Recover Lost and Stolen Documents

Documents Without Historical Value

Historical U.S. Government documents generally do not include:

  • Letters, forms, and other attachments that were sent by Federal officials to non-government individuals and organizations.
  • Historical documents that were given to the public as gifts or awards, including signed photographs of public officials with members of the public.
  • Copies of Federal publications, such as materials purchased from the Government Printing Office or a Federal agency.
  • Copies of Federal historical documents that were obtained for personal or research use.
  • Copies of press releases or other widely distributed documents, such as publicly distributed photographs with credit lines.

Unfortunately, there are exceptions to the general rule. For example: In the 19th century, a Presidential pardon containing the President’s original signature was usually sent to the person pardoned. However, if that person couldn’t be found, the original pardon was returned to the court case file containing the proceeding of the original crime. In the 1990s, over one-hundred such pardons were stolen from National Archives and sold to unsuspecting buyers. Consult a list of the missing and stolen pardons.

If you would like to help NARA find missing historical U.S. government documents, please contact the National Archives.