited so for example if I’m looking for a David Smith who was married you know in Yorkshire sometime around 1837 I might have three or four that come up and I might not be certain which one it is what their index provides me with is the quarter that the marriage was registered in the registration district now that’s the registration district not necessarily where the marriage took place and then we infer the county from that then there’s a volume and page number and then it shows you everybody whose marriage was also registered on that same page so if I know that my David Smith for example married a hannah Crabtree well then I know I have the right record but if all I know is that he married a woman named Hannah these names are common enough I might not know this is the right person unless I actually order the certificate and then when you order the certificate and here’s why you want to do this those certificates provide more information in the case of a marriage record from England it will likely provide both the groom and the bride’s father’s names and occupations and residents as well as the specific date and location of that marriage so right now like I said we just have a quarter in which it was registered but they could have been married on the 26th of June right not even in July August or September so ordering that actual certificate gives you more information in many many cases and and like I said in this case they want you to order those records from them because it is a source of income or revenue for them and so they make indexes available so that we can get close but then we have to contact them for the additional information some record repositories are still in the process of digitizing records a prime example of this is the National Archives of the United States

also known as Nara or the National Archives and Records Administration they have partnerships with several organizations to digitize records they also digitize some of their own records but the amount of holdings that they have means that it will take a really long time to digitize everything they have even as as much as they’ve invested in it and the National Archives here in the United States is a fairly unique situation because they are investing a lot of time and resources into getting these records digitized either by themselves or by their partners other record repositories don’t have that kind of time or manpower or financial resources to be able to do that and so they may be digitizing at a much slower rate and so in the meantime you know and we are and we’re talking decades here in some cases to be able to digitize all of this information in the meantime if you still want access to some of those records you either have to go there or you have to write to them for copies of their information and then one of the other reasons why these information requests are necessary is that some record repositories may never digitized records or make them available online and there are again several reasons for that many of those reasons are financial because they do not have the financial resources or the manpower to do it some of them are fear-based the whoever is the administration over that particular record or posit or II may not know or feel comfortable with or want to put information online or make it available online some of it is legal many countries and states and counties have privacy laws that prevent them from putting that information online but they will still make it available to people in person or through written requests particularly in some states Alabama comes to mind because I was just looking at it Alabama has 125 year privacy law on their birth records and their birth records started in 1908 at the state level so what that means is that those records are not and will not be online for quite a while however they do make those birth certificates available if you are a relative of that person so you can write to the state of Alabama and get a copy of a particular birth record so this is why we have to do some of these offline or even web-based form based email based information requests because all the information that we need to be able to build our family trees and some of that information that may be causing you that brick wall is not going to be available on a website like ancestry.com and so we can get you close we can help you find maybe some indexes to some of that information or know what’s available but you may still have to likely will still have to interact with some of these record repositories so let’s talk about where these record repositories are and how you find them the first thing I would encourage you to do is anytime you find an index record in particular read the database description to discover where ancestry.com obtained that index so in the case of this particular England and Wales free bmd marriage index that I’m looking at here if I scroll down past this record past that save box let me make this a little bigger for you past this save box what I’m going to see here is this database description and it includes source information so it says that we obtained this record the original data from the general register office in England and Wales so I could just come in here into Google and I could type in general register office of England clearly I’ve done that before and there it is the gr o and that will take me to their website and you can see here because they get this request a lot one of the very first links you’re gonna find here is order certificates online those certificates are going to cost you nine pound 25 including postage and they actually provide you with a form an online form to fill out to get that information you can also and ancestry.com provide you with this in many cases look for a link over here somewhere on the left in this case it’s right here where I can order that marriage certificate that will provide you with a form where you can do it directly from here now it’s going to cost a little more because we have to have have a processing fee but one of the things we do is we fill in some of the information for you so that you don’t have to try and copy and paste and hope you get it all accurate so if you can order it directly from here or you can google the name of the record repository from the source information

