Guide to Federal Records

About the Guide to Federal Records

The Web Version of the Guide

This web version of the Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States is based on a paper version with the same title compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al in 1995. This version incorporates descriptive information about federal records acquired by the National Archives after the 1995 paper edition went to press, and it is regularly updated to reflect new acquisitions of federal records.

The Guide and Other Online Finding Aids

The Strategic Plan of the National Archives and Records Administration provides for the development of an online catalog that will describe 100% of the agency's archival holdings by 2007.

  • The National Archives Catalog is currently available on the NARA web site. The National Archives Catalog's coverage of NARA's holdings is significant and particularly in the area of photographic and motion picture holdings, but it is not yet a comprehensive resource.

  • For the time being, comprehensive coverage of NARA's holdings of federal records, i.e., records that originated in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the federal government, is provided - at a very high level - by this web version of the Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States.

  • The guide provides a general overview of NARA's holdings of federal records at the record group level, and is intended to assist researchers in identifying which record groups may have material relevant to their research topics. Many records only briefly identified in the Guide are more fully described in the National Archives Catalog and researchers are encouraged to consult these online resources in tandem.

  • Information on the Record Group Concept.

Table of Contents

Sample Chapter Heading
Sample Administrative History
Sample Records Type Summary
Sample Subgroup of Records
Sample Part of a Subgroup
Sample General Records Subgroups

General Organization of this Guide

Each chapter in this guide covers a record group. Chapters may be accessed in any of three ways: by browsing a list of federal organizations, by entering a record group number in the retrieve-by-number box on this page, or by entering a search term (e.g., "Cherokee") in the retrieve-by-search-term box on this page.

The following examples are intended to illustrate the basic chapter layout.

Sample Chapter Heading

Records of the Bureau of Land Management

(Record Group 49)
1685-1989 (bulk 1770-1982)
59,666 cu. ft.

FIGURE 1 shows a sample heading taken from Chapter 49 describing the Records of the Bureau of Land Management (Record Group 49).

The title of the record group includes the name of the agency responsible for creating or receiving the records in the record group and the agency acronym. The dates shown are the beginning date of the earliest and the ending date of the latest series described in the chapter. In some record groups, the bulk of the records cover a shorter period than that spanned by the dates given in the heading. When this is the case, as in Record Group (RG) 49, the shorter span is..provided in parentheses, preceded by the word "bulk." The chapter heading also includes a statement of the volume of records in the record group, reported in cubic feet.

Sample Administrative History


Established: In the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), by FCC order, July 28, 1942.

Predecessor Agencies:

Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service, FCC (1941-42)

Transfers: To the Military Intelligence Division, War Department General Staff, by order of the Secretary of War, December 30, 1945, pursuant to agreement between FCC and War Department; to the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), National Intelligence Authority, August 5, 1946.

Functions: Recorded, translated, and analyzed foreign broadcast programs.

Abolished: November 1, 1946.

Successor Agencies: Foreign Broadcast Information Service, CIG, November-December, 1946. Foreign Broadcast Information Branch, CIG, January-September 1947. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Central Intelligence Agency, 1947- .

Finding Aids: Walter W. Weinstein, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service, PI 115 (1959).

Security-Classified Records: This record group may include material that is security-classified.

Related Records: Records of the Foreign Broadcast Information Branch, 1947-48, in RG 263, Records of the Central Intelligence Agency.

FIGURE 2 provides a sample of the first section of the chapter describing the Records of the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (Record Group 262). The first section of each chapter contains an administrative history of the agency that created or received the records in the record group.

The heading, 262.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY, illustrates the convention for designating sections within each chapter. This designation is a combination of the record group number and a number indicating the position of the section within the chapter. Under the administrative history section, the Established block presents basic information such as the date and nature of the government action establishing the agency. This statement typically is followed by a list of Predecessor Agencies grouped to indicate shared administrative or functional origins. A Transfers block indicates if an organization was transferred to another agency or had important functions in the past that are no longer conducted. Subsequent blocks describe the major Functions of the agency, tell if and when it was Abolished, list Successor Agencies to the organization (where appropriate), and under Finding Aids, note the availability of an inventory or list that amplifies descriptive information contained in the guide chapter. A Security-Classified Records block indicates when a record group includes materials that are restricted from public access, and a Related Records block identifies other record groups that include associated material, in particular Record Group 287, the record group to which copies of government publications have been allocated. The first section of each chapter may also cite Subject Access Terms that apply comprehensively to the records in the record group or it may provide generally applicable guidance in a Note

Sample Records Type Summary


Textual Records Washington Area 1,131 cu. ft.
  Fort Worth 3 cu. ft.
  San Francisco 1 cu. ft.
Maps College Park 966 items
Arch/engrg Plans College Park 5,500 items
Motion Pictures College Park 165 reels
Video Recordings College Park 6 items
Sound Recordings College ParK 528 items
Machine-Readable Records College Park 2 data sets
Still Pictures College Park 48,007 images

FIGURE 3 illustrates the statistical summary box for the General Records of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (Record Group 207). This box follows the administrative history section and gives a summary of the record types found in the record group and described in the chapter, along with the location and quantity of each type.

The Record Types found in Record Group 207 are textual records, and nontextual records such as maps, architectural and engineering plans, motion pictures, video recordings, sound recordings, machine-readable records, and still pictures. Other record groups may also include maps and charts, aerial photographs, and filmstrips. Record Locations in the summary box are treated as follows: the location of textual records held by any of the Washington area repositories is cited as Washington Area; the location of nontextual records filed with Washington area textual records is cited as Washington Area; the location of nontextual records held by the National Archives at College Park is cited as College Park; the location of records held by a regional or affiliated repository is cited as the name of the metropolitan area in which the repository is located (e.g., Fort Worth); the location of records held by a Presidential Library is cited as the name of the library (e.g., Truman Library).

