Select Page

Order the scanned files

Let’s face it.

Genealogists are cheap.

We want everything, we want it now, and — heaven forfend — we do not want to pay for it.

We don’t want to pay for subscriptions to websites.

We don’t want to pay to access records.

And if there’s one way to get a record that costs money and another way that’s free, we’ll opt for free any day.

The Legal Genealogist has a word for you on that score.


Don’t cut corners. Don’t just go for cheap.

Because there really are good reasons to spend the money and get good copies of original documents.

And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to the many wonderful holdings of the National Archives.

Don’t believe me? Let’s let the images speak for themselves.

Here are three copies of an 1808 patent drawing of a still. (We Americans love our stills, don’t we?)

First, from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online image files:1


Second, a photograph of the same patent drawing, from the microfilm held by the National Archives:2


And, last but hardly least, a scanned image directly from the National Archives:3


You tell me which one you’d rather have.

Spend the money.


  1. Eli Barnum and Benjamin Brooks, Patent No. 912X (1808); digital image, “US Patent Full-Page Images,” U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ( : accessed 15 Dec 2014).
  2. Eli Barnum and Benjamin Brooks, Patent No. 912X (1808); National Archives and Records Service, Patent Drawings, 1791-1877, Microfilm Publication T1239, Rolls 1-320 (n.d.).
  3. Eli Barnum and Benjamin Brooks, Patent No. 912X (1808); Utility Patent Drawings; Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, Record Group 241, National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email