The Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Reference Section maintains vertical files for families and communities that have contributed or generated papers over the years. These include drafts of letters written by reference librarians, pamphlets and brochures, magazine and newspaper clippings, genealogical charts, newsletters, and more. They also include additions or corrections submitted to update the information appearing in books in the Library’s collections. Materials in the vertical files are not cataloged and do not appear in the Library of Congress Online Catalog; however, researchers visiting the Main Reading Room may ask a librarian to view the vertical files. Requests may also be submitted through Ask a Librarian.
This guide provides the complete list of subjects in the Vertical Files to help you prepare for your visit. The index is divided into three categories: Family and Regional Newsletters, Local History and Genealogy Subjects, and Map Case (oversized items.)
While it is true, as a rule, that the Library collects comprehensively in the areas of genealogy and local history, there are exceptions. The credentials of the publisher, content of the work, amount of original research, scope, intended audience, and overall quality of the production, all play a role in the selection decision. For serials and newsletters, staff determine whether to acquire permanently, acquire current issues only, or not at all - even for a title that would class in a subject area where the Library normally takes all.
Unpublished gift materials are reviewed on a case by case basis; materials of an ephemeral nature, brochures and pamphlets, are generally added to the Vertical File in the Local History and Genealogy Reference Section. Family history and local history newsletters are typically filed in the Local History and Genealogy Reference Section Vertical File until the Recommending Officer decides whether they should be sent forward for cataloging.
The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.