Posts Tagged ‘NARA’

Update on National Archives NARA Move in New York City

More information concerning the closing of the National Archive (NARA) Northeast Region New York Branch is received from correspondent, Roger D. Joslyn, FASG.

Those of you that have had the pleasure of using the excellent facility and holdings of the New York City branch on Varick Street will want to know about the changes being made.

It appears as though the downsizing will affect the collections as they move the facility over to the Customs House in lower Manhattan.

“I hope those of you who are interested in the future of the National Archives in New York City and access to its research materials will be able to attend one of two meetings this Tuesday at NARA-NYC, 201 Varick Street, 12th floor, Manhattan, at 10:30 AM or 5:30 PM (or come to both sessions!).

In addition to information about the new location in the Customs House, there will be discussion about which textual records, microforms, and books have been identified to go to the new facility, which will be sent to storage, and which will be offered to local libraries/repositories (the latter concerns only microforms and books).

This list of research materials is still in the “development” stage, so your interest in, concern for, and comments about the materials is important.

See you there!

Check out the previous letters from Roger regarding this matter.

Changes at National Archives Northeast Region, New York City

Update Relocation and Collection Downsizing of National Archives Northeast Region New York Branch

Update on the Update of the Update:

Roger added this correction on the meeting place for Tuesday

“Please note (thanks to Steve Siegel’s pointing this out), the two public meetings this coming Tuesday, 4 May, about the NARA move to the Customs House will be held, NOT at NARA, 201 Varick Street, but at the Naval Officers Room, 3d Floor, in the Customs House at One Bowling Green. Again, the times are 10:30 AM and 5:30 PM.”

Changes at National Archives–Northeast Region, New York City

Upstate New York Genealogy readers please note, it looks like we are losing another extremely valuable local research facility.  The  National Archives–Northeast Region in Manhattan has been our nearest location to access NARA record holdings.

Roger D. Joslyn, FASG, sent me this letter and requested that we share it here on in the hopes of creating some public influence on the situation.  Roger makes a point to say that none of this information is truly “official” yet but it has been gleaned from various sources that he has.

Please read and take action.

“Dear Friends

We may be losing the National Archives–Northeast Region as a research facility. Perhaps we can save it and not have New York lose yet another important repository for our research.

Here is the supposed plan, told recently to Stuart Stahl by Diane LeBlanc, NARA’s Regional Administrator in Waltham, Massachusetts, for him to pass the word. So, there is nothing “official” beyond this, and nothing in writing for dissemination.

•NARA-NYC will move in approximately eighteen months to about 5000 square feet over two floors in the Customs House.

•Only about twenty percent of the current collection at 201 Varick Street, textual and microform (not specifically identified to Stuart), will go to the new location in the Customs House. All or most textual material will go to a storage facility in northeast Philadelphia and will have to be transported to New York City for researchers, as off-site textual material in Lee Summit, Missouri, is now.

•Among the textual material to be retained in the new space will be the federal court naturalization petitions not microfilmed and the federal court records docket books, but it is not clear if the originals of microfilmed naturalizations will be retained.

•“Non-regional” microfilm will go to NARA-Pittsfield.

•Certifications of records on microfilm will have to be requested from Pittsfield.

Additionally, the following seems to also be in the plans for the move:

•The volunteer staff will be abolished or reduced, since there will no longer be textual records for them to arrange, index, and so forth.

•The new space will be primarily for visitors to see exhibits. There will be a few computers and, apparently, some microfilm readers and reader-printers.

•The microfiche indexes of New York State vital records will evidently go to the new space, together with associated printed material and microfiche readers.

•Nothing has been mentioned about the fate of NARA-NYC’s library, including published census indexes and so forth.

•Some of us had been led to believe there would be invitations to some of us “regular” users to help NARA staff know our needs and plan the space and collection for the Customs House. It would seem now that, while there may be a “public meeting,” it will only be to tell us NARA’s plans—too late for any changes.

There is probably more that is or will be of concern to all or most of us.

