Conducting Your Own Historic Research

For certain records, the knowledgeable research librarians may refer you to the Archives and Records Center, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, or to one of the Historic Alexandria Museums. A brief outline of each facility can be found below.

Page updated on Mar 15, 2020 at 8:25 PM

Where do I start?

Do you have questions about the history of your property, genealogy, or local history? The Alexandria Library's Local History/Special Collections division is the best place to start your research. 

Alexandria Resources List

Other Resources List

Depending on your interests, you may need to contact surrounding jurisdictions or national sources for Alexandria-related information. Because of changing boundaries, records for some parts of Alexandria are housed in Fairfax and Arlington counties. Be sure to investigate Virginia resources and the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

Topical Guide to the Resource List


Deeds, Wills, Deeds of trust, Land records 


Local History & Photographs 

Newspapers & Maps 

Official Government Records 

How to Use Alexandria Resources

Alexandria Library: Special Collections.
Barrett Library
717 Queen Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2420
Phone: 703.746.1706
No appointment necessary. Check Library website for current hours. 

The local history collection includes compilations of birth, death and marriage records; church and cemetery information; microfilm copies of the Alexandria Gazette; information about local archaeological projects; microfilm copies of legal records such as wills and deeds; information about historic Alexandria houses; biographical information about prominent local people and families; and general histories of the area.

The genealogy collection includes indexes and compilations of vital statistics for Virginia counties and limited material about neighboring states; microfilm of the federal census for all the Virginia counties; and dozens of genealogical journals.

Civil War collections include history of all aspects of the conflict, with a focus on the Confederacy. Resources include Virginia regimental histories; War of the Rebellion Official Record, which reproduces government documents dealing with the war; and information about Alexandria during the war.

Photograph collections depict life in and around Alexandria from the time of the Civil War to the present. The collections cover Alexandria people, events, houses and other well-known places.

Microfilm collections include census records, the Alexandria Gazette, other local newspapers; deed books, will books and other local land records; maps of the local area; and copies of several manuscript collections.

Manuscript collections include the personal and business papers of many Alexandria individuals and institutions, including the records of some local private schools, businesses, and people.

Alexandria Archives and Records Center
801 South Payne Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Open for research by appointment only. 

Official City records from the late 19th century to the present are housed at the Archives and Records Center. A partial listing of the collection includes City Council Minutes, City financial and budget records, papers of some former Mayors, Annual Reports, minutes of the Planning Commission, BAR and BZA, construction permits, architectural plans, site plans, City directories, and scrapbooks.

Alexandria Circuit Court
Alexandria Courthouse
Clerk of the Circuit Court
520 King St., Suite 307
Alexandria, VA 22314

Deeds, wills, deeds of trust, land records and other papers are filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Deed searches can be conducted on land records dating back to the 1800s. Wills also date back to the 1800s. Marriage records date back to 1870. Birth and death certificates are not held in this office, but at the Office of Vital Records in Richmond. Recent birth and death certificates are available through the City of Alexandria Health Department, located at 4480 King Street, 703.746.4996.

George Washington Masonic National Memorial 
101 Callahan Drive
Alexandria, VA 22301
703.519.9270 fax
contact: Mark Tabbert, Director of Collections

The research library at the GWMM is open by appointment only, to those members of the public working on specific projects related to George Washington and Freemasonry. Beyond these two main topics, the library's holdings can be useful for those doing genealogy on an ancestor who was a Freemason, or for research on Grand Lodges across the country. Contact the Director of Collections for more information or to make an appointment.

Historic Alexandria Museums

The following museums have libraries and research files open to the public, usually by appointment only.

The Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Research files include site reports and records pertaining to archaeological finds in the City. Final site reports are also available at the Alexandria Library, Special Collections, and many are available online. The museum also has an extensive library of books on archaeology and on 18th and 19th century ceramics and glass. The library is available by appointment only.

The Alexandria Black History Museum
The Watson Reading Room, located next door to the Museum, is a non-circulating research repository focusing on issues of African-American history and culture. Please call for an appointment.

The Fort Ward Museum 
The Dorothy C.S. Starr Library contains resources pertaining to the Defenses of Washington and the Civil War. Please call the museum prior to your visit.

Friendship Firehouse Museum
A variety of research files dealing with the building, collection and history of other local fire companies in Alexandria are maintained at the Lyceum and can be viewed by appointment.

Gadsby's Tavern Museum
The library consists of over 1,000 volumes including decorative arts, furnishings, clothing, social life and customs, Alexandria and Virginia history, museum studies, conservation, building preservation, and more. The library also includes information on the preservation and history of the tavern buildings. The library is available by appointment only.

The Lyceum, Alexandria 's History Museum
Research files and reference books pertaining to the museum's artifact collection and various topics in Alexandria 's history from prehistory to the present are available by appointment.

How to Use Other Resources

Arlington County Circuit Court
Arlington County Courthouse
1425 North Courthouse Road
Arlington, VA 22201

Access to deeds, finance information, judgments, and wills requires County Application Framework (CAF) data registration, available online. Birth, death, marriage and divorce records are not held in this office, but at the Office of Vital Records in Richmond.

