•    •  Where to Look Offline
Getting Started | Where to Look Offline

There are several genealogy repositories available to you when searching for information about your family. Public and private libraries, your local Family History Center, historical organisations, genealogical societies, archives, courthouses, and records offices should all be on this list.

Public & Private Libraries

Most major cities throughout the world have a library that houses a vast collection of genealogy material. A library can be public, such as a local council library, or private, like the libraries of many genealogical and historical societies, which are only accessible to members.

Few public libraries are able to undertake genealogical research because their staff is either untrained in genealogical research or simply does not have the time to reply to all of the requests that would be received if such a service was available. On the other hand, many private libraries held by genealogical and historical societies will offer research services for a fee.

If you can’t find what you’re searching for at your local library, many libraries make sections of their genealogy collections available through inter-library lending, which is a practise in which one library loans a book or microfilm to another library for use by a patron.

Family History & Historical Societies

Many family history and historical societies house a lot of records relevant for the family history researcher. However, the facilities, collection, and operating hours will differ considerably from one site to the next. Some of these collections are held in public libraries, while others are housed in tiny offices accessible exclusively to members. The majority are fully staffed by volunteer members who may or may not be professionals in the field of genealogy research. The best rule of thumb is to phone ahead and enquire about the collection, the hours of operation, and when the ideal time to visit is if you want assistance with your research.


Most countries across the world have vast collections of primary source documents of importance to family historians, such as military records, wills, land records, and so on. Large collections of documents may be kept in the national archives or in regional archives, or both. The major distinction between archives and libraries is that libraries generally gather books, microfilm, and other published things, whereas archives hold raw original source documents that comprise the region’s or nation’s history.

Do Your Homework

The location of records can differ from state to state. For example, if you’re searching for a will in Australia – In Queensland they can be found at the State Archives; in Victoria, they are held at the Public Record Office; in New South Wales some wills are held at the State Archives while others are available from the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

When visiting a library or archive for the first time, there are a few simple measures you can take for an effective research visit: