Prologue Magazine

AAD: How Do I Find the Databases I Want?

Spring 2003, Vol. 35, No. 1


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AAD has hundreds of databases with millions of records, so how do you know which ones will be of interest to you?

To assist you, NARA has grouped the databases into series based on how the creating organization used the records. NARA's archivists have further organized these series into one or more of the eight broad categories listed below.

Category Description of the Category
All Series This category displays all of the series currently in the AAD system. The list is organized numerically by record group number.
People If you are looking for the records about a specific person, for genealogical purposes for example, use this category.

It contains, for example, a series of the names of people who immigrated to the United States through New York during the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.
Indexes to Other Records Some of the databases in AAD are indexes to records in other formats, such as the indexes to NASA photographs. The actual records that are indexed are housed at the National Archives.
Subject NARA's archivists have assigned subject terms to each series. Scroll through the list of subject terms to see if one or more of them looks promising.
Geographic Area Your interest may be in finding out what AAD has concerning your locality or maybe a particular country. This category is further divided into Countries, U.S. Cities/Counties, U.S. States, and U.S. ZIP Codes.

The International Balance of Payments Files is an example of a series in the category, since it recorded data on U.S. defense spending in foreign countries.
Organization If you are looking for records about a specific business or governmental organization, this might be a good place to start. For example, the Ownership Reporting System has reports relating to the transfer of securities by high-level corporate officers from a number of businesses.

You could easily find records relating to nearly any large American corporation in this database. This category is further divided into Businesses, Government Agencies, and Non-Profit Organizations.
Time Span Time spans may refer either to the time period when the records were created or to the time period covered by the information or both.

For example, the Civil War Sites Database is categorized under "1800 - 1899," since that includes the years when the Civil War took place, as well as under "1985 - 1995," since that is when the commission that developed the database did its work.
Creator This organizes the AAD series into three broad categories by the type of organization that actually created the databases: Civilian Agency of the U.S. Government, Military Agency of the U.S. Government, and Private Source.

This grouping might help you if you were investigating how well a specific organization accomplished its mission. If you examined the Civil War Sites Database, for example, your focus would be not so much be on the information about the battlefields themselves but rather how well the commission that compiled the information performed its job.

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Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.