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Click here for the National Archives Genealogy page - National Archives .

NARA sites relating to the regional repositories:

NARA books -

The following guides are for sale through the NARA. They are about $3.50 each at
The 1790-1890 Federal Population Censuses
The 1900 Federal Population Census
The 1910 Federal Population Census
The 1920 Federal Population Census
Immigrant & Passenger Arrivals
Genealogical & Biographical Research
Military Service Records
Black Studies
American Indians
Diplomatic Records

The National Archives is actually many facilities under the administration of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Of special interest to genealogists are the repositories in Washington, DC and the twelve regional locations around the United States. The NARA is, among other things, concerned with maintaining historic records for the federal government. Some of the records maintained by the NARA are of critical importance to family historians.

1. Federal Census Returns (each 10 years, 1790 to 1920) most of 1890 census lost to fire in 1921

2. Ship Passenger Lists (from about 1820 to 1957 for most ports, some ports/years are not indexed, some indexes very hard to read

) 3. Military Service Records as follows:
Volunteer Soldiers, compiled service records (1775-1902)
Regular Military enlisted (1789-1912), registers of enlistment, muster rolls
Regular Military officers (1789-1917), registers of enlistment, personnel records after 1863, muster rolls In general it is much easier finding information about volunteer soldiers.

4. Military pension applications and Bounty Land Claims (for service between 1775 and 1916). Most pension records were turned over to the NARA by the Veterans Administration early in the 20th century, pension files that were active at that time are still with the VA. Pension files are usually full of genealogical information.

Excerpt from "Genealogical Records in the National Archives" General Services Administration, Leaflet #5, Washington, DC 20408:

The National Archives has incomplete series of customs passenger lists and immigration passenger lists of ships arriving from abroad at Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico ports. For the Port of Philadelphia, the Archives have customs passenger lists from 1800-1882, Immigration passenger lists from 1883-1945, and Indexes from 1800-1948. A customs passenger list normally contains the following information for each passenger: name, age, sex, and occupation; country from which he came; and the country to which he was going; and if he died in passage, the date and circumstances of his death. The immigration passenger lists that are more than 50 years old (those less than 50 years old are not available for reference purposes) vary in informational content but usually show the place of birth and last place of residence in addition to the information found in the customs passenger lists. Some of the immigration passenger lists include the name and address of a relative in the country from which the passenger came.
Excerpt from "Genealogical Records at the Philadelphia City Archives" :

The naturalization process usually includes two steps: the declaration of intention and the petition for naturalization. The declaration of intention may be taken at any time after the alien has arrived within the United States. The information contained within the declaration was very detailed before 1828-1838, often with the name of the declarant, place and date of birth, port and date of emigration and immigration, approximate age, and name or title of the monarch whom he is renouncing given. At various dates between 1828 and 1838, the individual courts witched to a shorter declaration form requiring only the name of the declarant, approximate age, and name or title of the monarch to be given.

The petition for naturalization occurred at least two years after the declaration of intention and after the alien had resided within the United States for at least five years. Uniformly, the petition for naturalization will give no biographical or genealogical information before 1906.

There were two major exceptions to the rules cited above. Minors, those children who arrived in this country under the age or 18 or 21, only had to reach their majority and reside within the country for five years before making a final petition for naturalization. The requirement that a declaration be filed was waived. These petitions will give the year and port of entry for the petitioner. Military service in the Union or United States forces and an honorable discharge allowed aliens to omit both the declaration and four years of residency requirements. Only one year of residency within the United States was required. The military petitions will given the length of service and the unit in which the petitioner served.

Starting in 1906, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a standard form to be used by all courts in the United States. The declaration of intention would give a detailed physical description of the applicant as well as important genealogical information about date and place of birth. The petition required the name of the ship, port and date of entry, and names of family members, ages, and places of birth.

With rare exceptions, no woman was naturalized prior to 1923, after the passage of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote.

