National Archives at Philadelphia

Guide to Archival Holdings: Introduction


This guide provides record group level descriptions for archival holdings maintained at the National Archives at Philadelphia. A record group, the basic unit of archival control, is a body of organizationally related records designated by a number and the name of the federal agency, bureau, or activity that created or received them. The National Archives at Philadelphia has nearly 65,000 cubic feet of archival records in 85 record groups, representing Federal agencies, bureaus, or other administrative units including federal courts in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Records Availability

Facility Improvements

The National Archives at Philadelphia is making improvements to serve you better.
Learn more

Offsite Storage

The National Archives has moved a number of certain, infrequently used records to offsite storage to preserve the records in space with better archival environmental controls and reduce rental expenses. Since records will not be immediately accessible, please contact us in advace and allow at least 2 working days for us to retrieve these records. Relevant entries in the National Archives Catalog are being updated to reflect access changes.
View the list of records that have been moved offsite.

Elevator Maintenance

Due to elevator renovations in our historic building, we strongly request that you make an appointment if you want to use original records. We may not be able to pull records for researchers without an appointment. Our elevator is expected to be back in service by July. Microfilm service is not impacted by the renovations.

Please contact our Reference staff information regarding records retrieval, at 215-305-2044 or

How to Use This Guide

Access to record group entries can be by:

  • Record Group Number - Users who know the number of the record group that interests them can go to the numerical list of record groups.

  • Record Group Title - Users who know the title of the record group that interests them can go to the alphabetical list of record groups. Record group titles are listed both by agency name (for example, Public Buildings Service) and by key word (Buildings Service, Public.)

Explanation of Record Group Entries

Record Group Entry Sample Entry

Administrative History
Brief history of the agency. For a more detailed history see Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States.

Administrative History
The General Land Office (GLO) was established within the Department of the Treasury by an act of April 25, 1812, to administer all public land transactions except surveying and map work (which came under the supervision of the GLO in 1836). In 1849, the GLO was transferred to the Department of the Interior where it was merged with the Grazing Service in 1946 to form the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau classifies, manages, and disposes of public lands and their resources and administers Federally-owned mineral resources on non-Federal land and on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Records Description
Inclusive dates, quantity of records; information on creating office, content, types of textual records; existence of nontextual records. (See guides to archival holdings in NARA's other regional facilities and Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States.
Records Description
: 1800-1908 Volume: 38 cubic feet
Records of land offices in Illinois, 1814-1885; Indiana, 1807-1876; Minnesota, 1855-1882; Ohio, 1800-1828; and Wisconsin, 1888-1905. The records document the name of the purchaser or grantee, county of residence at the time of purchase, legal description of the land, and the certificate number. Included are entries for cash payments, credit certificates, and purchase applications; copies of correspondence; homestead information; and abstracts of land warrants. For Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, there is a docket of homestead entries, 1868-1908. The records are bound volumes (record books), some containing an index.
Finding Aids
Published and informal preliminary inventories, box contents lists, folder title lists and other aids to using the records.
Finding Aids
Entries 47, 48, 53, 61, and 67 in Harry P. Yoshpe and Philip Brower, comps., Preliminary Inventory of the Land-entry Papers of the General Land Office, PI 22 (1949).
Related Microfilm Publications
National Archives microfilm publications held by the Chicago facility of records related to those described in this entry, listed in alpha/numeric order.
Related Microfilm Publications M8, Journal and Report of James L. Cathcart and James Hutton, Agents Appointed by the Secretary of the Navy to Survey Timber Resources Between the Mermentau and Mobile Rivers 1818-1819; M25, Miscellaneous Letters Sent by the General Land Office, 1796-1889; M27, Letters Sent by the General Land Office to the Surveyor General, 1796-1901.
Restrictions - Federal records may be restricted by Federal statute or the creating agency, or may carry a national security classification. Notice of restriction is given where applicable.