National Archives at Boston

Genealogy Research

Digitized Records and Databases

From our facility's public access computers, researchers can access digitization partner websites Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and Familysearch.org. These sites provide access to digital copies of a wide range of records including the US Federal Census (1790-1940), Indian Census Rolls (1885-1940), naturalization records, passenger lists, death indexes, WWI and WWII draft cards, military pension records, and much more. Many of these records are also being added to the National Archives Catalog. For a listing of NARA microfilm and original records available on partner websites, please see Microfilm Publications and Original Records Digitized by our Digitization Partners. Copies of select genealogy records can also be ordered online here.

Naturalization Records

Naturalization is the process by which an alien becomes an American citizen. Depending on the year of issue, these records can provide researchers with information such as a person's birth date and location, occupation, immigration year, marital status and spouse information, witnesses' names and addresses, and more. As a general rule, pre-1906 naturalization records contain less detailed information about the applicant.

Before September 27, 1906, any "court of record" (municipal, county, state, or federal) could grant U.S. citizenship. After 1906, the courts forwarded copies of naturalization records to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the successor federal agency to INS, maintains a master file of all naturalization proceedings occurring after September 26, 1906.  Most inquiries about post-1991 naturalization records must be directed to USCIS, as the National Archives generally has such records only through 1991. More information on the naturalization process can be found on the National Archives' main Naturalization Records page.

**Please note: the National Archives does not hold copies of naturalization certificates. Naturalization certificates issued 1906-1956 can be ordered through the USCIS Genealogy Program.**

Naturalization Records from U.S. District Courts (Record Group 21) at the National Archives at Boston

The National Archives at Boston holds naturalization records of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts located in the six-state New England region.

District City Petition Indexes Petitions Military Petitions Declaration Indexes Declarations of Intention
Connecticut Bridgeport 1963-1992 1963-1992   1963-1988 1963-1988
Hartford 1906-1992 1906-1991     1906-1987
New Haven 1851-1992 1906-1992 1919-1956  

1893-1981

Waterbury 1972-1988

1972-1988

     
Maine Bangor   1942-1987     1942-1984
Portland 1851-1988 1790-1991

1918-1919, 1942-1945

1849-1872, 1906-1955

1799-1984
Massachusetts Boston 1790-1991 1790-1991

1919, 1942-1956

1906-1955 1798-1991
New Hampshire Concord 1796-1991

1873-1991

1942-1955 1822-1969

1869-1976

Rhode Island Providence 1796-1991

1842-1991

1942-1945, 1954-1956

1906-1984

1835-1989

Vermont Burlington 1951-1983 1842-1982 1944-1956  

1840-1987

In addition to the federal naturalization records listed above, the National Archives at Boston holds holds copies of select state, county, and municipal court records for Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, 1790-1906. An overview of these records can be found in "A Gold Mine of Naturalization Records in New England" by former staff member Walter V. Hickey.

Our facility also holds records of naturalizations in non-federal Connecticut courts, 1790-1974. Included are records of Connecticut Superior Courts, Courts of Common Pleas, District Courts, and some municipal courts. These Connecticut state and municipal court naturalization records are not comprehensive. Some record series contain gaps, and others include only indexes to naturalizations. Please contact us at boston.archives@nara.gov for additional assistance. 

Census Records

The National Archives provides access to Federal population census schedules, taken every 10 years, for all states and territories for the years 1790-1940 (though nearly all of the 1890 schedules were destroyed by fire in 1921) via online databases. The 1950 census will be released in 2022. We also maintain certain non-population and other special schedules taken for various years on microfilm.

Published indexes for all years

  • Online Databases: Ancestry has online indexes and scanned images of the entire U.S. Federal Census, every 10 years, 1790 - 1940.
  • The National Archives released the 1940 census online, where you can find census images, maps, and more.

Other census schedules on microfilm

  • Non-population census schedules for Massachusetts, 1850-1880 and Vermont, 1850-1870.
  • Special census of Union veterans and widows of veterans 1890.

For more information

Census Records after 1940

Census Records after 1940 are not available through the National Archives. However, you may be able to access certain records for specific legal reasons through the U.S. Census Bureau. Please see the U.S. Census FactFinder (the section on Access to Closed Records) for more information. For any questions please contact the U.S. Census Bureau directly.

