The National Archives at San Francisco: Historical Research
About Our Archival Holdings
The holdings of the National Archives at San Francisco include over 75,000 cubic feet of original records dating from about 1850 to the 1980s, with a limited number of records as recent as the early 2000s. These records were generated by the Federal courts and more than 100 Federal agency field offices in:
- northern and central California
- Nevada (except Clark County)
- American Samoa
- the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which consisted of the Marshall, Caroline, and Northern Mariana Islands.
Our holdings also include records of U.S. Navy bases on foreign territory in the Pacific and Far East.
Federal law requires that agencies transfer permanently valuable inactive records to the National Archives. These records of permanent historical value include textual documents, photographs, maps, and architectural drawings.
California is the only state to have two National Archives regional offices. The National Archives at San Francisco maintains the majority of records for northern and central California, while the National Archives at Riverside maintains the majority of records for California south of the counties of San Luis Obispo, Kings, Tulare, and Inyo.
However, Federal agency field offices within our region frequently had jurisdiction over other areas in the western United States, while areas within our region sometimes came under the jurisdiction of field offices located elsewhere.
In such cases, the records are usually held by the National Archives regional branch nearest to the Federal agency field office that had jurisdiction, rather than by the National Archives regional branch nearest the area itself." The following are only a few examples.
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Record Group 77) district boundaries are defined by watersheds rather than by state lines. The San Francisco District’s area of responsibility, for example, includes the Klamath River watershed, which extends into southeastern Oregon. The Sacramento District’s area of responsibility includes the Great Basin, which extends into parts of southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and western Utah.
- The National Park Service (Record Group 79) regions were established in 1937 and jurisdictions have changed several times since then. The NPS Western Regional Office (Region IV) at various times included not only parks in California, but also Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
- The San Francisco office of the War Assets Administration (Record Group 270), and later of the Public Buildings Service (Record Group 121), took responsibility for the disposal of real property in southern California and Arizona.
- The National Archives at San Francisco maintains Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA – Record Group 75) records for northern and central California and Nevada (except for Clark County), but also some statewide California BIA records, particularly for Indian enrollments.
- The Western Region of the Federal Aviation Administration (Record Group 237), headquartered in Los Angeles, had jurisdiction over civil aviation in all of California as well as most of the other western states. These records are consequently held by the National Archives at Riverside. The National Archives at San Francisco holds records of the FAA's Pacific Region, headquartered at Honolulu, which had jurisdiction over civil aviation in Hawaii and U.S. insular possessions in the Pacific.
For records of Federal courts and Federal agency field offices in southern California, contact the National Archives at Riverside.
Please contact us for further information on the jurisdictions of Federal agencies within our archival holdings.
Resources available include free access to computer databases, selected microfilm publications containing records from across the National Archives and one-of-a-kind records of genealogical value.
Federal Court Case Files
We have civil, criminal and other case files Federal courts in northern California, Nevada (except Clark County), and Hawaii. In addition, we have appellate case files from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The National Archives at San Francisco has more than 75,000 cubic feet of archival holdings dating from 1850 to the 1980s, including textual documents, photographs, maps, and architectural drawings.
In addition to unique original records, the San Francisco facility has selected holdings of National Archives microfilm publications. Included are records relating to Native American-Government relations, Asian immigration, and World War II.