Types of Files and Subjects of the Electronic Records in College Park, Maryland
NARA maintains electronic records created by the Congress, the courts, the Executive Office of the President, numerous Presidential commissions, and nearly 100 bureaus, departments, and other components of executive branch agencies and their contractors.
In general, the electronic records transferred to the National Archives are themselves evidence of evolution in the application of computer technology in support of program administration, planning, recordkeeping, and research within agencies of the federal government. A few of the files were originally created as early as World War II and reflect punchcard technology in use since the 1880's; an even smaller number contain information from the nineteenth century that has been converted to an electronic format. However, most of the electronic records in the NARA's holdings have been created since the 1960's. With over 800,000 files, the scope of the holdings, as would be expected, is quite diverse - as diverse as the activities and interests of the federal government itself.
Full descriptions of electronic records series that are in NARA's custody are available via the Online Public Access (OPA) resource and Archival Research Catalog (ARC). Both can be searched by title, type of archival material, dates, or keyword.
Since 2003, NARA has offered online search and retrieval access to a selection of accessioned electronic records in databases through the Access to Archival Databases () resource. Series of records described on these pages that may be accessed through are so noted.
For information on options for access to electronic records by ordering copies on removable media, please see Ordering Information for Electronic Records.
Among the types of holdings or subject areas represented in the holdings are the following:
Types of Electronic Records
NARA has a limited number of electronic data files that may be of interest for genealogical research. In accordance with policy, NARA protects against an unwarranted invasion of individual privacy, in general, for 75 years. Therefore, since all electronic records were created within the last 75 years, and there are only a few additional files which represent retrospective conversions of earlier records, some electronic records files in NARA's custody that identify living individuals are released only in "public-use" formats. Records that identify deceased persons are ordinarily released in full.
Some of the electronic records files that identify individuals and that are released in full, or for which NARA has created a public use version, are described in the Electronic Records Reference Report for Genealogy or Other Personal Research and are also accessible through the Access to Archival Databases resource. For information about other electronic records files that identify living individuals, please contact the reference staff to determine the feasibility of a public use version.
Other NARA units have a wide and rich variety of genealogical records on paper or microfilm. For more information about NARA's genealogical holdings please visit the genealogical research section on the NARA website or contact email@example.com.
Among the electronic records in this category are the Department of Agriculture's livestock and crop production estimates, some of which date from 1866. The records are at annual, quarterly, and/or monthly intervals, some at the state-level, while many are county-level estimates, nationwide. Another accession is a time-series version of county-level estimates from the Censuses of Agriculture, 1949-79. Other agriculturally- related electronic records are household food consumption surveys, dating from the mid-1960s, and survey data on the characteristics of households receiving food stamps.
NARA holds a wide range of electronic data from surveys undertaken by a variety of Federal agencies. For example, the Merit Systems Protection Board sponsored surveys that questioned Federal employees about equal employment opportunity and affirmative action programs and other workplace issues such as sexual harassment and whistle-blowing. Other opinion surveys reflect the work of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most notably their National Crime Surveys. Still others represent data from specially-commissioned surveys for the Presidential Commission on the Review of National Policy Toward Gambling and for the National Commissions on Social Security and on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. Two large collections of attitudinal data are described below under the discussion of international and military records.
A significant portion of NARA's collection relates to the population and housing data programs of the Bureau of the Census. The records include sample public use data from most of the decennial censuses of the 20th century, a substantial collection of social and economic indicators at city and county levels dating from the 1940s, and aggregate statistics at many geographic levels from the decennial Census of Population and Housing, 1970, Census of Population and Housing, 1980, and Census of Population and Housing, 1990. The records from the Bureau of the Census also include files from the monthly national Current Population Surveys and the Annual/American Housing Surveys. Demographic data from other agencies include records from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. The holdings also include central personnel data files from the former U.S. Civil Service Commission and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as from the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy.
