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There are many ways to do research at the National Archives from the comfort of your own computer! Whether from home or on one of the National Archives public access computers, we have a large (and increasing!) number of resources available to help with your research.


The first is through our online catalog; you can adjust your search to look for only digitized items. This can be done two ways:

  1. By conducting a basic search and selecting the ‘Available Online’ tab at the top of the results display.



  1. By using the advanced search option, and selecting only the ‘Archival Materials Online’ box at the top of the display.



Either of these options will ensure that your results contain either digitized or electronic records only.  Another option is to use Access to Archival Databases (AAD). AAD has information for genealogists and researchers, including census, military, casualty, and business records. These databases are a great place to start if your topic is still quite general and you need to focus your research before you visit us in person. We also have two videos on our YouTube channel that will walk you through AAD:


  1. Access to Archival Databases (AAD) for Genealogists
  2. Military Service and Casualty Records Electronically Available


You can also visit the Archives Library Information Center (ALIC). ALIC is physically located in our College Park building and is ‘designed to provide NARA staff and researchers nationwide with convenient access to content beyond the physical holdings.’ ALIC provides access to resources related to American history and government, archival administration, information management, and government documents.


We work with companies, such as Ancestry, Family Search, and Fold3, to digitize and upload some of our holdings. These are free to access from our Public Access computers at the National Archives DC and College Park sites, regional branches, and Presidential libraries. Although, there may be a fee to see some documents outside of the National Archives. A complete list of our online databases, and where you can access them, is available here.


If you are working with Microfilm, you can also look in our Microfilm Catalog (by publication number) to see which National Archives site holds the publication you are looking for. The Catalog will also show you if the publication series has a descriptive pamphlet for you to use (and download). Further, several of the older Microfilm Publications (usually of pre-1850s records) may have been compiled into published collections, which will usually be noted in the descriptive pamphlet. Some of these, such as the Naval documents related to the quasi-war between the United States and France, 1797-1801, have been digitized by various organizations. The site, HathiTrust, may well be worth a quick check!


A complete list of our online research tools is available here. Looking at one (or more) of these digital resources may help you fine tune your research needs before you visit the National Archives in person or even lead you to an unexpected discovery. If you need further information or encounter an issue, the National Archives contact portal is here, or stop into your local NARA branch. Good luck!

Seeing is believing for many people when it comes to questioning what they’ve only been hearing about for years.  A family story told through several generations resonates with family members and how historical events shaped their lives. A story in a book or family documents tells one side of the narrative, but when something comes along that truly affirms all the stories and anecdotes, it makes history all the more real. 


Perhaps this is why national landmarks, battlefields, and other historic sites can exhibit a profound impact on someone.  The natural landscape or aged buildings can almost teleport a person back in time to point where history was made, bringing it together in intricate detail. Historic landmarks are the fixture by which historians, genealogists, archivists, educators, and other history enthusiasts can literally touch (or not touch depending on the sites’ rules) the physical structure where many came before.  These are just some of the reasons why preserving historic sites of all types are necessary in the field of history.  If landmarks were to disappear, the difficulty in showing where and how historical events unfolded would increase exponentially.  They’re the physical spaces that fill the blank pages of what we interpret from our history books. 


To read about history is one thing, but to see where it all happened and to stand in the environment where notable people and extraordinary events occurred is a different matter all its own. 




The Boston Massacre stop on the Freedom Trail, Boston, MA