As a word of warning, however, do not expect that the naturalization records will provide the genealogist with all of the biographical information which she or he is seeking. The various courts in Philadelphia, once freed from the restraints imposed upon them under the original Naturalization Acts of Congress, slowly slipped into a standard form for both the declaration and intention which provides the genealogist with clues, but not actual data regarding the date of birth of the applicant, port and year of entry, or names of the members of the family who either accompanied him at the time of his arrival or who composed the family at the time of his naturalization. Many of these categories were incorporated into the standard Bureau of Labor Naturalization form required of all courts starting in 1906.

Secondly, few women appear in the naturalization records prior to 22 September 1922, after they had achieved the right to vote. Of the over 200,000 naturalizations contained in the files at the Philadelphia City Archives, possibly fifty involve the naturalization of a woman prior to 1922.

According to the federal naturalization laws, any court of record within the United States had the power to conduct naturalization proceedings. These proceedings usually involved two steps. A man, (or, very rarely, a woman,) visited the court to swear or affirm his intention to renounce his allegiance to his native country and monarch. This was known as the Declaration of Intention. After a waiting period of three years, later reduced to two years, he could enter any court in the country, produce a copy of the declaration, prove that he had resided in the United States for a period of not less than five years, have a person vouch for his character, and present a petition for full citizenship. This paper is known as the Naturalization Petition. If he fulfilled all of these obligations, the court would issue a certificate of citizenship and would retain, as part of its records, the applicant's copy of the declaration and the petition for naturalization. The court would not retain a copy of the actual Certificate of Citizenship. This belonged to the newly enfranchised citizen.

The first document of the citizenship/naturalization process is known as the Declaration of Intention. When first developed in Philadelphia, this document would provide much information helpful for genealogical pursuits. Generally, the information contained within the Declaration had the date of the declaration, name, birthplace, birth date, and approximate age of the declarant, nativity, name of the monarch, port of embarkation, port and date of arrival, and declarant's signature or mark. Between 1828 and 1838, the various courts abandoned this form in lieu of a shorter form which has only the date of the declaration, name and approximate age of the declarant, nativity, name of monarch, and declarant's signature or mark. There is no other information contained on the declarations filed in the Philadelphia county courts until 1906.

The declarations starting in 1906 contain the following information: name; occupation; age; description, including color, complexion, height, weight, hair color, eye color, other marks; birthplace; birth date; place of residence; port and vessel of embarkation; foreign residence; name of monarch; port and date of arrival; signature or mark of declarant; and date of declaration. There is no other information contained on the declarations filed in the Philadelphia county courts until 1906.

All persons who wanted to initiate naturalization proceedings in the 19th century had to file a declaration, with two major exceptions:

MINORS - Those people who arrived in the United States under the age of either 18 or 21 (the law changed) had only to wait the five-year residency requirement and achieve their majority before filing a petition to become a citizen. The law waived the necessity of minors having to file a declaration of intention. However, before 1850, both the Quarter Sessions Court and the Common Pleas Court would often have an applicant fill out the declaration docket as well as a minor's petition in order to have some proof of the applicant's age and signature.

MILITARY SERVICE- Persons serving in the United States armed forces (the Union forces during the Civil War), only had to present their honorable discharge and reside in the country for a period of only one year, not five, in order to file for naturalization.
The petition for naturalization, important as proof of your ancestor's successful bid to become a citizen of the United States, contains no genealogical information before 1906. It will state the date and court before which the applicant made his declaration, the applicant's desire to become a citizen, a voucher from an existing citizen as to the applicant's moral character, date of the petition, and the applicant's signature or mark.

Minor's petitions will provide the year and port through which the applicant arrived. Before 1850, in the Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions Courts, one will usually find a declaration for the minor filed on the same day within the declaration records of the respective courts.

Military petitions will provide the name of the company and regiment, length of service, and date of honorable discharge.

After 1906, the petition for naturalization provides the following information: name; address; occupation; birth date; birthplace; emigration date and port; port and date of arrival; date and court of declaration; name, age and birthplace of wife, if any; name, birth dates and birthplaces of children, if any; affidavits of petitioner and witnesses; oath of allegiance; order of court admitting petitioner; and number and date of certificate of naturalization.

At no time in American history did a person have to return to the same court in which he filed his declaration of intent in order to file his petition for naturalization. One will find in the petition files of the various courts declarations taken before courts from Maine to California.

