Research Our Records


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 website. 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.

Using the National Archives Website

Basics about Research at the National Archives

Visiting the National Archives

Preserving Documents

What can I do here?

What documents are available online?

What's not available at the National Archives?

  • 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...

What kinds of questions are better answered in a library?

  • Questions relating to general historical or factual information, biographical information, and compiled, statistical information are usually better answered in a library. Learn more

How do I obtain copies of documents?

What's the cost of using your website?

How can I do research online?

How do I get started with my research?

How can I find out about upcoming events at the National Archives?

Why visit the National Archives?

  • We have historical documents that tell the stories of America's history as a nation and as a people, available to you in 33 locations nationwide.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 visiting the National Archives nationwide.

What can I see and do at the National Archives in Washington, DC?

  • 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.

What do I need to know before I visit the Washington, DC and College Park, MD locations?

  • Read about our hours, directions, access for visitors with disabilities, public transportation, parking, food service, museum shop, and group visits.

I would like to do research at a National Archives location, how can I plan my visit?

  • Write, telephone, or email before you come.
  • 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 email in advance. Find addresses, phone numbers, hours and directions.
  • 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 email, include your postal address and telephone number.

Who can help me with my research at a National Archives location?

  • National Archives staff can help you by:
    • Providing information about the records in our custody,
    • Making the records available in our research rooms, and
    • Providing ordering information if you wish to obtain copies of readily identifiable records.

To raise your chances of success with research, collect the basic facts about your topic before you visit us in person. More...

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.)

How do I download pictures from your website?

Can I use images from your website?

  • Images on our website which are in the public domain may be used without permission. If you use images from our website, 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.

Go to Frequently Asked Questions page

Can I link to web pages on the National Archives website from my web page?

  • You are welcome to add links to our website 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.

Who is the author of the National Archives website and what is the site's publication date?

  • The National Archives Web Team produces the website. Read about our website redesign and our mission.

How do I cite National Archives web pages?

How do I cite National Archives documents?

How do I care for my family papers?

  • 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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