Opinion

DAR library can aid research

The Daughters of the American Revolution Library in Washington, D.C., is one of those little-known treasures available for genealogists.  And the great thing is that you don’t have to be a member of the DAR to use it.

Washington, D.C., is home to the Library of Congress as well as other archives, but the DAR Library is also worth a visit if you’re planning a research trip to our nation’s capital. The DAR library was founded in 1896 and has a huge collection of genealogical materials including nearly a quarter of a million books, rare manuscripts, research files, special collections including ones of African Americans and Native Americans, and Bible records to name a few of its resources.  Using the library is free and it’s open to the public. If you’re heading to DC to research be sure to visit this library. It’s also a beautiful space and on the website you can take a virtual tour.

If a trip to D.C. isn’t in your plans you can still access many of the records from home.  When you visit the site start with the library catalog which is easily searchable. You can search the catalog in several ways including the name of the person you are researching or a place such as Portland, Maine, or Charleston, South Carolina, or a subject such as church records or school records along with other options.  You can also check for titles of books and authors. Even if you’re not able to visit and use books there you may be able to find them accessible somewhere else so it’s always worth checking. The DAR Library also has a wonderful collection of transcribed records which have been painstakingly copied and submitted by members over many years and these are little known treasures as the originals sometimes have disappeared.  It was in one of these transcribed records that I finally broke a brick wall that had been plaguing my research for many years.

There’s no question the full scope of the library is best used in person but the DAR recognizes that isn’t always possible.  There is a feature called the Genealogical Research System, GRS for short, which will let you search among the various applications submitted by members.  You won’t be able to find records of any living person but the pedigrees submitted may well help you discover other family lines or even your own direct ancestry.  There are photocopying services available for a fee and you can purchase copies of some material also for a fee. There’s a tutorial to show you how the GRS works.

While the goal of the DAR is to allow potential members to identify descendants of those who served or aided the Revolution so they can join DAR, you may find help there in your own search even if the DAR isn’t in your future.

Many professional genealogists check the DAR online library when they begin researching and you should consider that as well.  You can visit the library at www.dar.org.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com. Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.

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