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 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.**
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org for additional assistance.
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.
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
- 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.
The National Archives at Boston has been working with Family Search to digitize crew lists and related records from our holdings. In most cases, these digitized records have not yet been indexed. However, it is possible to browse the digitized images by port and year on the Family Search site. A preliminary list of these records (with links to Family Search collections) can be found here.
American seamen from New England are documented in a variety of 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 the National Archives at Boston in person, 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
- Case files of Deceased and Deserted Seamen
- Shipping Articles (which document payments)
- Records of Seamen's Protection (issued for identification)
- Marine Hospital Returns of Seamen (not medical records, documents money withheld for dues)
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 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:
- certificates of identity and residency
- 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
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
- Property ownership
Additional records include the Compiled Military Service Records of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments.
Our facility holds a variety of original records that can complement the digitized resources commonly used for genealogy research.
- 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 the Guide to Archival Holdings at NARA's Northeast Region (Boston) for a complete list of our holdings.