Did you know the National Archives Catalog contains over 140 million pages of digitized historical records and more than 27 million descriptions of the records in our holdings? And new pages and descriptions are being added to the Catalog each week!

Black and white photograph of a Coast Guard member looking through binoculars while two cats sit on his lap

Cat Stands the Dog Watch. Records of the U.S. Coast Guard. National Archives Identifier 205583221

With so much information and material available to search, we are excited to share updated Catalog Help pages with new instructional videos to help you navigate the Catalog and make the most of your research online.

Using the National Archives Catalog

Our updated Using the National Archives Catalog help pages can help you learn more about the Catalog, including topics such as: How to Search; Refining a Search; Searching Within a Record Group, Series or File Unit; Using the Advanced Search; and much more. We know that people learn in different ways, so in addition to written instructions, we’ve included several new how-to videos.

Screenshot of Catalog help pages showing an image of the how records are organized in the archival hierarchy

Take a look and let us know what you think! Do you have ideas for further content or instructional videos? What else would you like to see covered in our Help pages? Let us know at catalog@nara.gov

Frequently Asked Questions about Searching the Catalog

The Catalog description doesn’t have an image; what do I do?

Black and white photograph of a small dog, wearing a hat and tie, sitting in front of binoculars and a compass

While we have over 140 million digitized pages in the Catalog, this represents only a small percentage of the total holdings at the National Archives. Not all records have been digitized and made available in our Catalog, and some records have been described without digital images added. For questions about a particular description or to request a digitized copy, please contact the reference staff listed in the Contact(s) section of the description.

Image: Coast Guard's Saltiest Spar, Records of the U.S. Coast Guard. National Archives Identifier 205583239

Do I need a Catalog account to search the Catalog?

Black and white photograph of a Coast Guard SPAR driving a tractor while towing a seaplane

You do not need a Catalog Account to search the Catalog. You will need an account if you want to save lists of your searches or a bulk download of descriptions. Of course you’ll need an account to join us as a Citizen Archivist to contribute tags, transcriptions, and comments to the Catalog.

Image: SPAR Anita Jones. Records of the U.S. Coast Guard. National Archives Identifier 205582537

Can I search for records without transcriptions so I can find records to transcribe?

The quickest way to tell if a record has been transcribed is to open up the individual record and look at the thumbnail pages beneath the viewer. If you see a blue tag on the thumbnail image, that means there is a contribution on that page. If the record has multiple pages, each page with a contribution will have a blue tag. Look for a page without this tag. But just because a page has a blue tag does not mean the transcription is complete; you can always open up the page to see if the transcription is complete or needs revision.
Black and white photograph of a coast guard signalman sending a message with flags while standing on top of a submarine
Image: Coast Guard Signalman Sends a Wig-wag Message by Semaphore Flags, Records of the U.S. Coast Guard. National Archives Identifier 205577174

You may also have to load all the pages of a record to find a page that hasn't been transcribed. Here's how you do it:

1.  Slide the bar in the thumbnail section all the way down
2.  Click "Load All" to see all pages available

If you are working on records found in our Citizen Archivist Missions, we suggest you skip 10,15, 20 or more pages in the list or navigate to the end of the list of records and work backwards. Often people work on records from the first to the last, you may find more records that haven't been worked on by starting at the end.

Additional Catalog Resources

Record Group Explorer and the Presidential Library Explorer

Looking for a more visual way to browse the Catalog? Try our Record Group Explorer and Presidential Library Explorer! These next generation finding aids allow you to browse NARA’s holdings by Record Group, and by the holdings of NARA’s Presidential Libraries.  You can use it to get a sense of the scale and organization of records at the National Archives and to explore what is available online through the National Archives Catalog.

Screenshot of Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, showing what records are available in the National Archives Catalog

Searching for something in the Catalog? Check out our Search Strategies newsletter for tips on how to refine and filter your searches.

For our Citizen Archivist contributors, we also encourage you to view our Citizen Archivist Resources page for helpful information, tips and tricks, instructional videos and more.

Interested in genealogy? Check out our 2021 Genealogy Series workshops. You can watch on-demand video recordings and view presentation materials from our recent series of workshops offering family history research tools on federal records for all skill levels.

Black and white photograph of maritime service enrollees learning how to use a compass
Image: Maritime Service Enrollees Learning the Use of a Compass, 4/24/1942. Records of the U.S. Coast Guard. National Archives Identifier 205582415
Start your research on History Hub
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Have a question? Find your answer on History Hub!

Free and open to anyone, you can ask questions and get answers from multiple sources including National Archives staff, other archives, libraries, museums, and a community of genealogists, history enthusiasts, and citizen experts like you.

See our recent newsletter for more details, information, and instructions about using History Hub for your research.

Make History Hub your first stop! You can ask—or answer—questions on History Hub, or see if your question has already been answered.

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The Catalog Newsletter

Learn about newly added records and receive tips on using the Catalog's features, functionality, and guides. The National Archives Catalog is the online public portal to our records where you can learn more about our holdings. This email newsletter is delivered on a biweekly basis. Subscribe to the National Archives Catalog Newsletter