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GenealogySpot > National Archives

National Archives


Many people know that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) helps preserve our nation's history by managing historic documents like the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

But did you know that NARA is a boon to genealogists, professional and lay alike? In fact, genealogists are the most numerous users of the Washington, D.C. research rooms.

NARA holds thousands of records useful for genealogists, such as census records from 1790 to 1930, immigration records from 1820 to 1957 and naturalization records. NARA also has special collections for African Americans and Native Americans. For a complete listing of resources, see NARA's Genealogy Page.

While NARA's main holdings are in Washington, D.C., the 13 regional facilities also have microfilms. Use the Microfilm page to locate the microfilms you are interested in. Regional offices are in major cities such as Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and New York City.

First-time visitors may want to read Beginning Your Genealogical Research. This guide features common sense tips, a bibliography of research books and highlights of NARA's records.




NARA's "General Information Leaflets" are free publications to aid researchers. "Using Records in the National Archives for Genealogical Research," can be ordered by calling 1-866-325-7208.

NARA educates the public through workshops and courses. Topics include an introduction to genealogy and how to research census schedules, military service records and passenger lists. Consult the Calendar of Events for information about workshops and courses in Washington, D.C. Call the regional facilities for additional genealogy programs.

As you perform your research, don't place unrealistic expectations on the Web. As NARA admonishes, "do not expect 'Star Trek' capabilities." You can't do all of your genealogical research online. Old records are handwritten on paper, and some now exist on microfilm. Few records are in electronic format because of the high cost of conversion. For more information about NARA's digitization efforts, read about the Electronic Records Archives.

To round out the details of your trip, take a look at NARA's Planning Your Research Visit. NARA recommends writing or calling in advance of your trip to verify that the records you need are available.




   --- C. Smith

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