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Early American History Resources in the Special Collections Research Center

The Special Collections Research Center has extensive holdings of manuscripts and rare books dealing with early American history. This guide describes the bulk of those holdings, although it is not a comprehensive list.

Genealogical Research Collections

The SCRC has several collections that bring together genealogical research on multiple families.  The most important are:

  • Genealogy Collections, Mss 39.4 G29, which are collections compiled largely by Earl Gregg Swem and include correspondence, newspaper clippings, coats-of-arms, and family histories.  These are organized by family name.
  • Tyree Collection, Mss 73 T99, includes more than 600 notebooks of research compiled by Young Tyree, based largely on Virginia county records.  These are organized partially by family names and partially by county.

Swem’s Online Catalog

You also should search Swem’s online catalog by family name (just the family name, don’t include the word “family”) to see if we have any books or manuscripts related to that family. The SCRC has papers relating to many colonial Virginia families, ranging from letters and diaries to financial records to copies of official records relating to specific individuals.

If you click on “Click Here for Advanced Search” you can limit your search by item type (such as “Rare Book” or “Manuscript”), date, etc.

Something is in the SCRC if its location is Rare Books, Manuscripts, or Archives.  If the location is SPEC-COLL, it is at Colonial Williamsburg’s Rockefeller Library, not at Swem.

SCRC Collections Database

The SCRC also has its own database, which often has more descriptive information than the online catalog and many more links to finding aids for specific collections.  The database includes both manuscript collections and the collections of the University archives; the latter are for the most part NOT included in Swem Library’s online catalog, described in no. 2 above.  It is a work in progress, and not all entries are yet complete.  Search, again by family name only, at:

Genealogy and Local History Guide

You may also wish to consult the guide for Genealogy and Local History resources in the SCRC.

Access Tools

Special Collections Research Center Access Tools: There are a variety of tools available to guide you in finding materials in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Don't forget that you also may come into the SCRC in person and consult with the staff member on duty for guidance.