Isn't the toughest part of finding anything knowing where to look?

giphy (1).gifThe last few blog posts have been about the libraries--and we'll continue with that later--but it seems to me that if we are going to do a blog about records, let's talk records. How do you (a researcher) find the records you want?

First you'll likely want to see this History Hub question: I know how to plan my research trip at the National Archives. Are there different procedures for planning research at a Presidential Library?  Second you need to have some idea of what topic you want to research.

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Once you've decided on a topic--if you have a computer handy--go check out the appropriate library for your topic and time period. The links below will take you to the library research websites.

Herbert Hoover                                                                                 Gerald Ford

Franklin D. Roosevelt                                                                       Jimmy Carter

Harry S. Truman                                                                                Ronald Reagan

Dwight D. Eisenhower                                                                George H. W. Bush

John F. Kennedy                                                                           William J. Clinton

Lyndon B. Johnson                                                                      George W. Bush

Richard Nixon

If you can't find your topic, you can't find the finding aids, or you can't figure out the search (I know I've felt that way too) drop the folks at the library an e-mail. Or you can call their research number. Or you could send them a fax. Or you could send a letter (the post office would love to help you out).

If you really, really, really are interested in a topic that isn't available yet file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. There's a discussion about that here National Archives and Records Administration Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide. It could take a while, which is why I say really, really, really. Here's something many people don't know. Once you've filed your FOIA request it will be recorded by the National Archives so you can track the open FOIAs (Tracking FOIA's ). Of course the library's FOIA administrator, or officer, will keep in touch with you as well.


Herbert Hoover with the day's catch, prior to becoming President.

In the libraries, sometimes, you'll have to fish for the information you want. National Archives Identifier 513114.

When the FOIA is ready for release, the library will let you know that it going to be opened. Typically this is done by mail; which brings up a good point, stay in touch with the library and keep them updated on contact information. For the Presidential Records Act libraries--Reagan to the present--the National Archives is required by 44 U.S.C. 2208 to make the notice of opening available to the public. The National Archives chooses to do so online. Letters of Notification of Intent to Release are regularly updated and posted here Letters of Notification of Intent to Release Presidential Records . If you keep an eye on that web page you'll be able to know in advance that your FOIA will soon be open.


President Truman peering through binoculars.

National Archives Identifier 200216.

The Letters of Notification can also be used to see what other topics are open, or will soon be open. You might find something that relates to your topic of research or you might find something equally interesting.


The picture above is an example of what information you can get from the notification letters. This excerpt from LM 2016-037 notifies President Obama and former President George W. Bush that materials from the Bush Library are going to be opened. You can see the FOIA case number, the subject, and a brief description. Like everything on the internet this can all be found with a carefully worded search in any search engine.

So I guess that's a start on your way toward finding the records you want in the Presidential Libraries. Of course the research room staff at the libraries will be more than happy to help you with finding your way. Feel free to ask your questions here, in the History Hub, Presidential Records too.

Contact information for the libraries can be found here Learn About the Presidential Libraries.