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Genealogy Sources

A guide to genealogical research with particular pointers for research on people with Oregon and/or Pacific University connections.

Places to Search

This section contains links to places where you can search for archival material. For advice on how to actually access the material after you have found it, see below, Getting Access to the Material. For more advice, see our Guide to Archival Research

Search for archival material at Pacific University: (Note - the Archives are on the second floor of the library, near the elevator.)

Search for archival material at other places in the Pacific Northwest:

  • Archives West
    This site allows you to search across about 30 archives in the Pacific Northwest, including the University of Oregon, the Oregon Historical Society and many smaller institutions. Note that this site only includes collections that have been described in formal finding aids; it does not search the many collections that have only been described in local databases.
  • Oregon State Archives
    This is the official repository for the records of state agencies such as the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Corrections. Their site includes links into several databases, covering topics such as Governors' Records, Legislation History, County Records inventories, early Oregon governmental records, descriptions of records relating to specific government branches such as the Department of Forestry, Department of Agriculture, etc. 
  • Oregon State Library
    Contains mostly printed material rather than archives or records; but many of their publications are scarce or rare. Good for looking into Oregon government-related topics. 
  • Oregon Historical Society
    Probably the best single repository for Oregon social and cultural history, OHS has a large and deep collection of archives and rare printed materials related to Oregon.
  • City of Portland Archives
    Excellent source for historical documentation of the Portland area, with special strength in the area of city government, urban planning, police and crime-related records. 
  • Other Local Historical Societies
    Many of the best historical sources for local history outside of the Portland area is kept by county-level or city-level historical societies. Very often, these institutions do not have comprehensive online inventories of their collections. To find out what they have, you will probably need to look on their web site for a link to "Research" and then a contact email. Write them to find out what they may have, and then think about making a research trip to see the material in person. A few notable local historical societies include: 

Search across the United States & Canada:

  • Archivegrid.org
    This database includes finding aids from several thousand archival repositories across the United States & Canada. It searches through the detailed descriptions of larger archival collections.
  • Worldcat.org
    This database covers virtually all libraries and archives in the United States & Canada, but it only searches brief descriptions of archival holdings. Select "Format" = "Archival Material" to limit your search to archival sources.
  • National Archives (NARA)
    The U.S. National Archives is by far the largest archival repository in the country, and possibly in the world. Their records are not included in Archivegrid, Worldcat, or other collective databases. Use the NARA Catalog to search basic records of their holdings, but be warned: because of the enormous quantity of records they hold, the descriptions of the archives' contents are often extremely brief. Also note, this generally only includes records generated by federal government bodies; state/local government archives will NOT be in here. 
  • Google-it Method
    Try Googling with this formula. Note that this will often find archival collections centered on a particular individual or organization, but it won't find collections where that person/organization represents a section of a larger archive.

Getting Access to the Material

Once you have found something, you need to arrange access:

  • Note the Call Number or Accession Number for the archive and the specific Box or File Number that you wish to see. These are the two key pieces of information that the repository must have in order to retrieve things for you.
     
  • To visit in person: For archives held at Pacific University, email archives@pacificu.edu to confirm. For other archives, you will need to look up the library's access policies online. You may or may not need to contact the library before you arrive. Pacific archivists can help you to make arrangements if needed.
     
  • If you can't visit in person: most archives can make copies for you. You will probably need to narrow down your request to 100 pages or less of material. To request copies, look on the archives' web site for information on "copies," "reproductions" or "services". Most places post a schedule of fees online.