National Archives at Chicago

Our Archival Collections FAQs

Our Archival Collections FAQs

Q.   I have a question about your records. Whom do I contact?
A.  For questions about our records, you can contact us directly.

Q.   Are your records on the internet?
A.  A small percentage of our holdings are available online through the ever-growing National Archives Catalog. Laid side to side, pages in the National Archives' holdings would circle the Earth over 57 times!

Q.   How are your records arranged?
A.  The National Archives arranges its holdings according to the archival principle of provenance. Archival materials are therefore arranged by the governmental entity that created them. Records are left in the original order maintained by the creating agency or court.

Q.   What records can be found at the National Archives at Chicago?
A.  We have over 140,000 cubic feet of original, historically valuable records from Federal or U.S. Government agencies and courts from the six Great Lakes states in our region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin). We also have over 60,000 rolls of microfilm. For a listing of our holdings, see Selected Finding Aids for Archival Holdings in Chicago.

Q.   Does your facility have Military Personnel records?
A.  No. With the exception of Revolutionary War records on microfilm, records for the 18th and 19th Centuries are held at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Military personnel records from World War I to the present are held at the National Archives' National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO.

Q.   Are all records open to the public?
A.  The vast majority of our holdings are open to the public. Some records are restricted for privacy or other concerns. Because of this, we encourage researchers to contact us ahead of time.

Q.   What is FOIA and can I use it to access Court records?
A.   The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) generally provides any person the statutory right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to Federal Executive Branch records. This right is limited when such information is protected from disclosure by one of FOIA's nine statutory exemptions. See NARA's FOIA Guide. FOIA does not apply to Federal court records. With some minor exceptions, Federal court records are open to the general public.

Q.   Do field offices of the National Archives interlibrary loan archival records?
A.  We do not interlibrary loan original records or microfilm.

Q.   I'm interested in bankruptcy records. What do you have?
A.  If you're seeking post 1946 bankruptcy cases files please note that in 2011, the United States Bankruptcy Courts and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reappraised the vast majority of bankruptcy case files.

Bankruptcy case files from the mid 1940s through 1995, with the exception of a small sampling, no longer exist. It is possible that bankruptcy dockets may contain some of the information you're seeking. Bankruptcy dockets may be with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in which the petition was filed or they may have been transferred to the National Archives at Chicago for permanent retention. If you're seeking a bankruptcy docket sheet please contact us at the National Archives at Chicago for further guidance. We recommend you review the request procedures for these and other cases.

Q.   Do you have Chicago records created before the Chicago Fire of 1871?
A.  We have a limited amount of original records that document Chicago prior to the Chicago Fire of 1871. Unfortunately, the majority of Federal court records for Chicago were lost in the Fire.

Q.   What do I need to know to access a Federal Court record?
A.  Generally, you will need to know the geographic location of the court in which the case was heard, the type of case (criminal, civil, or bankruptcy), the case number, the names of the litigants, and when the case was tried. If you're seeking a recent court case (less than 30 years old), please review the request procedures.

Q.   Can an Archivist conduct research for me?
A.  We're happy to try answering questions you have about our finding aids, our holdings, and how they may assist in your work, but if you require extensive research assistance at our facility, we offer you the following list of researchers who are available for hire.

Q.   Does your office provide complimentary access to any electronic publications?
A.  Our facility is equipped with several public access computers with complimentary access to:

Q.   Where can I find published government records?
A.  For the most part, our facility doesn't hold published government records such as the annual reports of agencies. We recommend that you contact the government documents department of your nearest college, university, or public library. Federal Depository Libraries often hold Federal printed or published materials such as annual reports.