A person had to reside in the United States for at least five years before filing for his final petition for naturalization. Generally, he also had to reside in the State of Pennsylvania for one year before this action.

During the 19th century, no maximum time period existed for the filing of naturalization petitions. Nor did anyone have to become naturalized in order to own property, hold a job, or any thing else that he wanted to do, except vote. Cases exist in which a person might have arrived before 1800 but not filed for naturalization until after 1850. The provision that a person had to be naturalized before casting a vote accounts for the fact that the peak years for naturalization are those of presidential campaigns.

As noted above, military service was taken in lieu of both a declaration of intention and four of the five years of residency.

A person had to wait a minimum of two years between the action of declaring his intent to become a citizen and actually filing his final petition for naturalization. Before 1828, this period of waiting was three years.

Again, the only exception that the Archives staff has noticed occurs when a person has signed the declaration document and proven that he arrived as a minor which allows him to file his final petition on the same day.

The tricky part of using the naturalizations is understanding how the little data which is given on the form can be used to determine information about your forebear. To do this, one should always remember the rules stated above. One can sometimes estimate an approximate date of arrival by realizing that a person had to be 18 before he was required to file a declaration, (otherwise he would file a "minor's" petition) and that at least five years had to pass between arrival and petition.

To give a random example. Henry Axt filed his declaration of intention in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on 1 April 1856 and his final petition in the Philadelphia County District Court on 16 April 1860. He stated that he was 23 years old on his declaration of intention. This would put his birth date approximately 1832 or 1833. His 18th birth date would probably have occurred in either 1850 or 1851. Since he filed his petition in 1860, he could not have arrived after 1855. Therefore, his probable arrival date would be 1851-1855.

Another example is that of Ernst Albert, who stated that he was 21 at the time of his declaration on 1 January 1856. He filed a petition on 18 April 1860. Again, using the same formula, we assume that his birth date falls in 1834, and using the 5-year rule, could not have arrived after 1855. Therefore, he arrived in the United States between 1852 and 1855.

Determining the port of arrival, if it is not mentioned on the declaration or petition, requires searching through the ship passenger lists of each port. Using the formula above will cut the amount of time and records which will have to be searched. A survey of 15,394 naturalizations filed in the Common Pleas and District Courts from 1850-1857 revealed that 33.8% of the petitions had the port and/or the date of immigration. New York had the highest number of arrivals with 48%, followed by Philadelphia with 45%. The next four, in order of incidence, were Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, and Wilmington, Delaware. [Three people reported that they entered the United States through Quebec, and one person through St. Louis, Missouri.]

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (I. & N.S.), Washington, D.C. 20536, has duplicate records of all naturalizations that occurred after 27 September 1906. Inquiries about citizenship granted after that date should be sent on Form G-639. Contact the I. & N.S., 26 Federal Plaza, New York, N. Y. 10278 or your local Immigration Office for a copy of this form. I. & N. S. will charge a fee of $15.00 to complete your request.

The 1900 United States Census has three codes in its Naturalization column. NA means that the person has been naturalized (again, women were not naturalized but could be considered naturalized if their husband was); AL means that the person is still an alien and has not begun the naturalization process. PA stands for Papers Applied for, not Pennsylvania, which means that the person has started the naturalization process by filing a declaration of intention but has not completed it at the time of the census visit. Contact the local county court for naturalization records as an alien could apply for naturalization in ANY court: city, county, state or federal.

To clear up the method for requesting information on a particular individual from NARA-Mid Atlantic States regarding naturalization. The following is the response you get from them if you request information and not forms. You can copy and complete the form listed below and e-mail it to NARA as directed. Or just put the requested information in an e-mail if you cannot copy the form. The Mid-Atlantic has the records from Federal agencies and U.S. Courts in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia You cannot request information on any other region at this address.

Type or print clearly!
A search can not be made without the completion of essential information that has been marked with a star (*).





1. Petitioner's Name (and spelling variations):

2. Date of Naturalization and/or Arrival into the U.S.: (A search can be made of a ten year time period if exact date is not known)

3. Naturalization Court or Place of Residence (county) 5 years after arrival:

4. Naturalization Petition Number:

5. Date of Birth:

6. Country of Birth:

7. Port of Entry into the U.S.:

8. Spouse's Name:

8a. Date of marriage:

9. Children's Name(s) & Date(s) of Birth:

Remember: Naturalization is not now (and never was) a requirement. An alien can live in the United States without becoming a naturalized citizen. Therefore, your ancestor may have never gone through this process.

