The National Archives (NARA) wants your help.

The National Archives (NARA) is asking for input from anyone that is interested in their holdings to submit email comments regarding your own specific wishes for digitization.

There has been a great amount of material made public or by subscription with companies that have been electronically scanning the existing microfilm collection of NARA and offering the images on the web. The key word in that statement is “microfilm.” Here’s how it works. Many of NARAs holdings have been microfilmed previously and researchers have had access to those films through NARA, and the LDS Family History Library, and many other good reference libraries throughout the country. Some of the current commercial vendors like and genealogybank,,, and others, have been running those films through electronic gadgets that convert the film images to digital scans. This has opened up avenues into collections that are instantly available without having to order any film and it is an absolute marvel.

NARA says that only a very tiny percentage of their massive holdings have been filmed in the past and now they are in the advanced planning stage of their direct digital scanning project of a great deal more of their holdings, some of which has never seen the light of day. We are going to be seeing some brick wall battering rams here folks. Direct digital scanning of the complete original document is far superior to scanning those little tiny 35mm photos of documents.

NARA has a pdf file document that you can read and then respond to with your own personal comments and wishes. Here is the link:

Please take some time to cruise around NARAs web site at and come up with some of your own ideas. They do want your help and they promise to consider all input in their decision making process.

I submitted mine and got a very nice answer back the very next day.

For what it is worth, here are some random thoughts to consider from my own wish list. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Federal Census Department actually saved the originals of all of the federal census after they were microfilmed? I have always been under the opinion that the original census returns were destroyed after filming, but what if NARA still had them? Digital scanning is so far superior to the old microfilmed images, due to the tonal qualities, color imaging, and focusing ability, that it would result in history’s most important tool being scanned directly and digitized and we would all now be able to read those blurry, smudged, ink splattered, fly specked, scratched, out-of-focus, low contrast census returns that we all have noted in our research notes with (???)

My other big vote is to have the War of 1812 Service Records and Pension Records scanned. This collection has never been filmed yet and researchers that wanted to take the time and effort could send for photocopies of their ancestors files, however it has been time consuming and quite expensive. Suppose it all was put up on the web? Wow!

These are only a couple of my thoughts. Please come up with some of your own and respond to NARA before their comment cut-off date in November.

The email address to send your comments to is

Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy

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