and see if they have a way for you to order it online now another really popular index that gets used a lot on ancestry.com is what we commonly refer to as the SSDI or the Social Security Death Index that particular index is provided by the US government and it is just an index it’s actually the the real the official name of it is the master death file it’s it was created to provide banks and credit card companies and insurance companies and the federal government with notice of who had passed away as a way to prevent fraud so if they could just look it up and see if this Social Security number if the name matches and if this person is deceased well then of course they shouldn’t be applying for a credit card or filing taxes and so that was the purpose of this particular index remember most all genealogical records that we use were not created for genealogical purposes but what this does for us Jenny illogically is it gets us to a place where we can discover how to order the original form that they used that they filled out in order to get their Social Security card so what it does is it’s it provides you with in an a form that the person themselves in most cases filled out hopefully and there’s been some privacy restrictions around this but very often well they always have to include their parents names now sometimes because of some new privacy laws and some new restrictions being placed there those parents names are sometimes blacked out on that application when you receive it unless you can provide information that the parents are deceased but it does just give you some further genealogical information right over here again in this left-hand side you’re gonna see this link that says request copy of original application and I love when it works and you can order a copy of what’s of that application form that social security application form you can do the same thing again here in Google you can come in here and you can say you know I want to contact the Social Security Administration and I want information about how to order the application that they filled out and so you can do it directly yourself just by googling that information again that information came from the source down here Social Security Administration or you can use the links here to order copies of those records so always check those database descriptions to see where we got the index so that you know who to contact now in some cases we don’t have any information online so for example in I think Alabama is a good example Alabama birth records I don’t think that we have any of them online after 1908 because of that 125 year privacy law but you can still determine who holds those records and there are a couple of places that you can do that one is the family history wiki and I’ll show you in just a moment how to find that and then the other are our state pages so those are the two places that I always go to just check see what’s available let’s start with that second one first state pages are found by just clicking on search scroll down past the search box and you’re gonna see a map and I can then click I’ve got my screen maximized there we go and then I can click on any state and I can say I want to see what repositories or resources are available for this location in this case that’s going to tell me that Alabama vital record registration began in 1908 and that the Alabama Department of Public Health and vital records are the ones who hold those records it does tell me that birth and death records are closed for 125 years except a family but that marriage and divorce records are publicly available so I can click on this and it will take me to the Alabama Department of Public Health website and then of course I want to look and and sometimes the information that you want is just right in your face they get these requests often enough that they put it right up front sometimes it’s a little bit hidden and you have to kind of dig for it in this case it’s right here on the homepage this information about obtaining birth certificates and it gives you some information about the fees what the restrictions are what information they need in order to locate the certificate and then in this case they actually provide you with a downloadable mail-in application that you can send directly to them for this cost of $15 or they provide you with a

link to a service called vital check vital check is a service that ancestry.com also uses to order some of those certificates but they do have an additional service fee so that’s just to make you aware you can you can order it directly online using vinyl check or you can download a PDF application form and mail it yourself directly to the Alabama vinyl records office so if they provide information if they provide a form or an online information for that because that’s going to be the easiest way to just fill that out and then you know exactly what they’re looking for that’s the state pages and I can do that for any state I just again click on that map go to the resources tab and there are usually links here for in this case the Department of idle records if I scroll down there’s links to the Alabama Department of Archives in history they have an extensive catalog online so I could go and see what kinds of records they have that might not be online it they’ll they’ll provide descriptions of the records that they hold they won’t provide name indexes so I can’t search for my great-grandfather but I could see you know what if he was living in in Alabama in 1867 they have a list of voters Alabama voters so that’s a record that I might be interested in obtaining a copy of in this case there’s several other the Alabama Historical Association the National Archives in Atlanta which holds regional records for the state of Alabama public libraries those are a great resource for genealogical records newspapers obituaries maps all sorts of things so any one of those state pages is gonna have a resource tab that’s what you’re gonna want to look for to see what other records might be available out there the other place I mentioned is the family history wiki you’re gonna find that by hovering over the Learning Center button and it’s gonna be that bottom option down there family history wiki when I get there I can just type in the name of a state or I can type in the word vital and it will take me to vital records for that location again it’s just another way to get access to the links or the information about the repositories that hold the records so explore those a little bit for the areas where your family is from and just see what exists what other records exist out there that are not online that you might not yet have considered now let’s talk about in our last few minutes here how because