Do not send any money until you receive a bill. You will be notified of the results in the search for your requested records.

Please return the completed form to us by E-mail at or postal mail at National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region, 900 Market St, Rm 1350, Philadelphia, PA 19107-4292.

If an ancestor's military records indicate he received a medical discharge or was wounded, resubmit the form to the National Archives and request the complete medical records by writing on top of the form in large letters "SEND COMPLETE MEDICAL FILE". Medical records are not part of military records and will not ordinarily be with military records sent to you.

The National Archives will provide you with photo copies of some documents. Their fee is very small and I recommend that you consider using their request forms if you are concerned about project costs. You may request:

1. Veterans Records, use NATF Form 80. Certain military records, pension files and bounty-land applications can be requested with this form. One file for one person will cost about $10.00. You must provide them with as much information as possible. The minimum is: name, branch of service, state from which he served, war, whether union or confederate. Additional information: such as unit in which he served and place and date of birth, certainly would insure a favorable result. If your soldier was named Jones or Smith you should have very detailed information before requesting the file. They, in general, will not do research for you. Often they will not photo copy the entirety of a large file unless you make a specific request.

2. Passenger Arrival Records use NATF Form 81. One record will cost $10.00. They will search existing passenger indexes and then provide you with a copy of the ships list. The availability of indexes is quite complex and I will not attempt to characterize their abilities. The NATF Form 81 explains in detail what they will do and what information you need to provide.

3. Census Records, use NATF Form 82. One household will cost about $6.00. They will provide you with copies of specifically identified pages of Federal population census schedules. You must provide them with the following information:
census year
state or territory
township or other subdivision
name of head of household
page number
enumeration district (for 1880, 1900,1910 and 1920 only)

Form 82 states, "The National Archives does not search census indexes, nor do we provide census research service by mail."

the National Archives has finding aids online for Census Records, Veterans Records and Passenger Arrival Records. Their web site is:

To obtain the forms described above you should write to: Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20408

Forms can also be ordered by sending an e-mail to: or use their e-mail reference and information service operated by the staff of the Customer Services Division. "Inquire" is intended to provide timely responses to reference requests, or at least get the process started quickly by referring your message to the appropriate office or person. They also answer general inquiries about the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). If you have not visited NARA's web page, we recommend that you do because there is much useful information about the agency and its records holdings and services. The URL is:

The numbers and subjects of forms are:
Form 80 (Military service and pension records prior to World War I, including the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Mexican War, Civil War, and the Spanish-American War)

Form 81 (Passenger Arrival Records)

Form 82 (Copies of Census Records -- requiring your knowledge of the publication, roll, and page number, as we do not conduct searches of Census Records for you)

Form 83 (Eastern Cherokee Applications)

Form 84 (Land Entry Papers -- for Federal lands only), and

Form 180 Military Service Records, World War I and later -- the form can also be downloaded directly from the following Internet location:


Tel: 314-538-4243 (Air Force records)
Tel: 314-538-4261 (Army records)
Tel: 314-538-4141 (Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard records)
Fax: 314-538-4175
E-mail: (General information only, no e-mail requests for records.)


The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is one of NARA's regional records services facilities. The center receives, stores, and services federal, military, and civilian personnel records at two facilities in St. Louis, Missouri: the Civilian Personnel Records (CPR) Building (which will be featured tomorrow) at 111 Winnebago Street, on the south side of the city of St. Louis and the Military Personnel Records (MPR) Building at 9700 Page Avenue in St. Louis County.

The Military Personnel Records Building houses military personnel and medical records as well as the dependent medical records of former members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

A July 12, 1973, fire at 9700 Page Avenue destroyed nearly all of the records pertaining to persons discharged from the Army before 1960 and about two-thirds of the records pertaining to persons discharged from the Air Force before 1964. Alternate record sources are used to attempt to document the service of such persons.

