12 Replies Latest reply on Mar 30, 2017 11:27 AM by Michael Tomko

    Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?

    Bill Streifer

      During WWII, Japan had two atomic bomb programs. One by the Army led by Nishina and One by the Navy led by Arakatsu. And yet, when I search for Nishina: nothing. And when I search for Arakatsu: also nothing. I can't believe the National Archive has no documents on Japan's atomic program during WWII, either by Nishina or Arakatsu. It's just not possible. Could it be that NARA doesn't include the right keywords to search by? If not, how are any researchers supposed to find the documents they need without hiring someone to physically search for them? Maybe experts in each subject need to do that, and start adding informative keywords.

        • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
          Kelly Osborn

          Do you mean https://www.archives.gov or https://catalog.archives.gov/ . If it's the catalog, did you know you can add tags to documents that will help researchers find what they're looking for? You can also transcribe documents. If you'd like more information, check out the Transcribers group.

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            • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
              Bill Streifer

              I meant https://www.archives.gov.

              I wasn't even aware of the other one.

               

              Regarding your suggesting to add tags, does that help people like me or does it only help future researchers who happen to be interested in documents that were already properly tagged? Obviously, the documents I need (which probably exist) were not tagged properly and never will be.

                • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                  Michael Tomko

                  I have made some headway toward the Desert Storm records. The SF135 listings are now available on an advanced search in the Online Public Catalog. They have placed the Joint Operational Command listings, which included listings of moving images and aerial recon,  consisting of 9 videos and 31 aerial recon video cassettes. I have also submitted a FOIA toward the scientific lab studies, mas spectrometer, gas chromagraphy and actual conclusions contracted by NARA toward evaluating the RG 518 Desert Storm records for contamination. I have requested this data to be placed in the electronic reading room and Online Catalog.  I have also found the agency you were mentioning, has a research and development office, and utilizes a Critical Management Analytical Team. This Team often performs analysis of data and numbers the documents with a CMAT identifier. If the data was grouped, calculated and organized for analysis, it may have an additional designation. The agency has recently released a vault of records. A search of the releases may provide insight into their methodology.

              • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                Suzanne Isaacs

                A search of specific names such as Nishina and Arakatsu may not pull up results in the catalog, however a broader search of Atomic Bomb brings back more that 1600 results (many with digital images and some descriptions of records that can be accessed in person at the National Archives).  If you find a series, file unit or item that does not have the digitized images attached, contact the reference unit at the bottom of the description for more information and help accessing the record.

                 

                Why is this?  Many of the records in our catalog have titles and descriptions that do not include individual names.  It may include information about a specific program, but may not specify all the details and players involved.

                 

                Why isn't everything digitized and online? We're working on it!  We added 10 million new digital objects to the catalog this year alone.  David Ferriero,  Archivist of the United States has blogged about our plan to digitize everything and you can also read about our Digitization Strategy.

                 

                Want to help us?  As we add more digitized records to the National Archives Catalog we need your help to unlock those records through tagging and transcription.  By tagging the record with keywords and names you can help other researchers find the record.  Transcription of a record unlocks all the text within it to our search engine.  Please join us as a Citizen Archivist!

                 

                Suzanne Isaacs

                Community Manager, National Archives Catalog

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                • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                  Patrick Connelly

                  Mr. Streifer,

                   

                  During and following the war, countless numbers of documents were seized by American forces around the world.  These records were transferred to the National Archives in the 1950s and are located in Record Group 242, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized.  Most, if not all, of the records seized have been returned and microfilm copies were deposited in the National Archives.  Please see the following catalog entry for records seized in Japan,

                   

                  https://catalog.archives.gov/id/7419590

                   

                  As you can see, the description is quite general in nature.  Because of the massive amount of material held by NARA, archivists need to balance their work between time and resources so most record series are not described down to each document.  As Ms. Isaacs said, we are working on it and invite the public to help us in that effort.

                   

                  The catalog entry mentions that an item list is available for this series, I recommend you contact Archives2reference@nara.gov for a copy of that list.

                   

                  Patrick Connelly

                  Archivist

                  The National Archives at Philadelphia

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                    • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                      Bill Streifer

                      Mr. Connelly,

                       

                      So you know, I have been doing this non-stop for ten years. And what I have discovered is that these seized documents weren't transferred to a single Record Group, but are scattered throughout the National Archive. So, unless a fairly descent description of the contents are included or the names of the major participants (such as the head of the Japanese Army or Navy or submarine units or chemical weapons units, etc.) are provided, these records will often-times go undiscovered for decades until someone like me stumbles upon them entirely by accident.

                       

                      Another method is to spend days or weeks at NARA, but most researchers, located throughout the country and beyond, don't have the luxury to travel to Washington or Maryland.

