We are the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), America's record keeper. We are the Government agency that not only preserves documents and materials related to the United States but also makes sure people can access the information. We have locations all over the country, including Presidential libraries and materials projects that maintain records and artifacts from the administrations of U.S. Presidents since Herbert Hoover.
This is a good place to start if you are new to our web site. This page contains answers to some of the questions we are asked most frequently. If you have a question that's not listed here please take a look at our broader Frequently Asked Questions page or contact us.
- What can I do here?
- What documents are available online?
- What's the cost of using your web site?
- How can I do research online?
- How do I get started with my research?
- How do I download pictures from your web site?
- Can I use images from your web site?
- Can I link to web pages on the National Archives web site from my web page?
- Who is the author of the National Archives web site and what is the site's publication date?
- How do I obtain copies of documents?
- What's not available at the National Archives?
- What kinds of questions are better answered in a library?
- Who can help me with my research at a National Archives location?
- How do I find an independent researcher?
- How do I cite National Archives web pages?
- How do I cite National Archives documents?
- Why visit the National Archives?
- How can I find out about upcoming events at the National Archives?
- What can I see and do at the National Archives in Washington, DC?
- What do I need to know before I visit the Washington, DC and College Park, MD locations?
- I would like to do research at a National Archives location, how can I plan my visit?
- Search electronic records online, using our Access to Archival Databases (AAD) system.
- Search over two million digitized historical documents, photographs, and images online using the National Archives Catalog. More than 80% of our series are described in the catalog.
- Learn how to search for information about your family history using documents in our holdings.
- Locate official Military Personnel Records in our holdings and obtain reproductions.
- Search our Microfilm Catalog
- Tour our many online exhibits and see a variety of exhibits relating to American presidents on the Presidential libraries' web sites.
- 100 milestone documents of American history, from 1776 to 1965. Includes transcripts and large images.
- A sample list of America's Historical Documents.
- The Charters of Freedom: the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.
- Featured Documents, including the Emancipation Proclamation, a Letter from Jackie Robinson, and more.
- Online copies of every Federal historical record. Read why.
- Family trees
- State, county, municipal, or church records
- Online copies of veteran's military service records
- Online copies of military unit histories or "after-action" reports
- Information to help you locate living individuals. The records in the custody of the National Archives are usually at least 20-30 years old. Information on living individuals is protected by the Privacy Act. National Archives records, therefore, are not helpful in providing current information about individuals. More...
- Questions relating to general historical or factual information, biographical information, and compiled, statistical information are usually better answered in a library. Learn more
- Reproductions of military service and family history records can now be ordered online.
- If you are a veteran or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, you may now use eVetRecs to order copies of military records (or use the paper form, SF-180).
- Read more about ordering copies of textual, microfilm, still picture, electronic, audio-visual, and cartographic records.
- Self-service copying is permitted under specified conditions in most National Archives research rooms.
- There is no charge to download images from the the National Archives web site.
- Fees are charged for ordering reproductions of textual documents, microfilm, audiovisual and electronic records, and certain National Archives publications. Our current fee schedule is incorporated in 36 CFR 1258.
- You can search the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) System and the National Archives Catalog for information about records. Because the National Archives Catalog is not a comprehensive listing of every document, every file, or every item in our voluminous holdings, it is possible that you may have to visit us in person to conduct your research. Read more about Research Tools and Ways to Search Online.
- See our New to Archival Research? page.
- The National Archives presents events and public programs across the country—in the Washington, DC, area and in Presidential libraries and regional locations nationwide. See our Calendar of Events online or request a printed monthly copy.
- Subscribe to Prologue magazine and read stories of the rich resources and programs of the National Archives from our locations across the nation.
- We have historical documents that tell the stories of America's history as a nation and as a people, available to you in 33 locations nationwide. These valuable records are evidence of our national experience. The materials are not for loan to the public, as a library loans material; they are protected, but are available for you to use in-person at our facilities and affiliated archives. Learn more about visting the National Archives nationwide.
- Visit the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are on display.
- See the Public Vaults and experience the feeling of going beyond the walls of the Rotunda into the stacks and vaults of the National Archives.
- View a film highlighting the role of the National Archives in preserving the nation's records at the William G. McGowan Theater.
- Visit special temporary exhibits at the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery.
- After you've seen our nation's most treasured documents in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, visit the Archives Shop, and take home some treasures of your own.
- Take tours at our Washington, DC and College Park, MD locations.
- Attend Workshops on a variety of topics that focus on the vast holdings of the National Archives. Also, genealogy workshops are scheduled at National Archives locations nationwide.
Workshops for students can be conducted on location at schools throughout the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area.
- Please note that tours and activities are also available in many of our Nationwide locations. For complete information on nationwide National Archives activities, please contact each facility directly.
- Read about our hours, directions, access for visitors with disabilities, public transportation, parking, food service, museum shop, and group visits.
- Write, telephone, or e-mail before you come. Read more...
- National Archives research rooms are open to the public. To make the most efficient use of your time, or to make sure that the documents or the microfilm you want to see are at the facility you plan to visit, please write, telephone, or e-mail in advance. Find addresses, phone numbers, hours and directions here.
- If you expect to use records that may be security classified, advance notice is necessary so that the classification status of the records can be determined using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
- When sending a letter or e-mail, include your postal address and telephone number.
- National Archives staff can help you by:
How do I find an independent researcher?
Our staff is available to provide reference assistance to you. However, if you find that you require extensive research assistance at National Archives locations, independent researchers are available for hire. (Note: Researchers for hire are not National Archives employees. Learn more.)
- To browse for images of records in our holdings, you may search for digital copies provided in the National Archives Catalog, or search for images of records included in our online exhibits.
- Images on our web site which are in the public domain may be used without permission. If you use images from our web site, we ask that you credit us as the source. Please note that some images on our site have been obtained from other organizations. Permission to use these images should be obtained directly from those organizations. Please read more about copyright, restrictions, and permissions.
- You are welcome to add links to our web site from your personal and organizational web pages. We request that you link to our site rather than downloading portions of it to another web server, so that our viewers will see our most up-to-date information. We do not make reciprocal links as a rule. Because of maintenance issues regarding changing URLs, we are very selective about providing external links from our site. We carefully choose links based on customer needs most closely related to the National Archives' mission.
- The National Archives Web Program Staff produces the archives.gov web site. Our current design was launched in November 2010. Read about our web site publication priorities and schedules and our mission.
- Author of web page, Title of web page, Title of Complete Work, Date Created, URL (address of web page), Date visited.
Example: Fried, Ellen, "From Pearl Harbor to Elvis: Images That Endure." Prologue Magazine, Winter 2004, Vol. 36, No. 4. http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2004/winter/top-images.html (December 20, 2005).
- See guidelines for citing unpublished records that we hold in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, in the Regional Records Services locations, the Presidential Libraries system, and Affiliated Archives.
- If you'd like to link your web site to our web site, you are welcome to do so.
- Paper preservation requires proper storage and safe handling practices. Your family documents will last longer if they are stored in a stable environment. Read more...
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