Although stored and serviced by NARA, the military personnel records remain under the legal control of the Department of Defense and information from the records in released following rules set by the military services, not by NARA.

Records held by the center include millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century, medical treatment records of retirees from all services, and records for dependent and other persons treated at Navy medical facilities.

The military personnel records include:
Air Force: Officers and Enlisted beginning Sep. 25, 1947.

Army: Officers separated beginning Jul. 1, 1917; Enlisted separated beginning Nov. 1, 1912.

Coast Guard: Officers separated beginning Jan. 1, 1929; Enlisted separated beginning Jan. 1, 1915.

Marine Corps: Officers and Enlisted separated beginning Jan. 1, 1905.

Navy: Officers separated beginning Jan. 1, 1903; Enlisted separated beginning Jan. 1, 1886.

(Earlier records are at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.)

Medical records include:
Inpatient and outpatient clinical records for selected time periods (see for dates and a description of the records included).

Inpatient, outpatient, dental, and mental health treatment records for military retirees, dependents, and others created at military health care facilities (see for more information).

The July 12, 1973, fire destroyed about 80% of the records for Army personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912, and Jan. 1, 1960, and about 75% of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from "Hubbard" through "Z" discharged between Sep. 25, 1947, and Jan. 1, 1964. NARA has more information about the fire at:

Records available to veterans. Copies of most military personnel and medical records at NPRC are available to veterans or the next of kin free of charge. Requests must contain enough information to identify the record from among the more than 70 million on file at the center. The information needed to locate a record includes full name, military service number, branch, and approximate dates of service. Unit(s) of assignment and date and place of birth may also be helpful. For additional information on obtaining personnel records, see: For further information on obtaining inpatient medical records, see:

Records available for genealogy. Only limited information can be released to the general public without the written authorization of the veteran or next of kin, and NARA may charge fees for copies sent to other than the veteran or next of kin. Information that may be released includes name, age or date of birth, dates of service, source of commission, rank/grade and date attained, marital status, promotion sequence number, city, state, and date of last known address, serial or service number (but not social security number), places of induction and separation, duty assignments, dependents, (including name, sex, and age), unclassified records of court martial trials, military education and schooling, information about decorations and awards, and for deceased veterans, the places of birth, death, and burial. For more information, see:

Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, which is recommended but not mandatory, can be downloaded from NARA at:

Additional information is available on NARA's Web site, starting at: and on NARA's Fax on demand system at 301-713-6905.

Requests from federal agencies and veterans (or next of kin) take precedence over requests from the general public. Because of the workload, NARA requests "Please do not send a follow-up request before 90 days have elapsed as it may cause further delays."

List of Case Files (1888-1933) from the Sawtelle Disabled Veterans Home, Los Angeles:

Checklist of Archival Holdings Related to World War II at NARA's Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel):

Medals of Honor Index - (List of Medal of Honor recipients by conflict with information about each honoree):

State-level Lists of Casualties from the Korean Conflict (1951-1957) State-level Lists of Casualties from the Vietnam Conflict (1957-):

Pearl Harbor Casualty List:

Vietnam Casualty Search Page:

Army Center for Military History
1099 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-3402
Tel: 202-761-5413

Dept. of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: 202-233-4000

Marine Corps Historical Center
Washington Navy Yard, Building 58
Ninth and M Streets, SE
Washington, DC 20374-0580
Tel: 202-433-3483

National Cemetery System
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: 202-273-5221

Naval Historical Center
Washington Navy Yard
901 M Street, SE
Washington, DC 20374-5060
Tel: 202-433-4132
Fax: 202-433-9553
Tel: 202-433-4882
Fax: 202-433-8200
Operational Archives:
Fax: 202-433-2833
Ships History Branch:
Tel: 202-433-3643
Fax: 202-433-6677

U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6424

U.S. Army Military History Institute
22 Ashburn Drive, Carlisle Barracks
Carlisle, PA 17013
Tel: 717-245-3611
E-mail: (Special Collections) (Archives Collection) (Historical Reference)

U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office (G-CP-4)
2100 2nd Street, SW
Washington, DC 20593
Tel: 202-267-0948

More Military Links can be found at NARA's Military Personnel Records Center Link page:

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