                       

                      Bill Streifer

                    • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                      Marlene Parker

                      I recently tried to get my personal file on my application for Eastern Creek Judgement Funds, given out to defendants of the Creek Tribe for all land East of the Mississippi. Docket 21, 275 1969 to 1978. I received all treaty money for this. You had to submit proof of lineal decent to original creek ancestor 1832. My family pedigree chart, proof of birth decent, Application and assigned roll numbers created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, area office, Muscogee, Oklahoma, diddle all the initial processing of documents. However, Archives only has print out of half page showing I was approved for docket 21, back in November 1969, Application number, and who I am decent from. They have my Grandmother File and all  supporting documents but not mine. I am trying to locate my personal information. Any ideas?

                      • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                        Bill Streifer

                        Here's another problem...

                         

                        I located a secret document at NARA which was forwarded to the CIA for a classification review (to determine if it should remain classified). But when I requested a copy of that document from NARA, they couldn't find it -- and to date they still can't.

                         

                        So I filed a FOIA request with the CIA for their copy (which, of course, they had since they're the ones who ran the classification review). Guess what the CIA said: They said they can't find it either. And do you know why?

                         

                        Because -- as the CIA explained to me on the telephone -- NARA files documents by subject matter, date, etc. The CIA files documents by "the title of the document." Since NARA doesn't know the title of the document, only the subject matter, the CIA can't locate it. When I suggested to the CIA that they contact NARA, the CIA officer said, "Nah, that's OK."

                        • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                          Marlene Parker

                          To my understanding you are having the same problem I am having. Missing records/or documents the United States Federal Government has generated for a purpose, but has failed to allow the people of the United States access to by stating they are "conveniently " lost.  I am going to keep bugging the Bureau of Indian Affairs until I geta satisfactory answer. I hope you do the same. My Grandpa, General John Stark, cried out to the United States Nations of Peoples, "Live Free or Die". That is what I intend to do. Exercise my Freedom of Information Right, until the day I die.

                            • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                              Michael Tomko

                              Dear Mam,

                               

                              When documents are transferred to the National Archives, they are inventoried using a SF135 or SF258 Record Receipt and Transmittal Form, which lists the Item Numbers and Descriptions.  The SF 135 must be requested or FOIA'd., then the actual Item numbers can be FOIA'd.  This is what I ran into with the Desert Storm records. They were not in the electronic searchable data base. NARA stated there were NO records during an electronic search, but the Army and Pentagon said NARA had them.  They create barriers to public access.  And the SF135's are usually available by PDF file. Request the SF135 Form listing the file, or the SF135 or SF258 listing your Grandmothers data. Perhaps there is an inventory of related data.  It took me a year to overcome the barriers between agencies. The Desert Storm , Persian Gulf War, Record Group 518,  1990-1991 file listings are now in the NARA Online Public Catalog under an advanced search. But the actual documents are not shown. It is just the SF135 inventory listings. I must now FOIA and pay for some documents and videos to be listed in the Public Catalog.  NARA also has FOIA responses on the website, FOIA ONLINE.  The prior FOIA's can be searched. There may be others who have encountered your situation. 

                            • Re: Why do my searches on Archives.gov often come up empty?
                              Michael Tomko

                              The NARA Online Public Catalog does not have adequate search capability.  At one time, Desert Storm, had no results. The only search words were Persian Gulf War.  But the wars have been going on for 25 years and the US is now on it's 3rd campaign back to Iraq?  Please Review the NARA Library Mission Statement, and review the elements of the FOIA Improvement Act of June 30, 2106. It specifically mentions the Rule of 3, and the Section amended to include 3102 which calls for routinely requested information to be placed in an electronic format for public review. The NARA Online Public Catalog actually is a barrier to obtaining information.  A FOIA to an agency usually results in an electronic search, which results in a response of " No records found".  The records are not optically scanned in many cases, and the only reference is the SF135 record receipt and transmittal inventory PDF file.  Does the mission of NARA fall within the legislative scope of the new FOIA Improvement Act?  Is NARA exempt from 3102 and the "rule of 3".  Does NARA respond to the FOIA Requests made on the FOIA ONLINE website?  I have had FOIA responses placed on the FOIA ONLINE site. But nothing answered with a request?  The FOIA ONLINE site, is important, because you can search the prior FOIA's and utilize them toward research and even expand on their data.  There are very few concerning NARA and Desert Storm, but there are Numerous EPA FOIA's answered on the site. The FOIA improvement act, also is attempting to structure Online FOIA's and Catalogs throughout the agencies.  Information and artifacts at NARA are considered historic legal evidence. The FOIA Improvement Act also calls for FOIA reports to be provided to the Attorney General and OGIS Office of Government Information Services.  Does NARA have an Ethics Officer, and a role in the proposed structure of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016?