Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Visit to Washington, DC. - Family, Friends, Learning & Laughter - Part 6

    We are finally to Wednesday of my week at the National Institute on Genealogical Studies (NIGR) and already up to part 6 of this series.  I didn't expect it to turn into this many posts, but I hope you are keeping up with it anyway because it was a great experience and I highly recommend it if you have the chance to go.
    When I first arrived at the Archives on that Wednesday morning I had a quick chat with our hosts letting them know about a wonderful opportunity that was coming my way later that day that would cause me to miss part of class.  My brother-in-law had been able to arrange a fairly unique tour of the dome of the US Capitol Building for my wife and me.  This isn't part of any normal tour and has to be arranged specifically through the office of a member of congress and fit their schedule since they or a member of their staff accompany you on the tour.  More about this later in this post.
    Then we had some free research time and I was able to put in some more record pull requests before heading to our first session by Angela McGhie, who would be giving us a class about the various resources that FamilySearch had for federal records (   I know that FamilySearch is regularly adding new sets of data as the microfilm digitization project, indexing and digital imaging moves forward.  It can, however, be hard to keep up will all the new things on the site, so this was great information about how many collections on the site are federal records of various categories including, military, immigration,  court, land, and census records.  Also included are other types of collections that might not be NARA records, but are related Civil War Records for Confederate Soldiers. 
   Angela also discussed the various indexing projects ( going on that involve federal records as well as discussing the wonderful information available at the FamilySearch Research Wiki ( where one can find "free family history research advice for the community, by the community".
  She also showed us the new Civil War Research Page ( that FamilySearch has created to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and act as a gateway to finding information and research resources for the Civil War.
    Next she covered the many free research courses available on the site (, many of which are related to various types of federal records.   I really enjoyed her presentation and was excited to meet her in person since I used the tips on her blog ( to prepare for attending the week at NIGR.
   I had to then leave to grab a quick lunch and head over to Capitol Hill with my wife.   We arrived at the congressman's office where my brother-in-law works to meet up with the staffer who would be accompanying us - along with another person and an intern - on the dome tour.  We then passed through the tunnels from the office building over to the Capitol, past the throngs of 'normal' tour participants, where we entered through a door and encountered this depiction of the dome.
We then proceeded to climb the stairs behind the dome picture and reached an area where we then were standing on what was originally the roof, where you can still see part of the original dome facade. 
We continued climbing until we reached the first balcony level where looking across the dome appeared like the first picture below. There our guide told us about the frieze and the various scenes and history behind it as well as some additional information about the dome and its architecture.  We then went back out and continued our climb as seen in the second picture below.
    We then reached the next balcony level where you get a very close look at the painting at the top of the dome (The Apotheosis of Washington). It has several parts to it that were explained by our guide and we took a break to take some pictures of us on that level and some as we looked down to see those who were taking the 'regular' tours of the Capitol. You can also see in the picture looking down the first balcony area above the frieze.

 But our journey wasn't yet over.  We then climbed another series of steps and came out a doorway, finding ourselves at the very top of the dome. This put us on the outside of the building where we encountered amazing 360 degree views of Washington, DC beginning with a view of the National Mall looking towards the Washington Monument.   As you can see there was also a thunderstorm rolling in and so we quickly took some pictures including one looking up above us at the columns surrounding the light that is lit when congress is in session and is directly below the Statue of Freedom at the very top of the US Capitol.
    Shortly after finishing our photos we realized that a couple of the ladies in the group had their hair starting to stand on end from the electricity in the air, so we decided it was time to head back down.
Here you get a sense of how steep the stairs were as we climbed back down and listened to the rain that started pouring down shortly after we got back inside.

See here for more information about the dome's architecture -

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I'd love to see that but I'm so afraid of heights! I loved the scenes in Dan Brown's book Lost Symbol that took place way up on those scary looking staircases above the rotunda.