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17 September 2013

How to research the National Archives at Atlanta by record group

The researcher may solve a brick wall or speed bump by using the textual records at the National Archives at Atlanta by record group. According to the Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, each major government entity, bureau or independent agency is assigned a record group number. The record group number is assigned in the order in which the agency was established by the National Archives.
On the National Archives at Atlanta website, the genealogist will start by looking at the “Guide to Archival Holdings at the National Archives Southeast Region.” An introduction, subject and alphabetical list of the record groups with description is provided. An example, Army Air Forces – RG 18 after selecting RG 18, the researcher will see an administrative history and record description. For RG 18 the dates include 1918-1940 with 32 cubic feet of textual records.
The finding aids identify the textual records on the series or folder level. Using the example for Army Air Forces, the researcher will find daily logs from the balloon school in Macon, GA. The finding aids or preliminary inventories are listed on the National Archives website main page. Search for “Free Publications” then on the left side of the screen “Inventories and Special Lists.” If the publication is not found on this list, please contact the regional location for information on the desired records.
Examples of record groups of genealogical interest at the Atlanta office:
  • RG 14 Records of the U.S. Rail Road Administration
  • RG 18 Army Air Forces – Field Installations, 1917-1940
  • RG 21 Records of District Courts of the United States
  • RG 58 Records of the Internal Revenue Service
As a researcher, ask the question, what government agency would be involved? An example, Record Group 18: Army Air Forces includes petitions for commission and admittance to the school, class grades and requests for discharge.

Collections NOT at NARA:
  • birth, marriage, death
  • newspapers
  • obituaries
  • current census (72 years)
  • naturalization before 1906
  • state court cases
  • state prison or jail records
Digital records or publications at the government website consist of finding aids. Private agencies such as AncestryFamily Search, and Fold 3 may choose parts of a collection to digitize, index, and publish online.
The online microfilm catalog offers both search and browse features. Read the FAQs. Microfilm available at the Atlanta Archives includes a variety of topics. Search examples for “Georgia” produced 43 records including Southern Claims Commission Approved Claims: Georgia, 1871-1880 on fiche and Final Revolutionary War Pension Payment Vouchers: Georgia on six rolls of film available for viewing in Atlanta. The researcher should always download and view the publication details. In a microfilm collection, not all of the text records may have been microfilmed. A list of related records is included in the publication details.
Textual record research requires creativity. A search may be started through either the Online Public Access system (OPA) or the Archival Research Catalog (ARC). These are descriptions only, not the actual text records. Study the information along the left side of the ARC home page. An ARC example, “world war 1 draft cards” search reveals results for 298 records. The item of interest “Draft Registration Cards, compiled 1917-1918” includes:
  • Details - the creating federal entity, date, arrangement, and function
  • Scope and content - details the contents
  • Archived copies - location and physical description
  • Hierarchy - record group number and name, creator, and series information
Spend time researching online; read the FAQs; go prepared. Contact the National Archives at Atlanta with your research question, phone 770-968-2100 or fax 770-968-2547.
Genealogists, do you have a topic for an article? contact Selma Blackmon.

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