Passenger Arrival Lists

In an effort to protect immigrants and encourage travel to the United States, the Federal Government required passenger lists beginning in 1820. Since then, over 55 million people have immigrated to the U.S. These immigration records can provide genealogical information including:

  • a person's nationality, place of birth
  • ship name and date of entry to the United States
  • age, height, eye and hair color
  • profession
  • place of last residence
  • name and address of relatives they are joining in the U.S.
  • amount of money they are carrying, etc.

Passenger lists for major ports throughout the United States have been digitized and can be searched through our digitization partner websites Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org. Please also refer to Boston passenger lists held by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Customs Records

American seamen from New England are documented in U.S. Customs Service records. Researchers will need to know what ports individual seamen may have shipped out of in order to effectively use these records. To locate crew lists it is usually necessary to know the vessel name and port. Crew lists and related documents are available for various New England ports, 1789 ca. 1950. Please inquire about using these records before visiting, since records do not exist for every New England port in all time periods.

Information may include:

  • place of birth
  • town of residence
  • physical description
  • names of relatives

Specific types of records include:

  • Crew Lists
  • Shipping Articles (which document payments)
  • Records of Seamen's Protection (issued for identification)
  • Case files of Deceased and Deserted Seamen
  • Marine Hospital Returns of Seamen (not medical records, documents money withheld for dues)

Draft, Military Service, and Pension and Bounty Land Application Files

For an overview of military records held by the National Archives, please see our Research in Military Records page. The National Archives at Boston provides access to digitized military records through National Archives digitization partner websites Ancestry.com and Fold3.com. Included are WWI and WWII draft records, WWII Navy Muster Rolls, and Revolutionary and Civil War military service, pension and bounty land application files. Military service records for WWI and later--including separation documents (DD 214)--are not available online. Information on ordering these records through the National Personnel Records Center can be found on our Veterans' Service Records page.

In addition to the digitized records outlined above, the National Archives at Boston holds a number of Military Records on Microfilm. Also of interest for genealogy research are Civil War draft and recruitment records in RG 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau.

    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files

    Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files for Boston (1911-1955) and Montreal (1900-1952) are a valuable resource for the study of Chinese immigration and Chinese-American travel, trade, and social and family history from the late-19th to mid-20th century. A selection of digitized case files can be found through the National Archives Catalog links above, and new case files will be added as digitization continues. 

    A typical Chinese Exclusion Act case file contains information such as the subject's name, place and date of birth, physical appearance, occupation, names and relationships of other family members, and family history.

    Materials in the files may include:

    • applications
    • certificates of identity and residency
    • correspondence
    • INS findings, recommendations, and decisions
    • maps of immigrant family residences and villages in China
    • original marriage certificates
    • individual and family photographs
    • transcripts of INS interrogations and special boards of inquiry
    • witness statements and affidavits

    The records are indexed by the individual's name, and can be searched through the National Archives Catalog. Privacy Act restrictions may apply to some cases.

    Please also see: Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States

    Freedmen's Bureau and Records Related to African American Families

    Microfilm copies of records of the Assistant Commissioners of the Freedmen's Bureau in the Southern states as well as the registers of Depositors in the branches of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Co., 1865-1878 (with index), and the District of Columbia Emancipation records of the Act of 1862.

    These records often provide considerable information regarding African American family relations, marriages, births, deaths, occupations, and places of residence.

    Materials in the files may include:

    • Names of slave owners
    • Information concerning black military service
    • Plantation conditions
    • Manumission
    • Property ownership
    • Migration

    Additional records include the Compiled Military Service Records of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments.

    Other Historical Resources

    Our facility holds a variety of original records that can complement the digitized resources commonly used for genealogy research.

    Examples include:

    • New Deal/World War II agencies dealing with life on the home front
    • Bankruptcy case papers, including Depression-era files
    • Tax assessment lists for the post Civil-War period
    • Documentation of federal land condemnation

    Please see our Historical Research page for more information on how to use these records. For assistance with specific research questions, please contact us at boston.archives@nara.gov.

    Please see the Guide to Archival Holdings at NARA's Northeast Region (Boston) for a complete list of our holdings.

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