When the move of NARA-NYC became more certain a month or so ago, I had a telephone conversation with Diane. She seemed very excited about the increased display space that NARA will have in the Customs House and explained the need to reduce the research collection because there will not be room. She also mentioned that the lower number of patrons using NARA these days justified the scaling down of the research facility. She did not seem to be concerned about the need many of us have for certification of records for legal matters, or that the microfilm and original textual records were still necessary even though there is much online. She was quite proud to tell me that NARA-Waltham had given all of its “non-regional” microfilm to a library in Plano, Texas. Guess who got the better deal there! Ironically, while New York City is scaling down, the Waltham facility is being expanded!!

I do not think I need to state the obvious to all you seasoned and knowledgeable researchers about the huge loss to us if all the plans noted above are correct and go through. I know I use microfilm of the Federal Census at least once a week in order find what I cannot online or clarify what I do find online, one problem being the annotations that obscure names on the 1900 Census. This is but one example. I am sure you have all found census pages missed by Ancestry, Heritage Quest, Footnote, or “front material” and other pieces not scanned from the microfilm that someone evidently decided we did not need. Sorry! One more example: What about the original ships’ passenger lists, especially the ones where the often abbreviated copy is what is on the NARA film? What will become of these?

Who in Pittsfield will make “my” kind of decision about the best copy to be certified for the court? In the always-tight time breathing down our necks for court cases, what will Pittsfield’s turn-around time be? Will there be added costs since we can no longer get the certifications locally? Will Pittsfield staff make “groupings” of certified records that we often get here to hold down costs?

Personally, while I have enjoyed many of the exhibits at NARA-NYC, I rarely see anyone coming to specifically look at them, and even those who come to do research seem not to pause for a few minutes of viewing.

And it has always been my understanding that one of the great things about our National Archives is its wealth of material for scholarly research. Yes, personal visits are down, but we all know what the majority of those who rely strictly on the magic box are missing. And I do not see much effort by NARA to help educate the unwashed about what is there that cannot be found online.

I very much admire the position of Kathleen Roe, New York State Archives’ Director of Operations. At a meeting there last year, she told our advisory committee something like, “I know financing for archives is tight, but our mandate is to serve the public, and we must make every effort to continue to do so.”

The very upsetting plan seems analogous to a library tossing certain books because no one has taken them off the shelves over the last couple of years.

So, who wants to organize the car-pooling to Pittsfield and Philadelphia? No? Then we should organize a group effort to let our concerns be known. Genealogists have been successful in the past in changing the direction of bad thinking at NARA. Some examples come to mind: When President Reagan proposed John T. Agresto as Archivist of the United States and the genealogical and historical communities formed a loud “No!” to the inappropriateness of the candidate; and when Archivist John Carlin planned to ship huge amounts of NARA material from the regions to cold storage (and some of you were on hand to give your two-cents when he came to New York City). Another example is the great effort genealogists lent to getting NARA away from GSA’s thumb.

Are there others out there, including folks you know in the historical community, whom we should encourage to get involved?

I know after the G&B mess, many of you may not want to devote the time and energy it may take to make a difference, but I look forward to hearing from those who are concerned and want to be involved. Then we can plan something together.


National Archives and Ancestry (TGN) Propose Digitizing Project

Footnote and Ancestry are in the news recently regarding the digitizing that Footnote currently does, and the work that the parent company of Ancestry, The Generations Network (TGN), wants to do, at the National Archives (NARA).

NARA is asking for public comment regarding the non-exclusive contract that they intend to sign with TGN to embark on a digitization project at NARA of some parts of their collection.

Footnote and Ancestry are both very reputable companies and we all should be ever thankful to the Archivist who has such great forward thinking to bring this digitized content to the Internet. Online resources just keep getting better and better.

Thanks to Dick Eastman for this notice.

Please do go to the NARA info site and voice your opinion, it really does matter! The comments must be received by April 9th, 2008.
NARA Link:

You may sign up for a Free Trial at Footnote here:

You may sign up for a Free Trial at Ancestry here:

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Free Data at Footnote

OK, Upstate New York Genealogy, tell me why I should subscribe to footnote?

Well that’s a pretty easy question to answer.

First off, you do not have to subscribe to take advantage of many of the features and some of the more important and popular data. For instance, you can just go to footnote and have a look see for free.