Sample Subgroup of Records

52 lin. ft.

History: Combined Bomber Offensive Survey authorized by letter from Gen. Henry H. ("Hap") Arnold, Commanding General, U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), to Gen. Carl Spaatz, Commanding General, U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe (commonly referred to as "USSTAF"), April 21, 1944, and approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 6, 1944. Strategic Bombing Effects Survey established in London by Headquarters, USAAF, July 1944, with designation suggested by USSTAF, to consolidate planning activities for a survey of the effects of the Allied air war in Europe. Renamed United States Bombing Research Mission by Presidential directive, September 9, 1944. Further redesignated USSBS, November 1944. SEE 243.1.

Textual Records: General correspondence of Chairman Franklin D'Olier, 1944-47. Copies of the final published reports of the European and Pacific Surveys, 1945-47. Cablegrams and other messages sent and received, 1944-46. Record copy of the published Index to Records of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, June 1947.

Microfilm Publications: M1013.

Photographs (370 images): USSBS directors and staff; military officials in Japan and England; and USSBS installations in England, Germany, and Japan, 1945-46 (A). SEE ALSO 243.8.

FIGURE 4 illustrates section 243.2 GENERAL RECORDS of the guide describing a subgroup of the Records of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey [USSBS] (Record Group 243). It demonstrates how remaining sections in the chapter describe subgroups of records under headings reflecting the major divisions or offices within the agency for which the record group is named.

The GENERAL RECORDS cover the period 1944-47 and measure 52 linear feet. Subdivisions within the section provide an administrative History of the Survey and give additional information about the Textual Records and Photographs that constitute the General Records subgroup. Descriptions of photographs held by the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives include, as in this example, an alphabetical designator (e.g., A). When records in the subgroup have been microfilmed by NARA, the Microfilm Publications number is provided. For more detailed information regarding specific microfilm publications, researchers should consult the current edition of the National Archives Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (1986, revised 1990).

Other blocks within the section may list Finding Aids to the records covered by the section, or identify Related Records in other record groups or other sections of the same chapter.

Sample Part of a Subgroup

412.5.1 Records of EPA Region III, Philadelphia, PA (DC, DE, MD,

Textual Records (in Philadelphia): Daily activity reports of the Regional Administrator, 1981-86, 1988-89. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System hearing files, 1980.

412.5.2 Records of EPA Region IV, Atlanta, GA (AL, FL, GA, KY,

Textual Records (in Atlanta): Adjudicatory hearings files of the Office of Regional Counsel, 1972, 1974-81. Records of the Legal Support Branch, consisting of 180 Notice Files--Water, 1972-73. Records of the Water Quality Standards Section, Water Projects Branch, relating to water quality standards conferences, 1969-71.

412.5.3 Records of EPA Region VI, Dallas, TX (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX)

Textual Records (in Fort Worth): Program planning and evaluation files, 1970-75. Records of public hearings on requests for ocean dumping and pollutant discharge permits, 1970-78. State water quality management plans for river basins in LA, OK, and TX, 1974-78.

Subject Access Terms: Arkansas River; Brazos River; Canadian River; Colorado River; Cypress Creek; E. I. Du Pont; Ethyl Corp.; Guadalupe River; International Paper; Kennecott Copper; Kerr- McGee Nuclear Corp.; Lavaca River; Neches River; Red River; Rio Grande River; Sabine River; San Antonio River; San Jacinto River; Shell; Sulphur River; Texaco; Trinity River; Weyerhaeuser Co.

412.5.4 Records of EPA Region VII, Kansas City, MO (CO, IA, KS,

Textual Records (in Kansas City): Missouri and Upper Mississippi River Basin studies, 1951-71. Adjudicatory hearings files, 1972- 75.

Map (1 item, in Kansas City): Southeast quadrangle, St. Onge, SD (1954), annotated to show Crow Creek diversion, ca. 1971.

Photographs (19 images, in Kansas City): Effects of pollution and of abatement measures on tributaries of the Missouri River in WY, NE, and SD, 1951-71. SEE ALSO 412.8.

FIGURE 5, concerning section five of the chapter covering the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency (Record Group 412), shows how a section may be subdivided into parts to cover the components of a subgroup. These subsections also comprise blocks that provide History or Textual Records information and may include Related Records, Finding Aids, or Microfilm Publications blocks, or, as does the example in FIGURE 5, a block citing Subject Access Terms that pertain to the records covered by the subsection.


The example in FIGURE 5 illustrates the convention of citing the location in boldface type (e.g., in Philadelphia) of records held in regional or affilicated repositories or in Presidential libraries. Within the text of a chapter, the lack of a boldface location specification is an indication that the records described are available in a Washington area facility or, more specifically for nontextual records, in College Park.

Sample General Records Subgroups


SEE Map UNDER 412.5.4.

44 reels

Office of Public Awareness films on environmental pollution and its ill effects, 1969-71.

FIGURE 6 illustrates two General Records subgroups from the end of Chapter 412, describing the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency (Record Group 412.) At the end of the chapter, general records sections either describe nontextual records that cannot be assigned on the basis of provenance to specific provenance-related subgroups, or provide cross references to the sections that describe nontextual records that are allocated to provenance-related subgroups. This information is designed to facilitate the task of researchers who are primarily interested in records of a particular nontextual medium.


Researchers interested in general cartographic records are instructed to "SEE Map UNDER 412.5.4". This is a cross reference to the "Map" description found earlier in the chapter in part four of section five. Researchers interested in general motion picture records are provided with a description of 44 reels of films from the Office of Public Awareness dated from 1969 to 1971. These motion picture records are described as a general records subgroup because they could not be allocated to any other subgroup of records.


*Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

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