How large is the Library’s local history and genealogy collection?

What kinds of materials does the Library have? What parts of the world are they from?

African American woman, half-length portrait, facing left, reading book. Between 1890 and 1920. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Publications

The Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Section has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign local history and genealogy publications. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 when Thomas Jefferson's library was purchased. Through generations of international giving, the Library's collections now contain over 100,000 U.S. local histories and more than 50,000 family histories.

The collection is strongest in United States publications, but the Library also collects foreign genealogies, and researchers doing foreign research will find strong collections for Western Europe, especially the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Germany.

While the Library is rich in collections of manuscripts, microfilms, newspapers, photographs, maps, and published material, it is not an archive or repository for unpublished or primary source county, state, or church records. However, the Library does collect such records if they appear in published format as indexes, abstracts or transcriptions of those records.

Vertical Files

The Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Section also maintains vertical files. This uncataloged collection contains miscellaneous materials relating to specific family names, to the states, towns, and cities of the U.S., and to genealogical research in general. Included are drafts of letters written by LH&G reference librarians, pamphlets and other materials donated to the Library, magazine and newspaper clippings, genealogical charts and newsletters, and brochures of genealogical interest relating to organizations, societies and libraries throughout the United States. View the complete list of the vertical file subjects for further records.

Electronic Resources

The Library of Congress offers electronic resources including online subscription databases of newspapers, journals, books, magazines, manuals, and other materials relevant to genealogical research. Databases, including the library editions of Ancestry, HeritageQuest Online, Accessible Archives, American Ancestors, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers, provide enhanced accessibility to the Library’s collections and to those of other institutions. These electronic resources supplement the Library’s extensive print holdings, such as unpublished census, vital records, and military records, that the Library would not otherwise have available.

Throughout the Library

Records and resources pertinent to local history and genealogy are not limited to the Local History and Genealogy Section of the Library. View the complete list of specialized Library of Congress Reading Rooms to explore their collections. Several of these such as Geography and Map and Prints and Photographs have Digital Collections you may view from home.

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Last Updated: Jul 31, 2020
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Send written correspondence to:

Researcher and Reference Services Division
101 Independence Ave. SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ 100
Washington, D.C. 20540-4660

Please Note

The staff of the Library of Congress cannot undertake research in family history or heraldry. In order to perform work of this nature satisfactorily, it is necessary to identify a particular branch of the family concerned, and, because of the time and effort involved, searches for this kind of information usually require the services of a professional genealogist or heraldic searcher.