Frequently Asked Historical Questions

The Historical Society of New Mexico is a membership organization with volunteer directors and members. The Society has no paid staff or research collections of its own, but members are happy to share the benefits of their research experience and subject expertise with correspondents.

If you’re researching any type of historical items, roads, people, land, bridges, groups of people, etc. Where can I find any of these items?

There are several archives and libraries throughout New Mexico that handle a variety of archival material and impressive collections of scholarly or authorative works. The New Mexico State Records Center & Archives is the State’s official repository for all items. You can pose your question to Melissa Salazar, Division Director at: melissa.salazar@state.nm.us.

The Center for Southwest Research located at Zimmerman Library on the UNM Campus carries documents and collections dating back to 1598. Records from repositories such as Mexico City are also made available here in book and film format. Their website is: http://elibrary.unm.edu/cswr/index.php.

New Mexico State University handles many of the same document as the above, but are located in southern New Mexico at Las Cruces; the library is the Rio Grande Historical Special Collections, contact them at: http://archives.nmsu.edu/.

Where can I get my hands on Vital Records or records prior to 1900?

The Historical Society does not handle any type of vital records. New Mexico has laws that cover privacy issues and can go back 75 years before they become available to researchers. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe which holds the majority of the “sacramental records” for New Mexico prior to 1900 has filmed most of those records and they are available at many libraries in New Mexico and are also available via the Family History Library (LDS) on loan via their centers. The Special Collections Library in Albuquerque houses many of these pre-1900 records in film and book format as does the State Library. For records post 1900, researchers might need to contact the New Mexico Vital Records at: http://dohewbs2.health.state.nm.us/VitalRec/Vital%20Records.htm

I’d like to donate documents or old photos?

The New Mexico State Records Center and Archives is the main repository for materials in New Mexico. UNM’s Zimmerman Library and NMSU’s Rio Grande Historical Collections are two others to consider when making a choice. For donating photographs in addition to the others, the Fray Angelico Chavez Library located in Santa Fe has one of the largest collections available. http://www.palaceofthegovernors.org/photoarchives.html.

Old Newspapers, where can I find them?

  • CHRONICLING AMERICA is a free online database of historic newspapers.
    Sponsored by the Library of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/
  • NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.COM is a for-pay database for which individual subscriptions are offered. http://newspaperarchive.com/ The coverage of their database is extensive, but I kind of hate to recommend them, because their payment policies are some of the most customer-unfriendly I have encountered, and the viewers and navigation are substandard. I have had it for several years, but will drop it later this year in favor of the next item.
  • GENEALOGYBANK is a for-pay genealogy website that includes access to excellent NewsBank historic newspaper databases, including Hispanic American Newspapers in Spanish. http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/ At $70/year, it ismuch cheaper than the $119 for NewspaperArchive.com.
  • COLORADO HISTORIC NEWSPAPER COLLECTION has a wonderful, free, user-friendly database of historic Colorado newspapers. For some northern New Mexico topics, you can find some very good coverage in the Colorado papers.

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