They are in the process of bringing much of the microfilm collection of the National Archives (NARA) on-line, as well as other scores of collections from all over. Some of the important National Documents that are available all the time, for free, for everyone are; American Milestone Documents, you will find images of the actual original documents of such as; The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, The Gettysburg Address, and other famous documents in American History right up to The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Then you will find several other collections that are totally free, such as; 135 volumes of The Pennsylvania Archives, American Colonization Society Papers, the Amistad Federal Court Records, Constitutional Convention Records, Continental Congress Papers, Custer’s Court Martial, Lincoln’s Assassination Papers, and that’s not all. There are many more totally free collections. I just noticed that some of the New Hampshire Town Records are now coming on and they also are free.

Our recommendation is to go there, take a look. See if it something that you will use, we think you will, and then make the decision later as to subscribing or not. Footnote does offer unyg readers a seven day free trial for all of the collections of data and features that they provide, with no limitations on the amount that you can look at.

We have written about footnote in previous Blogs such as here.

We believe it is one of the better bargains on the Internet for Historians and Genealogists.

Start your Seven Day Free Trial to Footnote here.

Note: update August 1, 2008. Footnote is approaching 60 million online digitized documents. Here is a link to see what types of things would be available for genealogists and historians. Footnote Index . Without a doubt, Footnote is the Best Genealogy Bargain on the Internet. (Dick Hillenbrand)


ps: Please tell us of your successes by using the “comments” tab below.

Visit our main website at


footnote has improved their viewer has improved their on-line records viewer.

This site is extremely important to researchers that desire to see digitized original documents concerning their ancestors or historical research projects.

footnote has partnered with the U.S. National Archives (NARA,) to bring you millions of original documents and images.


Thank you.
Dick Hillenbrand – Upstate New York Genealogy –

Dear Myrtle announces NARA Six Million New Military Records Before 1946

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: The following was just released by the NARA Public Affairs office. Please address all inquiries to> or contact Bryan McGraw, Director of Archival Programs at NPRC, at 314-801-9132.

October 22, 2007
National Personnel Records Center Opens more than Six Million New Military Personnel Files
St. Louis, MO

* The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) will open for the first time all of the individual Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) of Army, Army Air Corps, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard military personnel who served and were discharged, retired or died while in the service, prior to 1946.

Collectively, these files comprise more than six million records. This is the second step in the progressive opening ofthe entire paper and microfiche OMPF collection of over 57 million individual files. Additional military personnel records will be made available to the public each year through 2067 until the entire collection is opened.

These archived files are treasured by family members, historians, researchers, and genealogists. Contained in a typical OMPF are documents outlining all elements of military service, including assignments, evaluations, awards and decorations, education and training, demographic information, some medical information and documented disciplinary actions. Some records also contain photographs of the individual and official correspondence concerning military service.

To view an original record, individuals may visit the NPRC Archival Research Room in St. Louis, MO. Telephone is 314-801-0850. Research room hours are10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Time Tuesday through Friday. Visitors are strongly encouraged to call ahead to make reservations.

* To obtain copies of records, customers may write to NPRC at 9700Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132, fax a request to 314-801-9195, or submit a request through <> or on a Standard Form 180.

Information about records available at NPRC is also posted on the National Personnel Records Center Homepage at

Archived, public records are subject to the National Archives and Records Administration’s published fee schedule. Copy fees for archived OMPFs are waived for veterans or primary next-of-kin (surviving spouse or children of the veteran) if the records are needed to validate a benefit or entitlement. The fee schedule for OMPFs is as follows:

1. OMPFs 5 pages or less: $15
2. OMPFs 6 pages or more: $50 (most OMPFs fall in this category)
3. OMPFs of Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP): $.75 per page
*(PEP records include the OMPFs of famous individuals such as former Presidents, famous military leaders, decorated military heroes, celebrities,entertainers, and professional athletes who left military service and havebeen deceased for at least 10 years).

Archived records are subject to a limited privacy exemption under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. As such, all records are reviewed prior to release and social security numbers are redacted.

For more information, contact Bryan McGraw, Director of Archival Programs at NPRC, at 314-801-9132.

This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to: Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.

View <> article…

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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