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Genealogical Research

An overview of resources available at Swem Library for Genealogists along with ideas for other places to conduct research in the area.

About This Guide

Welcome to Swem Library's genealogy guide! Doing genealogical research is a fun and thrilling experience for many people and families. It is a great way to not only learn about your own history, but also the history of the world as you learn about what your ancestors were doing during historical events (they might have even played a small role in them). However, it can also be a very frustrating and confusing process as incomplete records create roadblocks, not to mention the sheer number of resources out there for the budding genealogist!

This guide is designed to help researchers of all levels, and can be helpful regardless of proficiency. If you are new to researching your family, you'll want to check out the "Getting Started" section and learn about the resources available to you. You'll also want to check out that page's FAQ section if you are making your first trip to Swem Library.

Under "Swem Resources" you'll find a brief overview of the type of materials available in William & Mary's library along with separate pages that list books and databases by the type of information found inside them. If you are looking for books on specific topics, such as Ship Passenger Lists or are researching African American relatives, you'll want to peruse these lists.

Of course, Swem is also home to the Special Collections Research Center, which has the papers of many prominent Virginia families, along with other information about the Historic Triangle areas. If you think your family might be in one of the SCRC's collections, check out the links on the "Special Collections Research Center" page to find out more about what is available.

There are a number of other libraries, centers, and societies in the immediate Williamsburg area that can also assist you with your genealogical research, many of whom also offer more one-on-one assistance and even teach beginner classes! Find out more about these on the "Williamsburg Area Libraries" page. If you can, you should also consider making a trip to Richmond and using the vast resources of the Library of Virginia. Even if you can't make the trip, many of their primary source documents have been digitized or can be accessed via your local library's Interlibrary Loan services. Find out more by reading their page.

Finally, there are a number of online sites and services you can check out to conduct research from the comfort of your home. Check out some of them by seeing our "Other Resources" page.

Good luck with shaking your family tree and we look forward to seeing you in Swem!