Free Electronic Records at NARA

Today’s blog was written by William Smith, Information Technology Specialist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

The internet and new technology has lowered the cost of access to electronic records. In the past, researchers would have to pay a fee to obtain just one electronic file in a collection. With the development of NARA’s Online Public Access (OPA) researchers can download many of the National Archives’ electronic holdings for free and, the download can take place from the comforts of their home or their internet access point. Please keep in mind that NOT all electronic records in NARA’s holdings are available online.

After one has used OPA to download an electronic file, the next step would be to analysis the data. If the data is in a cvs format or has some delimiters, the researcher can use a spreadsheet tool or desktop database to complete the task. In most cases, NARA does provide detail documentation on the electronic file. This documentation can be used to get an understanding of the data and the data contents.

"Two smiling French soldiers fill the hands of American soldiers with candy, in Rouffach, France, after the closing of the Colmar pocket.", 02/05/1945
“Two smiling French soldiers fill the hands of American soldiers with candy, in Rouffach, France, after the closing of the Colmar pocket.”, 02/05/1945 (National Archives Identifier 531247)

An example of downloadable data is the World War II Army Enlistment Records (National Archives Identifier 604357). This series consists of records on nearly nine million men and women who enlisted in the United States Army between 1938 and 1946. The records contain the serial number, name, state and county of residence, place of enlistment, date of enlistment, grade, Army branch, term of enlistment, longevity, nativity (place of birth), year of birth, race, education, civilian occupation, marital status, height and weight (before 1943), military occupational specialty (1945 and later), component, and box and reel number of the microfilmed punch cards.

Although this data can be use through Nara’s Access to Archival Databases or AAD, a researcher may want to explore the data in a different format, develop a chart from the data, or just do something further then what AAD can provide currently.

Further description of the World War II Army Enlistment Records will be included in the upcoming Black History Guide.

For Additional Information relating to Electronic Records contact:

National Archives at College Park – Electronic Records

8601 Adelphi Road

College Park, Maryland 20740-6001

Phone: 301-837-0470

Fax: 301-837-3681


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