Tips and Tricks

Provides helpful tools to understand how to access certain facilities and resources to ensure a successful research trip.

Before visiting any facility, it is recommended to call ahead to verify the following:

  • Location and hours of operation
  • Materials available to browse
  • Access restrictions
Some facilities will not allow large backpacks, food, cameras (or phones), or some writing implements such as pens or markers near collections. Don't hesitate to ask about these when calling ahead or when you arrive.

Libraries are great resources to access a variety of materials. In particular, the California Indian Library Collections (CILC) is housed at 21 county libraries and the California State Library in Sacramento. This collection contains photographs, audio recordings, ethnographic materials, and much more. Unlike other library resources, this collection is only available to browse and cannot be borrowed.

No appointments are needed at libraries to browse the general collection of materials or the CILC. However, you might find it helpful to call and speak to the librarian before your visit. They may be able to locate additional resources pertaining to your research.

A library card is not required to browse collections, only to borrow materials. If you are interested in checking out items from the general collection and do not currently have a library card, you will need proof of your address, preferably on a government-issued identification. If your current address is different from your identification, written verification of your address (this could include a bill or rental lease) will need to be submitted. Library patrons under 18 will need a signature from a legal guardian or parent.  For more information about applying for a library card, call or visit your local library.

Librarians are there to assist you with your research and locate relevant materials. Don’t hesitate to ask them for help!

Californian Indian Library Collections

The California Indian Library Collections has collected, organized, duplicated, and distributed approximately 25,000 photographs, 11,000 documents, and 3,400 audio recordings. These unique cultural materials were originally housed at UC Berkeley and have been distributed to 21 county libraries to increase access. Each county library collection is comprised of materials pertinent to  the ethnographically identified tribes that lived in that county.  A composite set of all materials is located at the California State Library in Sacramento.

Keep in mind that the materials vary at each location so you should call in advance to learn about the materials available. If the collection includes cassette tapes or compact discs, libraries rarely have a player available so you might need to bring one.

Keep in mind that the materials vary at each location so you should call in advance to learn about the materials available. If the collection includes cassette tapes or compact discs, libraries rarely have a player available so you might need to bring one.

Appointments are usually not necessary to see museum exhibits; however, there is often a fee or suggested donation for visiting. Before arriving, call the museum to ask about the collections currently on exhibit for public viewing, and costs involved.

Small local museums often have collections of newspapers, family photographs, and books of local history that may not be available online or at other locations. Many are happy to help with research and will help find information about specific family names, events, buildings, or businesses.

Archive facilities house thousands of documents, photographs, microfilm, and other materials. These documents are regionally located and contain information relevant to that region.  Examples of documents include Bureau of Indian Affairs records, Indian Census Rolls, Military documents, immigration records, prison inmate rolls, and much more. The materials held at archives may be useful for genealogical or tribal history research.

Due to the amount of information housed at archives, an appointment is often required to allow archivists time to locate all the items of interest. Appointments are not usually needed to access microfilm (for example, the Indian Census Rolls) or to use their computers for ancestry programs. Contact the facility for more information about the type of information they currently have available for browsing.

Many resources can be accessed online and almost always for free. It is important to verify the source of the materials. Online resources will vary in quality and accuracy. 

Some websites require establishing an account with the provider and may have an access fee. All online resources suggested on this website are open access and free for public use.

When searching for information or photographs online by tribal name, keep in mind that these names often have various spelling depending on the collection, author, or photographer. Searches using only one spelling may miss important resources.

Example: Achumawi, Ajumawi, or Ahjumawi. Photographs and information for this group may also be found under the name Pit River Indians.