The Desert Shamrock
Arizonaís Original Irish Newspaper
Volume 8, Number 5, September/October 1997, page 18

Public Records and Public Facilities

by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.
Professional Genealogist & Historian

††††††† Previously, I explained to you how the process of researching your family history begins at home. When you have exhausted the old family papers, and interviewing family members, the next step is to organize your information. Special charts and forms, and even computer software, exist for the purpose of organizing this family information. Good organization is very effective in your continuing research.

††††††† I would discuss in more detail how to organize your family data, but my experience with beginning genealogists leads me to believe that you would not yet be interested. You are probably excited by what you have learned about your family so far, and so you are very interested in learning how you can find more. So, now that you have started interviewing family members and gathering materials, you are ready to get started conducting research and tapping into public resources.

††††††† The most familiar type of records are birth, marriage and death certificates. However, these vital records are primarily unique to the 20th Century, though variations exist at different times in parts of America and in Ireland. It is because of this only intermittent existence of early vital records that other forms of records are required in family history research. These other types of records include church records, cemetery records, wills, deeds, court records, newspapers, military records, shipsí passenger lists, and immigration records; just to name a few. I will discuss these records in future articles.

††††††† In America, these records can be obtained from varying facilities including City Hall, County Courthouses, State Archives, and the National Archives in Washington D.C., plus eleven regional branches. Other facilities for family history research include genealogy libraries and local historical societies. Public libraries can also have special local history collections. Meanwhile, there are also unique libraries and collections across America with extensive records and resources for Ireland. In Ireland there are several varying record houses, libraries and genealogical collections in Dublin, for the Republic of Ireland, and in Belfast, for Northern Ireland. These will be discussed in the future.

††††††† Donít be discouraged by my discussion of records in facilities across America and in Ireland. I know you canít easily travel to these places to research your family. In the future I will show how you can learn to conduct research locally through networking, genealogical societies and by mail and the Internet. Membership in societies from the region that your family is from and subscriptions to regional, national and ethnic magazines can also aid your research. Meanwhile, there are two major facilities in the Phoenix Metropolitan area where you can immediately begin your research.

††††††† In the basement of the Arizona Capitol Building, at 1700 West Washington, in the 1938 Annex, is the Genealogy Library, a division of the Arizona Department of Library, Archives and Public Records. It is a collection of over 10,000 books, magazines, microfilm, microfiche and maps. These materials include already researched family histories as well as information from throughout the United States and foreign countries. There is actually very little regarding Arizona in this collection, as most Arizona records are in the State Archives on the fourth floor. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.

††††††† Throughout Metropolitan Phoenix are several of 1600 Family History Centers around the world, all part of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City; founded in 1894. Keeping with religious doctrine, the library and itís satellite centers are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The general public is welcome to use the library and the centers, which are staffed with friendly and helpful volunteers. 100 teams in over 40 countries microfilm everything from parish registers to tax lists. The libraryís collection of records from around the world number over 1.5 million rolls. Films are added at the rate of 4000 rolls per month. The library also has a collection of over 200,000 books, with about 400 volumes added per month.

††††††† The satellite centers have computers with multiple databases, called FamilySearch, with over 700 million names. The centers also have assorted general genealogy resource books, guides and how-to books. There is also a catalog of the records in Salt Lake City. You can then order copies of the film and within 10 days view them at the center.

††††††† The Family History Center in Mesa, 41 South Hobson, just behind the Arbyís on the corner of Hobson and Main, is the largest center in the Phoenix area, and in fact the largest center outside of Utah. It has a collection of 22,000 books, 60,000 microfilm rolls and 50,000 microfiche of records from around the world. A great place to get started, make sure to bring what you already know. Mention the visit as your first, and a volunteer will give you a personal tour and sit down with you to look over your information and help you begin your research. Hours are Saturday and Monday 9 AM to 5 PM, and Tuesday through Friday 9 AM to 9 PM. You can call the Mesa Center at 964-1200 for information, and for the locations of other centers in the Phoenix Metro area.

DISCLAIMER: This is an important reminder that the above article is provided here exactly as originally written and published several years ago. Therefore, while most of the primary context of the article may still be relevant, please be aware that possibly certain of the information and references may now be outdated, such as individuals and organizations, links, contacts, facilities, etc. Please follow-up accordingly for more updated information.

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©2013, Robert M. Wilbanks IV, Scottsdale, Arizona
created Nov 15, 2013; last updated Nov 15, 2013