that’s really the meat of what several of you requested here here’s my first tip I think I’ve already mentioned it if they provide a form or if ancestry.com provides a form use it that’s going to ensure that you provide them with the information they need it’s usually got the really clear information about how much it’s going to cost to order a copy of those records and it’s going to be your request is likely to be processed more efficiently and quicker if they don’t provide a form look for an email or a mailing address oftentimes they will have that right up front on their website so that you can contact them or send them a request also look and sometimes you have to dig around for it a little bit on their websites look for pricing information if they provide pricing information send payment with your request that’s why they’ve provided that pricing information they will not process your request without the ten fifteen twenty-five dollars that they need in order to do that research and provide you with those copies if they don’t provide pricing information or if you can’t find it you might want to give them a call if there’s a phone number available and if you know they’re not in another country or something so see if you can ask for that information how much it would cost to do this kind of a search if that’s not possible then just make sure you write into your little request that you are willing to pay for research and copies I’ll show you an example here of that in just a minute now let’s talk about records so we’ve been talking about records that you know exist right you found an index and you know they have a copy of that birth record so you’re just trying to order a copy of that record but what if you don’t know if they have any records what if you see that they have like that 1867 tax list in the state of Alabama you know they have a collection of records that might have information about your family so one of the things you want to do is check the online catalog most state archives for certain and National Archives have really extensive online catalogs as you start getting smaller you know local archives public libraries sometimes their catalogs aren’t as of online but sometimes they really are

and even in other countries we find that their online catalogs tend to be they’re getting better because they don’t want to be processing requests for do you have this record or these kinds of records when they can just put that information out there on ancestry.com we actually have a really terrific catalog that has been provided for Eastern European archives so if your family is from you know any of the Eastern European countries Russia Ukraine Belarus Romania any of those countries you’re gonna find that this database has a lot of really great information it is not a database that is going to come up if you do a name search we this is not an index of names what it is this is an index of archives in Eastern Europe and what kinds of records they hold for certain time periods the easiest way to find it is through the card catalog I always just type in Miriam’s first name Mariam whiner is the woman who spent her entire career essentially creating this database of this catalogue of holdings in Eastern European archives you can see here the title of it is the miriam Winer Eastern European archival database and if you scroll down to that database description there’s information there about how she created it what countries are included what types of archives just a lot of really great information about doing research in those archives but if you happen to know a specific location where your family is from you can come in here and you can just type in the name of the place I’m gonna mark that exact and I’m gonna go ahead and just click search and you’ll see here it comes up with because I did a place search not a name search it comes up with a list of records that are available in the archives in Ukraine for this town or this province so you can see they have birth records and censuses and death records and some Jewish specific records marriage divorce tax lists Holocaust Records more censuses so this is the kind of information that is available in some of these archives that has not yet or may never be digitized and put online and so we have this catalog available to us where we can say you know what they hold census records for 1850 18 to 1851 1858 and 1875 well if you know that your family came from this village or this town in Ukraine here it tells you that the records for this place are held by the state archive of Kiev and it tells me exactly what kind of archives what year and what those archive file numbers are so I can then do a couple of things I could come into I could go into Google here and I could type in state archive of Kiev and see what comes up and I can go to their website and one of the things that I love about using Google or Google Chrome is that oftentimes it will even provide me with a translate button if the website is not in in English and so I can come in here and I can say here’s there’s telephone numbers there’s email addresses they have a specific web address that’s specific to them and so I can come here to their specific website here I can translate this page or they’ve even provided a translator where I can click on it and it will translate things into British English anyway provides me with maps and information about that location here’s information about the hours if I want to visit I can scroll down and I can see the people who work there the kinds of records that they have here they have a description of archived Holdings so I could read and see if there’s there are any other records I’m interested in so all of this is just provided on their website but that most important information is going to be this contact information specifically in my case what I’m interested in is this email address and that becomes really useful so I’ve checked the online catalog to see what records I’m interested in and now here’s just a really strong piece of advice for you when you write an archive that you know has records that you’re interested in formulate one specific request do not provide a laundry list of I want every single record you might have for my grandfather and here’s his name and birthdate do not request four or five information about four or five different families formulate one specific request per email I would recommend that you start with just sending that one request and see you know see how the process works with this particular archive

