Trying to fill gaps in your family history or figure out when your family came to the New. World? Much of your initial geneology research can be done online through a resource such as Ancestry.com, but if you get stuck you may want to investigate the resources at the National Archives. Ancestry.com will provide census documentation and ship manifests for immigrants. If you come to the Archives the staff can assist your use of this reource and these documents.
These documents have their limits in the information they provide, however. At the Archives you may be able to build a more comprehensive history by investigating military records and other documentation filed with the federal government. State governments also keep records and may further assist filling out family history through property records.
To visit the National Archives in Washington DC for the purposes of research (and not to visit the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence) go to the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance–the side without the lines! Once their you will go through security. Travel light: no pens, no notebooks; bring a laptop for notes or a pencil and use their notecards (also make sure that your sweater or sweatshirt is not a bulky one). If you actually end up going to get records, you will not be able to take these things into the records room. Any documents that are yours which you bring in have to be shown in advance so there is no question that they might be stolen when you leave.
You will need to go through a PowerPoint about the rules and regulations–theft of records is a problem, so be understanding–and then you can get your researcher card. Documents you request will go into the queue at regular intervals and the goal is to get them distributed within an hour. The Archives also have regional offices throughout the country and if you get your researcher card in DC, it works at any of these facilities.