Congressional and Public Affairs Staff: Questions Frequently Asked by Constitutents
- How do I begin conducting research for a family tree?
- My parents immigrated to the United States from Germany in
1904. They initially landed at Ellis Island. How can I find out more information
about their arrival?
- I am applying for a passport and I cannot get one without proof of citizenship. I know that my father became a naturalized citizen sometime in the 1930's. How can I obtain proof of citizenship?
- How do I find information about my great-great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War?
- My father was stationed in Germany (or aboard the U.S.S. Whiteside)
during World War II. How can I find out what my father did in World War II?
- I served in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. How
do I find my own service record and/or request my medal?
- How can I get a photograph of the ship that I served on during
my service in the Korean War?
- My town is constructing a memorial for all those from the town who were killed in the Korean War. Can I get a casualty list for my town so that all of the individuals can be documented on the memorial?
- The town that I live in has a golf course that is said to have been built
by the WPA during the Depression. How can I find out
some background on it?
- There was a hearing in the Senate on the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Can I get the committee report or a transcript of the hearing?
Although any family research project should begin at home, with interviews with family members and an inventory of family records, NARA holds several resources that are valuable for family research. Any way in which an individual comes in contact with the Federal Government is documented in our holdings.
The documentation may be in immigration records, naturalization records, or military service records, but the most common area of such documented contact is through census records. NARA has available on microfilm every Federal population census taken from 1790 to 1930, except for the 1890 census which was partially destroyed by fire. In most cases, individuals may be located in the census microfilm by converting the surname into a letter-number combination called the Soundex, and then looking in the Soundex index for the state in which the individual lived.
The microfilm resources of NARA are available on a walk-in basis at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., as well as in our regional records services facilities around the country. Staff and literature are available to help the beginning genealogist get started.
NARA maintains on microfilm the ship passenger arrival lists for most major ports for the major immigration periods in American history.
Many of the lists have been indexed for easy searching. To search for a passenger arrival record, you will need to supply at least the following information: the individual's name, the port of entry, the date of entry, and the country of origin.
NARA holds in its regional records services facilities records of naturalizations that were performed in Federal courts.
This does not account for all naturalization records, however, as many were performed in county or state courts. Often, these records may be found in state archives or historical societies.
Military service records from the Revolutionary War to pre-World War I military service are on microfilm and can be accessed at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Most of these records contain the veteran's service record, some pension information, and any bounty land grant records.
Many of our regional records services facilities also contain indexes and related materials to these service records.
NARA holds the records and unit histories of military units (usually down to the company level) which sometimes can be rich in detail about the activities of the individual soldiers in the unit.
The unit histories often contain some narrative components, as well as copies of general orders and other official actions. To locate accurate information on an individual, you must provide a unit designation and the dates for which you are searching.
Ships' deck logs are not quite as informative as unit histories. They contain a monthly listing of officers, the daily location of the ship, and also a log of the major activities aboard the ship. You must provide the name of the ship on which an individual served, and the desired dates.
Military service records for inactive personnel since World War I are located at NARA's National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. These records are accessible only by the veteran or his/her next of kin.
To locate a record, you must submit Standard Form 180 and, at a minimum, provide the veteran's full name, branch of service, dates of service, whether the individual was an officer or enlisted, and, if possible, the service number. Or you may order a record online at NARA's eVetRecs website.
Please note: Some military service records were affected by the 1973 fire at the St. Louis facility (the National Personnel Records Center was heavily damaged in certain areas). Approximately 80% of the records of Army personnel who served from 1912 to 1960 were destroyed. For more information and what to do if the records you are searching for were destroyed, please see the National Personnel Records Center.
Requests for Medals: If you are requesting medals that you qualified for, but never received, you must contact the branch of service in which you served. Exception: For Air Force (including Army Air Corps) and Army personnel, the National Personnel Records Center will verify the awards to which a veteran is entitled and forward the request with the verification to the appropriate service department for issuance of the medals.
NARA holds a great number of Navy photographs of ships, usually having several views of many ships.
8. My town is constructing a memorial for all those from the town who were killed in the Korean War. Can I get a casualty list for my town so that all of the individuals can be documented on the memorial?
NARA maintains casualty lists for all wars from World War I through the Vietnam conflict. The lists for World War I and World War II are available for counties and states. The casualty lists for the Korean and Vietnam wars are maintained in a database and are indexed by county and by state.
NARA holds the records of Government agencies dating back to the beginnings of the Republic.
There are many records documenting WPA projects in various states, as well as records of other New Deal agencies.
The Center for Legislative Archives at NARA holds, by agreement with the Congress, the official records of Congress.
Copies of bills, committee reports and transcripts and many other items in the official records are available according to the access rules established by the Congress.