before you send your next request so don’t just send one request per email and send multiple emails right away go through the whole process with one request first it helps you understand how the process works with each archive and they’re all just a little bit different and also you also start to build up a relationship with them so use a translator if necessary so I’m going to use this example with the Ukraine again if I’m going to write them I’m going to write my simple specific request in English and I’ll show you that example here and then I’m gonna go to Google Translate which is a website I use quite a bit and I’m gonna say you know what I want to translate from English into Ukrainian and then I’m gonna paste my request right in here and it will give me the translation of that so when I email my request I will have the the paragraph in English and then directly below that I will have the same paragraph translated in Ukrainian because you don’t know if the person on the other end if you’re particularly when we’re talking about foreign languages you don’t know if there’s someone there that speaks English or not these translators are not perfect sometimes there’s some grammatical issues but but you have shown that you’ve made the effort and when I have done that I find that they’re a lot more likely to respond to my request because I have made the effort to provide them that information in their lane as well if they have not provided you with payment or cost information first for records especially when I’m asking for research right I’m not asking them to just go and pull a record that I know exists I’m asking them to actually look at a collection of records that they hold for something specific so I’m asking them to do research for me and so offer that payment and then provide both your mailing address and your email address as contact information so that they can get ahold of you or get that information back to you sometimes an email address is sufficient they’ll email you back with documents attached and that’s fantastic sometimes some of these smaller archives and repositories they have no way to copy those records other than a copy machine and so even if you email them the request they will need to mail you back by snail mail the copies of the documents that they find they can’t scan them or digitize them because they may not have the facilities to do that so be sure to provide them with both ways to contact you both a mailing address and an email address so here’s just a simple example of the request that I would write to this archive in Ukraine about how about what I want so I’ll read this it’s on your screen but I will read it to you just so that you get a feeling for it according to your website you hold the census records for Tchaikovsky for 1850 to 1851 and 1858 I am looking for information on anyone with the surname Spectre living there during that time I expect there are at least three or four families I am happy to pay for research and copies can you provide me with this information you can reach me by email at or by mail at and then a thank you at the bottom now that may seem pretty Elementary it is very basic it is very simple but I have provided all the information they need I’ve specified the town and the records that I know that they hold the census for these two years I’ve also provided them with the surname that I’m looking for and what I expect them to find because I’ve done my own research I know that there were three or four families they’re related but they’re three or four separate households that will be living there in that time they may find more and that may be a great surprise for me but I provided them with what I expect I’ve provided this sentence here this information here that I’m happy to pay for those research and copies and I’ve made a request I’ve provided them with information to contact me and then I have closed with a thank you now they may come back and say I’m sorry we don’t have the staff to do that kind of research here’s a list of people that are in the area that you could hire to do that for you they may come back and say you know what we couldn’t find anything and sometimes that’s true and sometimes that’s just their way to get you to go away they may come back they may not come back for six months and when they do six months later you may get a packet of information with 30 pages in a brown envelope in the mail that’s always my favorite it’s kind of of mail that you know because they’ve done the research but they just didn’t communicate with you that whole six months while you were waiting anxiously and wondering did they get my email did they understand are they ever going to respond recognize that these archives again genealogy is not their priority they just it just may take them a while to get to your request and so six months later you get the brown envelope in the mail with a little

note that they would appreciate a donation of 30 or 40 dollars because of the research that they’ve done and here’s where you can send that money and so you send the money and then you send another request because now you know how that works this works for archives whether they’re here in the United States whether they’re overseas in a country where they don’t speak the language and some of their technology may be lagging behind some of the technology we have here in the United States it doesn’t matter what matters is that they have the records that we need to be able to continue to grow our family trees and so the kinder we are to them the the more patient we are with them and the more clear we are with them in our requests the more likely they are to help us and the next person that comes along that’s also a genealogist makes a request of them you can do this for archives and vital records offices many of whom provide online forms you can do it with libraries and archives that hold records that you want them to research for you one of my most common requests is calling up a local library and asking them to check their microfilm historic newspapers for obituaries back in the 1800s and very often they’ll do that for me for free and I’ll have it in my email in 24 or 48 hours sometimes they ask me for ten dollars and it takes you know three or four months either way it’s okay because I’m getting to the information that I need to be able to document the people in my family tree and to be able to continue to grow that tree and tell those stories until next time this is Krista Cowen have fun climbing your family tree