Searching the National Archives
You're conducting research for a piece about World War I. Along the way, you scour through books, look through microfilmed newspapers, but you want more. You want to glimpse at objects that document the journey of a soldier. Where can you find these objects? Begin at the National Archives.
The National Archives and Record Administration is the nation's record keeper, documenting the business conducted by the U.S. Federal government. According to the Archive's website, only 1 - 3 percent of the documents and materials created in the course of business are kept for legal and historical reasons.
But here, at the archives, you can discover a world of knowledge about a variety of historical topics about ordinary citizens. Established in 1934, the National Archives contain holdings dating as far back as 1775. And in the Internet age, the Archives also maintains electronic records. Imagine the possibilities!
The Archives aren't all housed in Washington, D.C. The nation is divided into nine regions, and these regional facilities house valuable records from the territory it represents. Additionally, each regional facility contains holdings for certain Federal agencies. Documents are stored in temperature-controlled storage areas. Preserving these precious documents is a primary objective. Visitors can observe records, and strict handling regulations are enforced.
Last October, I visited the Southeast Region Archive, located in Morrow, Georgia. Here, records from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee are stored.
While touring the immense facility, I made a personal discovery: all 24 million original WWI draft cards remain in existence at this Archives location. My grandfather served in this war, and I knew I wanted a copy to share with my family.
The process of retrieving the record was simple: I filled out an online form, paid the $5 fee, and within 48 hours, I received a digital copy, complete with my grandfather's signature. It's such a powerful feeling to hold that piece of family history!
In the lobby of the Southeast Archives, learn firsthand about our nation's history. Over 500 quality facsimiles of regional holdings show the paths of the famous and infamous. It's a breathtaking look of the history that defines us as a nation.
The Southeast facility offers these original records:
- Draft cards. All Word War I draft registration cards are here. Word War II , Korea, and Vietnam-era draft cards for the states covered by the Southeast region can be found here.
- Microfilm resources. Census records, passenger arrival, Freedmen's Bureau, Native American records and documents exist on microfilm and can be viewed on site.
- Military Service and Pension Records. A great source for genealogical information, pension applications and payment records are available on microfilm.
- Naturalization Records. Find the records of immigrants who applied for American citizenship. The earliest records date from 1790.
- Slave Manifests. Any ship transporting slaves were required to present a manifest listing the names of slaves on board. Records include a slave's name, sex, age, and height. The person who shipped the slaves and the party purchasing the slaves are also listed on the records. Unfortunately, the last names of the slaves are not included on the manifests.
- Tennessee Valley Authority. Relocation files for families and cemeteries reside here. Want to look at photographs of the agricultural and natural resource practices? You'll find them here.
The possibilities for story ideas from information housed at the Archives is endless. Check out this untapped resource and watch history come to life.