Electronic records in NARA's custody document most aspects of the nation's economy, especially for the recent past. They include data on federal expenditures such as military contracts and domestic assistance awards ; banking, income, labor, securities , tax, trade, and transportation statistics; and data on work experience. These records come from a variety of federal agencies including the Bureaus of the Census, Economic Analysis, and Labor Statistics; the former Civil Aeronautics Board; the Departments of Defense and Transportation; the former Federal Home Loan Bank Board; the Office of Thrift Supervision; the Internal Revenue Service; the Securities and Exchange Commission; and the Social Security Administration.
NARA's holdings from the Department of Education and a dozen other agencies illustrate the variety of education-related programs of the federal government. The records include data resulting from James S. Coleman's study of the impact of segregation, known as the Equality of Educational Opportunity Study; the Federal Trade Commission's investigations of standardized test-coaching schools; the Civil Rights Commission's 1976 School Superintendents Survey regarding desegregation, and the data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, dating from its beginning in 1969. Also available are the records of the President's Commissions on Campus Unrest and on School Finance, and the National Commission on the Financing of Post-Secondary Education.
Electronic records related to environmental issues include records created on behalf of the Presidential Commissions on the Accident at Three Mile Island and the Coal Industry. In addition, NARA has electronic records from the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Chemical Release Inventory System, and from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Radiation Exposure Information Reporting System. A notable collection is over 600 data files from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Survey's Nautical Chart Data Base. Yet another series of electronic records related to the environment are the National Fish and Wildlife Service's records from their national surveys of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation.
Health-related electronic data records transferred to NARA incorporate both biomedical and sociological information collected in studies such as the 15 year National Collaborative Perinatal Project, conducted from 1959 to 1974; data collected in a major Health Insurance Experiment Study in the 1970s and early 1980s; records from national fertility studies since the 1970s; and data from national Surveys of Health Services Utilization and Medical Expenditures since the 1960s. The Bureau of Health Manpower's Area Resource Files, 1945- present, document the status of health services throughout the United States. Other records come from surveys conducted by the National Institute for Dental Research and the World Health Organization and on behalf of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. Electronic records also derive from efforts to measure the effectiveness of a variety of social programs: records include retirement history studies, income maintenance experiments, and studies on the impact of such federal programs as Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
With regards to international topics, NARA has custody of a large collection of electronic data from attitudinal surveys conducted since the 1950's in countries throughout the world on behalf of the U.S. Information Agency. The data from the over 1,100 USIA-sponsored surveys that have been transferred to the National Archives generally date from the 1950's. Other major collections of international records are the import and export statistics of the U.S., by commodity, dating from the 1960's. An overview on international electronic records is available in the reference report Selected Electronic Records Relating to International Relations and Trade.
Electronic records relating to military concerns include data from over 100 attitudinal surveys conducted during World War II (the "American Soldier" Survey); records from World War II Army enlistment cards ; records of prisoners of war from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War ; and casualty records from the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and War on Terrorism .
There is also a large collection of files resulting from the use of computers for military operations, management, and research dating from the 1960's, especially during combat in Southeast Asia. For example, there are electronic records on the government and people of South Vietnam, and the ground, air (including herbicide sprayings), and naval operations of the Vietnam War. Please see the Electronic Records Reference Report Electronic Data Records Relating to Military Objectives and Activities During the Vietnam War for more details.
The best known of the Vietnam-related electronic records, the Records on Military Personnel Who Died, Were Missing in Action or Prisoners of War as a Result of the Vietnam War (also known as the Combat Area Casualties Database), was one of the primary sources used to determine the names of casualties for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Records from the Presidential Clemency Board, 1974-75, also are included in the holdings. Documenting more recent military events is the computerized index to the microfiche of the captured Grenada documents.
Records in this category include the National Register of Scientific and Technical Personnel dating from the 1950's, the National Engineers Register, and a 1971 Survey of Scientists and Engineers. Another series consists of an electronic index and text files transferred from the President's Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident.
For further information about the electronic records in NARA's holdings, please contact our reference staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.