Each U. S. State Archivist

There is the National Archives in Washington, D. C. which holds and preserves many of the nation’s most precious historical documents, images and recordings for future generations. In every U. S. state there is also a state archivist department in charge of saving that individual state’s history. To help oversee and cooperate such a massive job of preservation is the Council of State Archivists which has been in existence since 1975.  They provide any needed assistance, expertise, training and some funding to each state to safeguard their state’s historical treasures.

On the Council of State Archivists web site there is a complete list for all 50 states and American territories (American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands) with complete contact information.  The director’s name for each state archive department is listed, along with the mailing address, phone number, email address and web site address.

In researching your ancestors, who lived in numerous locations across the country, you will want to review the state archives’ web site in any of the places they lived and if necessary contact that state agency for further assistance. These state archives do not just deal in the state’s history, but their people who help develop and maintain the state are just as important.

Each state is different in what type of documents, newspapers, records and photos they have available and also what is in digital format for the web site.  These individual state archives do need to be reviewed every six months for any additions to the collection. For example, in the Arizona State Archive they are adding to their photo collection and now have over 35,000 images relating to Arizona online. Then there is the Indiana State Archives with 2.8 million searchable records online with their state archive site. The Archives of Michigan have military records, naturalization records, land patents, maps and a huge photograph and postcard collection online.

Another reason to be aware about each state archive department is if you decide to donate either originals or copies of family photos, videos, sound recordings, documents, records, certificates, etc., you will need to know who to contact. The archives handle all type of media in all forms to preserve. That is why even copies are of interest to the archives.

You might have old letters written by an ancestor who served during World War I.  The state he lived in during that time would be most interested in having the originals or copies of those letters. Copies of such items can also be donated to the ancestor’s hometown or county museum, so such treasures can be shared in different locations.

Too many times such documents, letters or photos are sold off during estate sales or online auction sites and then could be spread all over the country. The purpose of each state archive department is preservation and that is one way all family researchers can assist is by seeing that copies of family treasures are shared.

The above image was from the aftermath of the April 1906 San Francisco earthquake and located near city hall.

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