Arlington Library, Center for Local History
Central Library
1015 North Quincy Street
Arlington, VA 22201
703.228.5990 (Main) 
703.228.5966 (Virginia Room)
703.228.7724 (Archivist)

The Virginia Room contains published and unpublished materials on local history. Documents focus on current affairs and history of Arlington County (formerly Alexandria County). Available materials include maps, genealogy, newspapers, periodicals, audio-visual materials, oral history interviews, and legislative information.

The Arlington Community Archives, an extension of the Virginia Room, collects historical documents relating to the history of Arlington County, including architecture records, business records, personal papers, and photograph collections. The Archives are located at an off-site facility, so researchers should allow two to three days for material to be made available in the Virginia Room. A portion of the collection is available for search on an online catalog, found on the website.

Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library
1776 D Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Special collections include the Genealogical Records Committee Collection, Manuscript Collection, American Indian Collection, and American Women's History Collection. An online catalog can be found on the website.

Historical Society of Washington, DC
Mount Vernon Square
801 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

The Kiplinger Research Library contains collections that span over 200 years of Washington 's history. Materials are available for research in the Gibson Reading Room. Researchers must present photo identification and fill out a Patron Registration Form on their first visit. A catalog is available online. Photocopying and photograph reproduction services can be purchased through the library research service, also available online.

The photograph collections contain about 100,000 prints, negatives, and slides that date from 1860 to present. Descriptions of many photograph collections and about 12,000 individual prints are available on the library catalog. The archives include several hundred individual archives and manuscript collections that date back to the 18 th century and over 400 maps from the late 18 th century to present, among other special materials. The library contains over 7,000 books, pamphlets, and periodicals as well as newspaper clippings. Subject-oriented research guides with citations are available on the website. The object collection includes various pieces from art to tools to toys. Not available for online search.

Fairfax Circuit Court, Historical Records Room
Fairfax County Courthouse, Room 315
4000 Chain Bridge Road
Suite 1600
Fairfax, VA 22030

Wills, deeds, court files, tax records as well as marriage, birth, and death information and other documents dating back to the formation of Fairfax County in 1742 are available in the Historical Records Room. Materials include archival holdings and special holdings as well as a small library of published and unpublished books.

Fairfax County Library, Virginia Room
City of Fairfax Regional Library, Second floor
10360 North Street
Fairfax, VA 22030-2514
703.293.6227 (press 6)

Maps, photographic archive, manuscripts, local newspapers, and rare books are available at Fairfax County Public Library's Virginia Room. Documents cover local and state government information and legal resources as well as regional history and genealogy. A special strength of the collections is Confederate Civil War military history.

Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20540
Library hours for specific reading rooms are available on the website 

With over 142 million items, including more than 32 million cataloged books and other print materials, 62 million manuscripts, and the largest rare book collection in North America, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Many searchable records and photographs, including those from the Historic American Building Survey (HABS/HAER) are available on their website.

Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219-8000

Manuscripts, archival records, maps, prints, photographs, and other materials are available in print, on microfilm, and digitally. Reading rooms are open to the public, but researchers must be at least 18 years of age and are asked to bring a valid I.D. The Archives and Map Research Room contains official records, private papers, local court records, and maps relating to the commonwealth.

Library of Virginia State Records Center
1998 Charles City Road
Richmond, VA 23231
804.236.3711 (Records Center Supervisor) and 804.692.3888 (Archives Research Services)
Appointment necessary. 

Inactive, non-permanent records of state agencies and local governments can be found at the State Records Center and researched in the Archives Reading Room. Potential researchers should call in advance to make an appointment and consult the Archives Research Services staff in advance to inquire about materials housed there.

National Archives and Records Administration
1.86.NARA.NARA or 1.866.272.6272

The Archives are home to 9 billion pages of textual records, over 7 million maps, charts, and architectural drawings and more than 20 million photographs, among other materials. There are locations in 14 cities across the country.

The National Archives at Washington , DC (Archives I)
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20408-0001

The National Archives at College Park , Maryland (Archives II)
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001

Virginia Historical Society 
Joseph Bryan and John Stewart Bryan Reading Room
428 North Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia 23220
804.358.4901 ( Main ), 804.342.9677 (Reading Room)
Appointment may be necessary. 

Family and personal papers, genealogical materials, maps, prints, photographs, and other materials are available in the society's collections. Photographs may be studied by appointment only. Information on the current admission fee is available on the website.

Virginia Office of Vital Records and Health Statistics
The Shops at Willow Lawn
1601 Willow Lawn Drive, Suite 275
Richmond, VA 23230
804.662. 6200

Birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates for citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia are housed at this facility. Records can be obtained by mail, walk-in, or express delivery.

Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA)

The print collections of Virginia 's state-assisted colleges and universities, 33 private, nonprofit institutions, and the Library of Virginia together form the Virtual Library of Virginia. VIVA gives Virginia students and faculty equal access to digital and print materials for research.