National Archives at Boston

Historical Research

Original Records

The holdings of the National Archives at Boston include over 54,000 cubic feet of original records dating from 1789 to the 1990’s that were created or received by the Federal courts and over 90 Federal agencies in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Federal law requires that agencies transfer permanently valuable, non-current records to the National Archives.

Our holdings consist primarily of textual documents, but also include photographs, maps, and architectural drawings. Included are customs and maritime records, district and circuit court case files, World War II era research projects at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Army Corps of Engineers project files, and records related to a host of other topics. Included below are links to National Archives Catalog entries for some of our frequently requested records. For more information on records related to genealogy research please see our Genealogy Research page. 

Please see our Finding Aids page for guides to additional records in our holdings. 


In order to locate records, it is helpful for researchers to know which government entity created records related to their subjects. Records from each agency, bureau, or court are assigned a record group number (abbreviated as "RG"), and are arranged within that record group. Learn how to Get Started doing research at National Archives facilities. Researchers are encouraged to contact us toll free at (866) 406-2379 or by e-mail at before visiting in order to facilitate their research.


Microfilm Publication Details

Microfilm Records

In addition to the original records described above, the National Archives at Boston holds a variety of microfilm publications that document topics of both regional and national interest. Researchers can search for microfilm publications through the National Archives' Online Microfilm Catalog. If there is a roll list or descriptive pamphlet available for a particular publication, that information will be available in the "Publication Details" section of the record. Please note, the microfilm catalog will return search results for holdings at all National Archives locations. Publications available in Boston will include "NARA's Northeast Region (Boston, MA)" as a viewing location (see example to the right). A detailed list of Military Records on Microfilm in Boston and an overview of New England Records on Microfilm are also available. 


   Information for On-Site Researchers

  • Bring photo identification (e.g. driver's license) to be issued a researcher card
    • Cards are valid for 1 year and are renewable
    • Cards cannot be issued in advance of your visit
    • Cards are not needed to use microfilm or online collections
  • Prepare to leave personal belongings in convenient lockers
  • Laptop computers and (non-flash) photography are allowed
  • For a fee, staff will make or arrange for copies of records, including certified copies for legal use
  • Cell phones must be turned off in the research room
  • Eating, drinking, and smoking are not allowed in the research room
  • Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult