Saturday, October 14, 2017

California State Archives Trip

Front doors of the California State Archives

I just returned from my annual work trip to the Sacramento, CA area for department meetings. On the
way back to the airport I scheduled a quick visit to the California State Archives in downtown Sacramento. It's located about a block away from the State Capitol (sadly I didn't stop to get a picture as I was running out of time).

The Research Room is located on the 4th floor of the building. You are asked to show government ID to the security guard before being allowed to go up.  You then need to fill out a researcher request form which asks for some basic information about who you are, address/phone #, and purpose of visit. They have a nice set up for lockers (and they're free!) to store your purse, laptop bag, etc. You're allowed to bring in your phone (just silence it and don't make/take calls), tablet, computer, paper and pencil (they have plenty of pencils and paper that they can give you). No folders, no notebooks to protect their documents from being taken out. Lockers were nice and deep so I could easily fit my laptop bag in, purse, and sweatshirt. The key is on an old microfilm reel.

Registration desk and view of collections on display 
Once you're all checked in and your belongings are put away, you present your researcher request form to the archivist in the Research room and are handed a Researcher badge to wear. I talked with one of the archivists for a few about what kinds of collections they have and asked for finding aids (these were very helpful). I was also pointed toward the Root Cellar Sacramento Genealogy Library on-site, which is a genealogists' dream. Lots of books to peruse. They have a computer set up for you to search their online catalogue. I mostly browsed until one of the volunteers came in. We had a very nice chat about genealogy and exchanged business cards. I find this setup very unique to have a genealogy society library on-site in the archives. The society helps with lookups in their library and the archives.


Research Room (not seen here is the Microfilm Viewing Room)





Lockers on-site with key on microfilm feel


Root Cellar Genealogy Library

Here are my tips to maximize your trip to any archives:

1. Review the collections ahead of time via their online catalogue (if they have one)

2. Prepare a research log of ancestors who lived in the area of the archives and what records you're looking for

3. Before you make your trip, check their rules on where to store belongings (do they have lockers or are you expected to leave in your car), bringing in imaging devices (some will not allow document scanners, only phones), wi-fi access

4. Contact the archives ahead of time for any documents you want pulled in advance of your visit

5. Research if any local genealogy societies operate in or near the archives to help assist. This will be useful when you're not near the archives and need some assistance pulling documents, assisting with research questions. 



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