Bankruptcy Case Files at the National Archives at Kansas City
Bankruptcy Case Files may be accessed by ordering reproductions for a fee or viewed by appointment at the National Archives at Kansas City.
Bankruptcy Case Files are contained within RG 21, Records of the U.S. District Court, and RG 578, Records of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Bankruptcy Case Files will grow annually at Kansas City as new transfers and direct offers of records are accessioned into the holdings of the National Archives. Currently there are 125,000 cubic feet of bankruptcy case files stored in Kansas City.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Bankrupty Case Files
- How to Request Copies of Bankruptcy Case Files
- How to Request Bankruptcy Case Files for use On-Site
- Research and Reproduction Fees
- Helpful Links
Please provide the following information:
- name of the court where the case was filed;
- case number and name(s) of parties on the case; and
- time period the case was filed.
For bankruptcy cases filed 1940 and after, a FRC transfer number is required. This is obtained by contacting the court where the bankruptcy was originally filed. If the court does not have the transfer number due to the age of the case, please note this with your request.
There is no charge to perform a search. Do not send any money or credit card information when you make your initial request. Digital and paper reproductions from the case file will incur a charge. Staff will communicate the fees prior to making the copies.
How to Submit Requests
We receive requests by e-mail, postal mail, or phone.
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Postal mail:
National Archives at Kansas City
400 W. Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
- Phone: 816.268.8000
The National Archives at Kansas City provides on-site access to bankruptcy records to researchers in our research room. Appointments are required to view the materials as they must be retrieved from an off-site storage location.
Researchers must submit a request at least two business days in advance of their desired appointment. Our research room is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. We are closed Saturday, Sunday, and all Federal holidays. If you are unable to travel to Kansas City, you may hire a local researcher.
National Archives at Kansas City (directions)
400 W. Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
In addition to making copies using our self-service photocopier, researchers are also permitted to make digital images of the records using their personal cameras and scanning equipment following NARA guidelines.
Court records created in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are often trifolded. Occasionally we may need to perform preservation work on documents before they are available for research. As a result, there may be delays in accessing records, as they are prepared for safe handling.
Note: The National Archives at Kansas City accepts credit cards, checks, or money order as payment for services rendered.
Mail Order Services
|Archives Produced Reproductions||Fee|
|Minimum mail order (includes the first 25 pages of reproduction)||$20.00|
|Individual pages - digital or paper||$0.80 per copy|
Bankruptcy case files that exceed 400 pages will not be reproduced in full for researchers. National Archives staff can assist researchers with refining their search. You may also decide to hire an on-site researcher on your behalf.
|Self-service paper to paper copy||$0.25 per copy|
|Self-service paper to digital copy||$0.25 per copy|
*These are copies made using the copy machine provided in the research room
Patrons are invited to bring their own digital camera or flatbed scanner to make digital reproductions of archival materials. Please contact us prior to arrival to ensure that your equipment is approved. Wand scanners and form feed scanners are not permitted.
- What time periods are covered by these records?
- What is the research value of Bankruptcy Case Files?
- How do I access bankruptcy case files still with the Federal Court or Federal Records Center?
- What information is found in bankruptcy case files?
Bankruptcy case files were created by the Federal court to contain the records of bankruptcy case proceedings. The content varies depending on the type of bankruptcy and the time period in which the case was filed. There have been five major Bankruptcy Acts by the Federal government: 1800, 1841, 1867, 1898, and 1978.
Generally, bankruptcy proceedings 1940 and prior are permanent records. Case files opened after 1940 may be subject to a 2.5% sampling*. This is dependent on the type of filing. The goal of the sampling is not to save individual cases, but to save sufficient cases to provide researchers with the resources to identify historical trends, such as what types of people file for bankruptcy (e.g. the poor, the working class, male, female, urban, rural, etc.), why they file (e.g. medical bills, luxury items, job loss), where they live, what their jobs are, how bankruptcy filings are affected by national, regional, or local economic conditions, and similar issues.
*Some courts initiated earlier sampling projects with earlier acts. Questions about sampling should be directed to the National Archives at Kansas City.
Bankruptcy case files are valuable for a number of reasons. Many individuals need to access their own bankruptcy case files for a variety of circumstances. The case files prove the discharge of, or final disposition of particular debts. Attorneys and other court officials likewise use bankruptcy case files in both reviews of past legal matters, as well as new disputes regarding debt.
Bankruptcy case files are also valuable for genealogists. By showing everything an individual owned and to whom they owed money, bankruptcy files open the door into the homes of our ancestors. The details revealed in the case files allows the researcher to understand so much more than what a name and a date alone provide. They help a researcher understand why a path guided an ancestor in a particular direction.
The National Archives only has bankruptcy records that have meet their permanent retention date. In general, researchers should expect that case files from the last 15 to 20 years should still be with the court they were created by, or stored at a Federal Records Center (FRC). Researchers will need to contact the court that oversaw the case to gather the following details.
- Case number
- Transfer number case retired to FRC under
- Box number the case is filed in
- Location the transfer is stored at
Please see the following link for more details on ordering cases through the Federal Records Center system:
The contents of a bankruptcy case file vary dependent on when the case was filed. A typical file may include the following:
- Debtor's Petition
- Summary of Debts and Assets
For information on bankruptcy records use for genealogy:
For general information about modern bankruptcy proceedings: